Dodgy Laptops, Naughty Kids and Sales

Today at I learnt a valuable mf’ing lesson.

Basically, I work as a learning support at a school with extra challenging students. Most of these kids you can work with, there’s an element of give and take. But some of them, once they’re set off are just impossible. They will get violent, throw things, bite… you name it, they’ve done it.

Anyway, I had this student in the afternoon for double P.E. I thought it’d be a nice little end to the day, I mean, what kid doesn’t want to go down to the park and play football?

Well… apparently this kid.

He was hell bent he was going to an indoor trampoline place. This was taken off his timetable but as expected, was having none of it. Instead he launched a tirade of verbal abuse that’d make an old dockworker blush.

He then tries to knock me over and goes on the run around the house, kicking the ball at the windows, booting doors then having his final stand barricaded in one of the classrooms. He blocks the door and a classic negotiation begins. It was almost like the siege of the Iranian Embassy. But without guns, terrorists or the SAS kicking in windows.

Needless to say, nothing was working. You can’t just boot the door in because, well, he’s just a kid.

I was literally trying everything, but he wasn’t budging at all. He did not care what I had to say. Not one bit. Even for someone who has ready plenty of books on persuasion and worked as a nightclub bouncer, this kid was as stubborn as a fungal infection. Quite admirable really.

Luckily, I had a bit of a brain wave…

…I remembered earlier while on his laptop, that the trackpad hardly worked, he was punching the walls in frustration. Luckily, there was a PC downstairs with a mouse attached, this was my way in. My plan was to offer him the mouse, in exchange for my entry so that he could use his laptop better.

I had an ideal target. Angry kid frustrated at laptop because the trackpad is awful.

I had a solution. I could help him. I had something that benefitted his life. No more frustration with your laptop’s trackpad.

It worked. No surprises really, this was sales 101.

This was proof to me people don’t really give a flying bagel about what you have got to say. You can talk until you’re blue in the face about your company and product. They don’t care. The same applies here. This kid wasn’t interested in my pleading. He was determined to block himself in that room and damn everyone else.

The key was having something that directly benefitted him. Something that would make his angry little life a bit better. It satisfied the infinite loop going on in most people’s heads of “What’s in it for me?”.

Essentially, this is what good copywriters must do. Sell benefits. But to the right people. You’ve got to tailor your language to your target audience. You’ve got to get your offer in front of the right people. Don’t be advertising your deliciously juicy halal lamb steaks to Vegan BNP members. I couldn’t just walk up to the door with an apple and be like “hey kid, I’ll give you this can of sweetcorn if you let me in.” Unless he was starving or part trout, it’d be a poor bargaining chip.

Know your market and create an irresistible offer. Simple really.

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