Stories Sell Better Than Features Do…

How Effective Stories Can Help You Sell...

Many years ago I sold terminals and printers to firms that used IBM minicomputers.

These firms had spent millions on their equipment. The fact that our equipment cost about one-tenth of the IBM equivalent was not a selling point. Prospects thought them “too cheap”.

I learned that telling stories was so much better than listing features.

In one case the brochure listed a printer as “durable”. What does that really mean?

Sea Harvest needed a printer that could survive the rigours of their docking area.

Ships would unload baskets of fish that each needed a printed tag. IBM’s R150,000 printer had lasted about three years. This was an environment hosed down each night with hoses spraying sea water.

Sea Harvest bought our tiny R2500 printer because they needed a printer the next day. But IBM could not deliver for months. We suggested they take two. Because we could not see our unit lasting more than a few months. This was the most hostile printer location we had ever seen.

Three years later they asked us to replace the plastic tear bar. The hundreds of thousands of cardboard tags torn off had eroded it. They had not yet used the second printer.

Which is more memorable: saying it is “durable” or telling a story to prove it?

Find stories that describe the benefits your features offer. Write them down so that you do not forget them. Tell those stories when a client has a related problem. You will help them make a better decision. That will help you feed your kids.

Then start sharing those stories with people who need your products and services.

I find email by far the easiest way to share such stories. Each story harvests a few enquiries. These add up fast.

Check out our course on How to Use Email to Sell More to More People.

Peter Carruthers

Technobabble Sells Nothing…

And yet most of us sell this way...

It was Randburg, March 2001. A client asked me to a meeting with someone he felt might add value to all my other clients.

This fellow started out like Sea Cottage coming out the gates at the start of the Durban July.

I tried to interrupt him three times. He barely stopped to draw breath. Let alone listen to me. He ended 20 minutes later. Both of us exhausted.

I understood as much of his presentation as I did of this short, funny spoof that shows how too many of us try to sell.

I told him that I had been trying to tell him that my market did not need such a product.

His comment? "No worries. At least I had a chance to practice my spiel."

I have never felt so worthless.

It's called technobable. It's the most common way most of us try to bludgeon someone into buying. But it sells nothing. Worse, people avoid you afterwards. These are people who should be your clients.

Click here to check out a tried and tested selling process I have honed since 1984. I call it No-Selling-Required.

Peter Carruthers

Why I Hate Personal Guaranties…

Personal Guaranties, Suretyships, and Guarantees are dangerous

When we first sign personal guaranties most of us have no clue how dangerous the contracts are. The lender or creditor tells us that everybody signs them. So does our accountant. And our attorney. Or that they are normal. Neither of these is true.

But when the lender says “sign or leave” guess what most of us do?

By the time we find out what a personal guaranty contract is it’s too late for any repair.

To be clear, this personal guaranty contract is a worldwide standard. In some countries it’s called a personal suretyship. In others a commercial guarantee. But they all mean the same thing.

Since 1992 I’ve worked with hundreds of distressed business owners. Losing their homes because they signed a personal guaranty at some point. Most marriages don’t survive the stress.

In my work the personal guaranty it is always a business owner guaranteeing a company debt. Or, much worse, their parents guaranteeing that debt.

Image of Personal Guaranty Contract

Don’t sign personal guaranty contracts,

The contract protects the lender, usually a bank. But in doing so it destroys the business owner.

That same bank often secures the business loan with personal security. In other words, they expect you to deposit cash with them. Or to allow them to take a “charge” or a covering “bond” against your home. As well as the personal guaranty.

I learned the scope of these contracts documents back in 1992. My local economy collapsed and took my firm with. I too had secured the business loan with personal assets. And when the bank needed payment they liquidated the assets for 10% of the true worth.

I could not understand how I could have been so stupid. I began to talk to other business owners, only find that every single one of us had signed these same contracts.

I wondered how banks could get away with holding cash and other securities against a loan. As well as provoke us into signing a personal guarantee to secure them.

I have no problem with them protecting themselves.

  • I have a problem with the unknowing guarantor losing their home and everything else they own.
  • I have a problem with parents signing these personal suretyships without knowing what they are.
  • I have a problem with spouses signing personal guaranties without understanding them.
  • I have a problem with one spouse being able to sign a personal guarantee of these without the consent of the other.

It’s tough enough to close a business. How much tougher when your family point fingers at you because mum and dad are losing their home because they signed that guaranty?

After 25 years of helping people through the fallout I have placed everything I know online in a course I call Business Owner Success Strategies. The course focuses on the challenges of ownership, rather than regular business challenges addressed whenever we talk about entrepreneurial risk.

What’s in It For Me?

Why most small business marketing plans fail

Consulting is fun. You delve into a huge variety of other peoples businesses.

During the past 4 weeks I have been privy to many marketing plans.

Each plan faced a major flaw. Most of us small business owners do not know who we’re selling to. Or who is actually buying. Or why they’re buying. Or even what they’re buying.

For instance, if I am selling an advertising service to a business owner – what is he actually buying?

Is he buying the fact that my system is cheaper than that of everybody else? Is he buying the fact that he can display more information on my system? I don’t think so. Or that he can display en route to the airport where there is a lot of traffic? I don’t think so. These are mere features of my service.

He is buying more clients. And if I don’t sell him on that one issue then I am wasting his time and mine.

Almost all the sales literature that I read focuses on the supplier and his product.

  • This product is state of the art [who cares],
  • or revolutionary [ho hum],
  • or unique [yawn].

But nobody tells me exactly how it will benefit me! Allan Pease talks about WII-FM in his book Write Language.

What’s In It For Me? (WII-FM)

If you want to sell to me then get onto my wavelength and tune out all the other stuff.

And my wavelength is simple: What’s In It For Me?

Dan Kennedy says the same thing in a different way:

“It takes extreme, extraordinary measures to compel people to act in a way that is contrary to the way they normally act (do nothing, decide on nothing, buy nothing).”

If you’re selling to a business keep it simple. Tell your prospect how he will benefit from your product. Tell him what it has done for others like him.

But don’t waste your time telling him how wonderful the product is. (Unless you can translate wonderful into instant money for him. That’s why he is in business.)

When talking to prospects focus on one thing: WHAT CAN YOUR PRODUCT OR SERVICE DO FOR THEM.

  • How much money can it save them?
  • How much time can it save them?
  • How many more clients will it bring them?
  • How many people can they fire by using you instead? How much more mileage will they get?
  • How much admin will it cut?

Good luck in finding questions your clients want to hear.

This article first published in May 2000.

How to Use Email to Sell More to More People

In October 1984 I started my first firm. The mission: Eat IBM!

Only one of the 220 IBM mainframe users in SA knew how I could help them. The rest could not care less.

When starting a new business this first problem we each face looks insurmountable.

At least I knew who was most likely to buy datacommunications kit linking IBM mainframes to PCs.

One big problem: Not one single data processing manager (DP Manager) knew that it could be done. And every single one HATED PCs.

They were fast losing control of their computer infrastructure as every accountant in the firm started spreadsheeting on PCs. And every secretary started wordprocessing on PCs. And every manager tried to manage staff on PCs.

But how to inspire these DP Managers to call us…?

I read many books on marketing back then. All focused on helping corporates (like IBM) compete with each other, employing the same expensive techniques. My small business comprised just me, in a bedroom, with no advertising budget. No budget at all, including dinner.

And then I stumbled upon a book on direct mail marketing. Back then this meant sending letters to people who might be interested. (Direct mail was also called junk mail. )

One paragraph caught my attention. “If you’re competing with IBM, then for every $100,000 they spend on marketing you can afford 50 cents.” I could not even afford the 50 cents, but…

I competed for a tiny slice of a segment of IBM’s market: Just 220 IBM mainframe users. If just a few bought just a little kit, that fed my kids and paid the bills.

This Advert & Placement cost more than one full year of direct mailing.

The process? Simply send a letter to each… Regularly… Telling a short story about how some IBM user applied my kind of kit to solve a problem they faced…

220 letters cost a whole lot less than a tiny advert anywhere, and so I started writing and posting:

  • Every month for a couple of years.
  • Then every second week for a couple of years.
  • And when these IBM users installed fax machines, I sent faxes every fortnight.

Direct Email Marketing Delivers Incredible Results

Fast forward 7 years: Me in a tuxedo, wearing my first ever bow tie, at a formal bash in Johannesburg accepting an award as South Africa’s Fourth Most Admired IT Supplier, standing on stage with ISM (What IBM called itself in SA in 1991).

That direct mail approach rocked.

Nowadays direct emails are easier and cheaper. After 32 years of me feeding my kids with the sales those emails generate the f-word marketing industry still poohs on them, calling them spam.

I love that because while they waste money going big and complex you and I can still sneak in by going personal.

After direct mailing for 32 years I know it works better than anything else for:

  • Selling to the same people, but sell more stuff to each.
  • Selling the same amount of stuff to more people.
  • Selling more stuff to more people.

Finally, if you know a small business owner who wants to sell a whole lot more without a whole lot of effort, please forward this email and ask them to join this course.

Going places in 2017…

Something new, or last year repeated?

Welcome to 2017. I’m glad you could make it. So, how have your New Year Resolutions worked out?  (My annual scorecard for successful New Year’s resolutions is 51 losses to zero wins.)

I ask because I’ve been setting them since, well, 1976. Big Hairy Audacious Goals. SMART, as well, you know:

  • Specific,
  • Measurable,
  • Achievable,
  • Realistic, and
  • Time-related.

That last piece of the acronym, “time-related”, actually means deadline, but SMART reads so much better than SMARD.

I’d like to share some thoughts  because these past six weeks has been quite revolutionary for me. As you read this you’re seeing your first glimpse of the new Peter Carruthers. I’ve been boring for 17 years. This seemed a good time to change.

So I spent most of the holiday watching videos and reading instead of dealing with the 12 months of backlog. I also spent too much money learning how to actually reach my goals and fulfill those resolutions.

The end of a year is a shocking time to set goals. That’s because the beginning of the next year is usually unbearably uncomfortable after far too much alcohol. We set ourselves up to fail on the first day, and the second, and I have – I’m embarrassed to say – often managed to only surface on the third day.

That represents a 100% failure rate in my annual “I will go to gym” promise to myself. And with that kind of failure rate, why go on?

It was this kind of issue I was pondering, trying to get answers to, watching videos from almost everybody on earth who feels qualified to talk about setting resolutions, on the basis that they can breathe coherently. I’m not knocking the genre, just the repetitive format.

But, I bumped into two outstanding courses on the subject. One cheap, one terrifyingly expensive. And as I considered the expense of the course, from an internationally acclaimed New York Times bestselling author, I realised that the cost was one quarter of the money I’m hoping to earn each day next year. (2017, that is) And that put my anxiety into some perspective. Penny wise, pound foolish. The story of our lives.

So I bought them both. And in combination, wow.

So, before I continue, let’s get one thing straight. I am 99% confident that I will reach my 2017 goals as a result of this book and this course. It’s because, for the first time, I really know why they’re important, why I have to reach them, and what difference they will make to my life if I do. (This “why”, it turns out, is the secret sauce.)

How do I know this? Well,  I realised that I hate gym. It’s full of great looking people all of whom  smile at me when I enter. It’s the kind of smile a mother gives her errant child as he arrives home from the playground with a dark spot on his pants, and mud on his face. They smile even more at my efforts with machinery which puts me into a position where I’m confident I will lose some gas before the weights move out of the starting block.  No thank you.

After 41 years of trying to succeed, I feel it’s time to acknowledge that I need a different approach.

In my case, striding across the  Scandinavian peaks. In solitude. Where the occasional  stomach discomfort goes unnoticed, especially when you have three layers of clothing sealing your nether regions from the ambient minus 25°.

Since there are no peaks nearby, I started light, three weeks ago,  with a gentle stroll down to the nearest supermarket, just in case I got hungry.

But that’s not the point. I’ve always thought I wanted to be good looking, slim, the envy of every man shielding his eyes from my perfect physique. That’s a bad reason. Especially in Norway, where every human being is physically perfect.

No, I realise that the only thing I am interested in was having as much quality left in the years that remain as I can arrange. That needs keeping the mechanical bits functional. This turns out to be jolly good fun.

Once I understood that having a “why”, a valid reason for achieving something, a deeper reason than just vanity all of my other goals – actually, both of them – became obvious, simple, and terrifying. Suddenly I had no more excuses.

More about this later…

I hope your 2017 rocks.


Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if your life depended on it (HarperBusiness, May 17, 2016)

 Easy to read, full of insight, and very relevant to small business owners.

We personal business owners tend not to be nearly as good at negotiating as we should be. A whole bunch of things get in the way, most of which relate  the way we learn to treat each other on the playground. Life isn’t as fair as the playground was.

And yet, we negotiate each day. With suppliers. With staff. With prospects. With people that owe us money. With people we owe money to. Almost every time we interact with another human being we are negotiating.

Many, if not most, of the problems I see small business owners face result from not negotiating well enough to stay out of trouble. My favourite is the negotiation with your bank when they ask for a personal guarantee. That cost me a house, two cars, a motorcycle, my bicycle, and a wife, although she had the grace to tell me about it long afterwards.

The book is so engrossing that I read it, cover to cover, during an 11-hour flight from Johannesburg to Zürich.

I now look at negotiations in a completely different way. So will you.