Are you naughty or nice?
I know it’s still six months off from Christmas. And that question is mostly associated with that holiday, and landing on Santa’s list of all the good boys and girls.
But the answer to that question could make you much more effective…
— At selling…
— At marketing…
— At copywriting…
… Really, at all types of persuasion.
I don’t want you to be a bad person…
If you’ve read much Breakthrough Marketing Secrets, it should be very clear I’m not telling you to go out and lie, cheat, and steal.
That doesn’t end anywhere good.
But there’s a flip side to that.
Because you can be too good.
You can be too nice.
You can try too hard to please everyone, and to fit in, and to remove conflict.
When you’re so nice that you’re vanilla, you become impotent…
I’ve been listening to The Art of Storytelling: From Parents to Professionals, one of The Great Courses selections available through Audible.
And while I think it’s generally good, there’s a point the teacher, Hannah Harvey, makes that gets at where I’m going today.
Stories are about conflict.
They’re about the push and pull between desires that don’t quite line up, either with the desires of another character, or with something that’s true in the world.
Little Red Riding Hood wants to go safely through the woods to her grandmother’s house, give her treats, and head home safely. The wolf wants to eat her.
The term Harvey uses is tensiveness.
Tensive means, “causing or expressing tension.”
So tensiveness is that quality of tension caused or expressed in the conflicts of a story.
When there’s tension or tensiveness or conflict, you have an interesting story.
The story isn’t interesting if Little Red Riding Hood makes it safely to her grandmother’s, and safely home without incident.
The story is only interesting because what Red wants and what the wolf wants are in conflict.
Nice people hate conflict — and that’s what makes them boring…
If you want to sell, the first thing you have to do is grab attention.
Nice people can get attention just fine.
But then, you have to build and sustain interest.
And if you’re too nice — if you shy away from tension — you can’t keep interest.
Never mind getting to the next steps of stimulating desire, and demanding action.
If you want to sell, you must be willing to embrace the tension and conflict, to make your persuasive message heard.
You have to be willing to point at the dark places, the pain and agony and unfulfilled desires.
You absolutely must be willing to create that sense of unease that a good story will create, where your prospect is afraid of the dangers ahead, and desires a happy ending.
You might say you have to be willing to be naughty…
… At least, if that’s the opposite of nice.
Because you have to be willing to touch on the darkness, the pain, the uncertainty.
You have to press the buttons of fear and shame and suffering.
Even if it’s just for a fleeting moment, to get the prospect primed and ready to feel good again.
Unlike someone who is purely bad, being naughty means you can — and should — bring them back from the brink.
I have this image I sometimes use to illustrate the concept of using negative emotions to sell. You’re holding your prospect by the shirt-collar, over the edge of a cliff, just long enough that they really start to fear that they could fall. Then, you pull them back, and present the solution.
This is some of the most powerful persuasion you can ever learn…
And, in fact, when I taught this in my Emotional Direct Response Copywriting training program, I even included a warning to only use it for good.
Because if you have a solution to someone’s problems, it’s ethical to really point out that problem and agitate the experience of that problem going unsolved, in order to get the legitimate solution into their hands.
However if you simply use your knowledge of someone’s problems, fears, and insecurities to get money out of them, and don’t actually solve the problem, you’re being a terrible person.
Don’t be a terrible person.
There is one very powerful way to use this lesson in your selling messages…
And, in fact, when I’m hearing from copywriters in many markets what’s working best for Facebook ads and on other ad platforms, this is the really big secret.
Let’s say, for example, that your offer is a solution you created to a problem. And your prospect is now facing that problem, looking for solutions. If you can tell your story of how terrible the problem was for you, the prospect will see themselves in you, in the story.
You don’t have to beat them over the head with it. You don’t have to make horrible predictions about their unsolved problem. You don’t have to make huge promises about your solution. You simply tell your story, and give them a shot at the solution that worked for you.
So, for example, if you’re selling a weight loss product, it could be that you struggled with your weight terribly, but this is what has helped you be much more healthy.
Or if it’s a moneymaking product, perhaps you talk about how terrible the last job was, before you discovered this method.
And so on, and so on…
Alternately, if you didn’t solve the problem for yourself, but you have prospects who solved it with your product or service, use their stories. (With permission, of course.) Tell the story of the guy who was in dire straits until they discovered your solution, and got results faster than they ever imagined.
Use this natural human desire to feel tension in stories to your advantage…
When you’re telling a story, it slides under the radar. We don’t have the same filters up when it’s about someone else, and not directed at us.
We actually want to hear the story of the underdog who achieved greater-than-expected success against impossible odds.
Because that conflict is interesting.
The tension is what draws us in.
We don’t want to hear about the smooth sailing, easygoing solution to a problem that was very solvable. That’s nice. And that’s not a compliment.
So we flock to the storyteller who is willing to embrace the conflict, the tension, the naughtiness… But who brings it all around to a compelling conclusion in the end.
And applied to selling, who offers the compelling conclusion in the form of a product or service that will make us the next hero of the same problem-solution story.
If this is appealing to you, check out my Story Selling Master Class where I teach templates to tell the stories above, plus more than a dozen additional selling stories.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,