Sell Your Idea More Successfully

cold callHas this ever happened to you? I made a call last week to pitch someone an idea I had. Given I didn’t know him beforehand it was essentially a ‘cold call’. It’s been a few years since I had to make one and I bombed. After the call, I started to run through everything I did wrong in my head and what I would have done differently. Later that day I came across an iTunes sales podcast on cold calls – Jeb Blount’s sales blog SalesGuy: Quick and Dirty Tips.

But you don’t work in sales right? Wrong, we all sell something whether it’s a product to a prospect or an idea to someone we don’t know or ourselves to a hiring manager. And that means at some point in your life, you will have to make a cold call. So even if ‘sales’ isn’t in your title, being better at selling/talking to a stranger can you help you in all walks of life.

The Woman/Man On the Other End of the Phone … Is A Person Just Like You

He or she is a busy person who doesn’t want to be interrupted – just like you feel when you get a cold call. As soon as they realize you are a ‘salesperson’, their first instinct is to get off the phone as quickly as possible. What do you do expecting this? Talk as fast as you can to keep them on the phone just as they are trying to hang up.

What do people like to do on the phone? Have a conversation. A dialogue between 2 people talking about something of interest. So you should try to have a conversation. A prospect will be happy to talk about their interests. How do you engage a person on the phone this way? Jeb suggests you do this: Pick a short statement that should get their interest and ask a relevant question. Here is the example he gave:

 “Hi John this is David Thompson from I notice you are hiring salespeople. One of your competitors hires all their salespeople on and I thought this might be of interest to you. Can you tell me how many salespeople you are planning to hire this year?”

The tip I will add to Jeb’s advice is write down what you are going to say. It doesn’t need to be word for word, but you do need to have your main points on paper. Even practise it a few times before you make the call. One sales reps once told me that every sales call is like going on stage so be overly prepared. Write it down and practise it verbally before you make the call.  

Jeb says never ask how they are doing – it’s a stupid question. They are not doing well now that they realize you are trying to sell them something and they made the mistake of answering your call. Instead get right to the point. Here are 3 reasons why this method is better than what you are currently using:

  • It demonstrates you are a professional and that you have respect for the  prospect’s time
  • When you ask an easy but relevant question, the prospect has the opportunity to discuss something of interest to them
  • If there is an objection (too busy, no $), they will get to it quickly which will allow you to get to the objection quickly in order to ask some questions and determine if the objection is real or just a attempt to get off the phone

It’s always tough to meet strangers. The reality is more prospects will say no to you than yes – so be prepared for rejection. But they are also regular people just like you who want to be treated with respect. Not tricked. Not ice broken or manipulated. In the end if you can find a way to give them they respect, focus on what they want, then you may just find more of these calls going your way.

 And if you are in sales, check out Jeb’s podcast. He has all sorts of great tips and a sales course you can find on his website – look for the Salesgravy magazine signup.

10 Tips to Market to ‘Seniors’

Happy now but don’t call them Seniors

A few weeks ago my boss asked me to attend the 2012 Direct Marketing Association (DMA) annual conference in Las Vegas. I haven’t been to Vegas in over 20 years…my wife and I could go early for some fun…I could bring my bike to ride a bit in the mountains … tough decision. 

When all the fun and games ended and the conference began, I attended a number of seminars. As is often the case at these shows, the seminars themselves were hit and miss. Two of my favourite were Catalogue Marketing (future blog post) and 50+ Marketing Laws.

The session was lead by Kurt Medina who is the president of Medina Associates and is a Direct Marketing consultant in the US specializing in the 50+ market. He used his experience across a wide variety of clients both not for profit and for profit including some Fortune 100 companies. Not only did he know his stuff, he was quite funny and made the time spent worthwhile. I work with a number of business that market to people over 50 (in particular the not for profit vertical) and I thought this would be of interest to them.

Mr Medina started off by telling us how big this market is becoming (just think of the image on the Pig and the Python book) and that they have a disproportionate amount of discretionary income (house paid off, kids gone…). He split the 50+ marketing into three groups:

  • Pre-Retirees/Boomers                         50-63
  • Active Seniors                                      64-74
  • Seniors                                                 75+

1. Boomers (50-63)

Not much new here really – they’ve had their way throughout their lifetime and that expectation will continue into their latter years. They work long hours and they are busy. They trust themselves (NOT marketers or institutions) and they expect to look after themselves.

To reach this group you need to ensure you ackowledge they are special and offer them something unique to them – insider tips, VIP access. They want customization not mass.  And because they are independent, offer answers to their questions right up front.

2. Active Retirees (64-74)

In the US at least, this was a segment that had rising incomes during the most recent recession. The most exciting part of being a retiree according to Kurt is the possibility of new and expanding horizons with more independence, comfort and ease. Now that they are mostly retired, they are beginning to truly think about ‘me’ – what have I done…what haven’t I done…what can I now do.

3. Seniors (75+)

First off they don’t like being called senior so be wary of using that term in your messaging. Senior sounds too old even to this group. A neat statistic Kurt shared was how old we think ‘old’ is. The answer changes as you age. So if you’re 40 you might say 60+ is ‘old’ but when you’re 60 years of age 80 is the ‘new old’. 

Whereas Boomers are still rushing around, the 65+ groups have more time on their hands. So don’t rush them. Why wait! or Call now! may do more harm than good.

Now that we have an idea of the segments, what do we need to keep in mind when sending a direct campaign? Here are 5 things to remember:

  1. Use contrasting colours which are easier to see with aging eyes
  2. Don’t put copy over top of images that makes reading difficult
  3. You must have some single women in your images – not just happy couples. There are many widows in this group (and other single women) who want to see more representations of their lifestyle
    1. And when you do feature the happy couple, make sure the woman is age appropriate – avoid the mature gentleman and the much younger wife (you can however probably get away with that couple if you are targeting products for men only)
  4. Use icons – they are better remembered than verbal (i.e. the dotted line coupon for scissor cutting)
  5. Use closed envelopes with letter inside – people writing people = humanity

BONUS! And for DRTV, here are 5 more To Do’s:

  1. First 2-4 second of message, keep clean and make it message free
  2. Use graphics
  3. No fast cuts – makes it too hard to follow
  4. Feature your 1- 800 # three times at least on screen in 120 second spot
  5. Follow-up all responses by mail

For more information on Kurt and how can help your marketing to the 50+ segment, you can find him here:

The $1 Billion Sales Letter

bike_mailboxFor some time now, copy has been given short shift in creative. It’s the pictures art directors and awards judges prefer. Find an arresting image and you’re off to the races with your advertising creative. Headlines can have sex appeal but body copy, good luck. Even in movies, it’s the actors and directors who get the most credit – without a writer tjhough the movie doesn’t exisit.

What about a direct mail letter – when was the last time you got a great one that really moved you?

Students of this art form can buy ‘The Greatest Direct Mail Sales Letters Of All Time’ on Amazon for $370!, but I thought it would be fun to look at THE best one of all time. I have referred to this letter many times in my career when talking about how to set up ‘control’ versus ‘test’ cells in direct marketing. This grandadaddy is said to have generated more than $1 billion in revenue for The Wall Street Journal (, 2011). In March 1993 Target Magazine called it the most successful advertisement in the history of the world. Written and first mailed in 1975, to this day it has never been beaten.   

Here’s a short excerpt to give you a sense of what amazing copywriting looks like:

On a beautiful late spring afternoon, twenty-five years ago, two young men graduated from the same college. They were very much alike, these two young men. Both had been better than average students, both were personable and both – as young college graduates are – were filled with ambitious dreams for the future.

Recently, these two men returned to college for their 25th reunion.

They were still very much alike. Both were happily married. Both had three children. And both, it turned out, had gone to work for the same Midwestern manufacturing company after graduation, and were still there.

But there was a difference. One of the men was manager of a small department of that company. The other was its president.

What Made The Difference

Have you ever wondered, as I have, what makes this kind of difference in people’s lives? It n’t always a native intelligence or talent or dedication. It isn’t that one person wants success and the other doesn’t.

The difference lies in what each person knows and how he or she makes use of that knowledge.

And that is why I am writing to you and to people like you about The Wall Street Journal. For that is the whole purpose of The Journal: To give its readers knowledge – knowledge that they can use in business.

And then the letter goes on to talk about how the WSJ can be as instrumental in your career. Beautiful writing.

Full letter:

If you think this lesson only applies to direct mail, think again. In the age of social marketing we are all writers – at least those who create content. The point here isn’t to write long but rather write well. One of the best places I have found with tons of great copywriting advice is or check out their fantastic podcast on iTunes (if you’re from the UK try James Daniel at

Long live the copywriter in us all.

The Foundation for Queen Silvia Children’s Hospital

AdPitch Blog

“The Foundation for Queen Silvia Children’s Hospital raises funds for toys, healing gardens and activities for the 500,000 children who stay at the hospital every year. Our objective was to contact previous and future donors by mail, asking for a small donation.

To illustrate the need for toys, we didn’t mail the letters directly. Instead, we gave them to the children in the hospital and asked them to play with them. After the detour, we sent them on to the right addresses.

As every letter had been a plaything for a few hours, it became a unique and physical reminder of the fact that children need to be children, even when they’re in the hospital.

Donations to the foundation increased by 320% compared to the year before, and the campaign resulted in hundreds of new donors.”

Nice, simple idea to help gain donors of toys for kids at the Queen…

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