What You Can Learn About Proof and Persuasion from the Direct Marketing Industry

Even the most skeptical prospects are persuaded by evidence and proof of the value and quality of your products or services. | Image Attrib.: Dollarphotoclub.com
Even the most skeptical prospects are persuaded by evidence and proof of the value and quality of your products or services. | Image Attrib.: Dollarphotoclub.com

“They All Laughed When I Sat Down at the Piano, But When I Started to Play – ” reads the classic headline.

The headline above comes from a direct mail package designed to sell piano lessons. It mailed in 1926 and was a record-breaking promotion that pulled in orders for years. Today, it’s one of the most mimicked headlines in direct mail history. The scenario that it’s exploring is simple: the character in the advertisement was laughed at because of his lack of piano skills. But after buying the product, he wowed and amazed his friends. The other men were jealous. His love interest swooned a little. His father was proud and his mother shed a tear. I’m being a little facetious but you get the point: The headline is brilliant because it paints a vivid picture and taps into some of the most common emotional responses that people have. Feeling nervous about their social skills. A desire for approval and recognition.

The Power of the Direct Marketing Industry

There’s a certain amount of humor associated with the direct marketing industry. The direct marketing industry encompasses everything from the financial newsletter packages that get mailed to your home to late-night television infomercials. Say what you will about the format, but direct marketing focuses on one thing: results. Unlike other areas of marketing and sales, direct marketing (which is also sometimes illustratively called performance marketing) is either a success or a failure. There’s no relationship building, networking or other soft targets that can be pointed to as a partial success.

Copywriters, sales teams, and the people behind the product put together their video or advertisement and then ruthlessly measure how successful it is. If it sells a significant number of products, a direct marketing promotion can go on to bring in massive profits for years to come. If it fails, the team behind it is already hard at work on the next thing. What can executives and sales professionals learn from the direct marketing industry to improve their own selling efforts?

Proof: The Element That Sells Every Time

There are a number of names that are legendary in the direct marketing world: Gary Bencivenga, Gary Halbert, and John Carlton are just a few that come to mind. While each marketer or sales professional in the direct marketing world has their own approach, they share one thing in common.

Each approaches the selling process in a very systematic and scientific way.

When your goal is to sell and you have access to data on what’s working, you use that data and don’t waste time reinventing the wheel. Everything in direct marketing is measured, evaluated and then tested exhaustively to see if it can be improved. A winning package is already going head to head with another idea to see if adjustments – large or small – can improve the sales rates. One element that’s emerged from this process is the knowledge of what factors tend to work time and again. Proof is one of the most powerful elements that a sales professional can bring to bear during a discussion with prospects.

What Is Proof and How Can You Use It to Sell?

Proof can be one of your most powerful weapons for getting to yes faster. In the YESCALATE® system’s MAGNETS framework, we focus on Evidence. Proof and evidence are fundamentally the same concept. Prospective customers want to know that what you’re selling really works. By showing them as much proof and evidence as possible, you help overcome their intellectual objections to making the purchase while establishing credibility and building trust.

Some examples of proof include:

  • Statistics that underscore the value of your solution or put your product/service into context
  • Studies and research conducted by trusted institutions (for example, look for research developed by universities, the government or consulting firms)
  • Customer testimonials, especially when accompanied by a photo or video
  • Social proof, such as in the form of followers and interactions on social media
  • Case studies, that demonstrate how specific customers have benefited from your product or service in a concrete way
  • Endorsements by trusted experts or celebrities in your space

The list goes on, but the idea is simple: show how the facts, examples of your product in action and validation by regular customers and trusted experts help build your brand. Proof can be the hidden ingredient to persuading people to buy from you and not from the competition. YESCALATE® can help you use proof to get to yes “YES” by giving you the persuasive skills to move a conversation in the right direction, pick up on important cues, and convince clients that you aren’t just selling – you are interested in them.