I don’t wear tweed suits or smoke a pipe. And my real estate holdings may not run to a chateau in the South of France.
But I still have one important thing in common with David Ogilvy.
We both worked in sales before we worked in advertising.
At fifteen I worked Saturdays at the local department store selling bedding.
Before university I spent a year selling wine at a 300 year old London wine merchant.
These two jobs taught me basic sales techniques.
How you never lead with a closed question.
(I’m amazed how many retail salespeople still get this wrong.)
It’s never, “Can I help you?”
It’s always, “How can I help you?”
The first question can be answered with a No!
And if you don’t want to hear No!—don’t make it easy for prospects to say it!
The more open-ended your questions, the more you find out what’s on a prospect’s mind.
That’s how you get inside their head.
And once you’ve poked around in there and made some sort of connection, you ask the obligation question.
If I throw in a sheet set with this deluxe mattress you like, would you buy it today?
After university I talked my way into Advertising.
And what I’d learnt in sales was useful in a couple of ways.
First, I was comfortable presenting, internally or to clients, and I could usually sell the work I wanted to sell.
Second, because I’d spent a few years selling to different people, I could empathize with them.
Selling to people face to face is much easier than selling to people you never meet.
Selling to people you’ve never met is akin to a thought experiment.
And I had a better idea how to think my way into the head of a mum with 2 kids, or a 19 year old bloke going out with his mates or whoever the target was.
I had a better idea of what they would respond to, because I had a better idea of who they were.
Einstein used thought experiments to understand the universe.
A famous one had him imagining a man floating in a box in zero gravity.
I never fully understood it.
But there was one I could understand and I used it to write ads.
I’d imagine the target in a shop so I could talk with them one-on-one.
And I could usually visualize this quite well because I’d spent a lot of time talking with prospects in shops.
John E Kennedy, another advertising legend described advertising as, “salesmanship in print.”
How exactly do you write that if you’ve never really sold anything?
It’s hard enough when you have.