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Why We Listen to Strangers - and How to Use That in Business


You probably realise that, to have success in sales, you need to start thinking about your product or service as a set of solutions to your prospect’s problem.

But I’m sure you have had the experience of a random stranger trying to give you advice. Why should you listen? Well, that question opens the door to a whole new way of operating.

What would make you listen to a random stranger trying to tell you something important about your business?

Just as in life, there are certain signals which indicate to us whether or not we should listen to someone, even if we have never met them before. The first of these, interestingly, is calmness. No one wants to pay attention to someone shouting at them. Similarly, you will feel less inclined to listen to someone who accosts you in the street and demands that you hear them. No, we are most likely to pay heed to someone who is

a) recommended by someone we know and trust

b) so big and obviously successful that they convey confidence to us

or c) someone who seems to be speaking our language, to be on our wavelength from the beginning, even though we have never met.

To move a website visitor from information seeker to paying customer, you need first prove more than that you are an authority on what you are talking about: you need to be able to talk about it in terms that will appear almost psychic to the reader.

The standard way that you convey to the reader that you are indeed an authority on the subject matter your website happens to be about is to post on your website a ‘Free Report’ of some kind. This is now almost universally common in marketing on the web, so much so that we can forget that it only really took off in the last few years. Your free report (a disguised sales message) gives away really valuable information that teaches a prospect something he/she really needs to know to solve whatever problem they are looking to solve. In other words, it should have something unique and newsworthy to say that positions you as an expert in the mind of the reader. The (standard) theory goes that, once you’ve positioned yourself as the obvious solution, it is very hard for a prospect to buy from anywhere else.

That’s very true. But there is another angle to this which, if you can master it, will give you an edge that very few others have:

You have to be able to communicate your solutions in a language straight from the prospect’s own mind.

A prospect, reading your website, should have an almost eerie feeling that you are somehow reading them as much as they are reading you.

Obviously, you don’t want your website to be nothing but a blatant sales pitch. That will turn people off right away. You want the visitor to your site to get comfortable with who you are, the information you have to share, and then, when you offer your product or service for sale, the visitor to your site will feel good about making a smart buying decision. That’s straightforward and the visitor knows as much as you do that that is what is happening. They haven’t been ‘sold to’ they’ve chosen to buy from you - a subtle but very powerful difference.

But what if that whole process could be speeded up to an almost spooky extent?

Thousands of people are trying to do this every day using things like Google AdWords and Search Engine Optimisation: attempting to read prospects’ minds by coming up with the keywords which people type into search engines to find what they are looking for.

But what if there was a secret language - a language of symbols and imagery - which was just outside or beneath or above the conscious mind, which all prospects were drawing upon when they looked for security and confidence in a sale?

Think back to the random stranger scenario: if someone started talking to us, calmly and without any pressure, using words and images that immediately resonated with us, about things that we had scarcely put into words ourselves, we would be fascinated. Yes, we would listen to them. We probably wouldn’t even notice the point at which we had ‘decided’ that they had something important to say.

This isn’t so much about the content of any ‘free report’ you might offer, though that of course is crucial too: it’s about the language and symbology of such a report.

Here’s a key truth: the people we listen to and regard as ‘authorities’ have certain characteristics which work on us subliminally. These characteristics have developed over the entire history of humanity; they are ‘programmed’ into us and work like a kind of code upon us. One of these characteristics is the ability to command attention.

This is why today’s culture (and just about every culture of the past) is fascinated by ‘celebrities’ - for whatever reason, they command attention. Perhaps they have appeared in popular TV programmes, or have been sporting heroes. Whatever it is, they have shown that they can command attention. And, is so doing, they command our attention.

But someone can command attention and not necessarily be able to use it to guide others to action. These attention commanders have to have another quality: they have to be able to see through immediate situations into the heart of a problem. That problem might range from finding a low calorie meal to a sharp razor to a beautiful item of clothing; it might be the best health solution or the best holiday.

The attention commander directs our attention to the underlying 'truth' of our situation.

Using an attention commander of some kind in our website copy means that we tap into a symbology slightly below the prospect’s awareness: they don’t quite realise consciously what it is about that figure which is persuasive.

Give that same figure something persuasive to say in terms of content, and you have been to turn a prospect into a customer.

Stay tuned for more about the secret language you need to convert more people into paying customers for your business.

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