Author’s note: My initial title was going to be “Marketing and Selling to A**holes – A Better Idea Than You’d Think,” but my editor made me change it.
Imagine the meanest, most critical, impatient, sadistic sociopath you can.
Now imagine that you have to convince that perfect storm of human horribleness that he or she should do business with your company. Oh, and then imagine that everyone you’re targeting with your campaigns, or every contact you have assigned to you in CRM, resembles this paragon of piss-poor personality.
What good could possibly come of such a mental exercise?
Well, there’s always the evergreen nugget of truth that, when you prepare for the worst, you give yourself the best chance at success. (Optimism for the win!)
More practically, though, jerks tend to do terrible – yet, predictable things – when involved in a buying decision. Their patterns of behavior can help you create useful communication conventions and tactics that work extremely well with normal, non-jerky humans, in part because these tactics are designed to placate (for the most part, as there’s no pleasing an assertively humorless, opinionated, loathsome egomaniac) the worst people.
Below are four common attitudes of the worst people, along with ideas on how to exploit these attitudes for improved marketing and sales communications.
There are few more demeaning things than trying your hardest, only to have someone tell you, “Nobody cares.” But that’s what terrible people do. Even with your best, most polished content asset or sales quote, a jerk will respond with, “Whatever.”
The A-hole Antidote: Right from the outset, be crystal clear (and even blunt) about the value you have to offer. Aberdeen’s report, No Longer A Luxury: Why the Best-in-Class View Sales Enablement as a Must-Have (November 2015), shows that Best-in-Class organizations are 28% more likely to have formal processes in place to align marketing and sales assets to specific stages in the buyer’s journey. This best practice should mean that you are always able to show why “somebody cares.”
“Not Worth My Time”
Even if you’re marketing or selling a time management product that gives users 50% more time, a terrible person is going to tell you that meeting with you (or taking your call or checking out your totally cool content) is not worth their time. These curmudgeons can even look at a bullet point like this and respond “TL;DR” (that’s “too long; didn’t read” for those unfamiliar with jerk-speak).
The Short Lesson: Keep communication quick and concise, at least until you know for sure the person to whom you’re speaking isn’t evil incarnate.
“I Know What I Heard”
Jerks hear what they want to hear and willfully confuse their rendition of reality with the truth. They can deny that your free trial is only a trial: “You said it was free; I’m not paying for this!” Or interpret every offer of a discount as an open invitation to negotiation. In other words, jerks will pretty much take any words you use and use them against you.
The Sociopath-Stopping Solution: Use bare-bones, just-the-facts statements. If there’s anything that might be left open to interpretation, leave it out. Buyer-centric, “you” messaging provides a framework for this kind of direct, value-based approach.
“You’re an Idiot”
It’s generally the case that the people with the lowest quality of character often have the highest opinion of themselves. They’re the best; you’re the worst. They’re geniuses; you’re an idiot. And the sad fact of the matter is that they can maintain an inflated sense of self even when socked in the jaw with a knuckle-sandwich of truth!
The Tantrum-Thrower Takedown: Pull no punches when it comes to establishing yourself as an experienced, knowledgeable resource. You’re in your role for a reason: you know your stuff and you’re not to be trifled with.
Be prepared to go a few rounds if necessary, but know that you don’t have to face such fiends alone. Aberdeen’s Modern Sales Workflow: How Best-in-Class Enterprises Maximize the Buyer’s AND the Seller’s Experience (February 2016) shows that 44% of Best-in-Class organizations have a formal process in place for personnel to share best practices. This means that, even if you lack confidence, your peers should be able to help you get in fighting form.
When someone could be a jerk, and isn’t, it’s kind of a small miracle nowadays. That’s why expecting and preparing for people to do their worst is kind of cool: it makes your great customers, prospects, or contacts seem all the more remarkable.