My 13-year-old daughter, Clare, is a big fan of alternative music. Her knowledge is extensive. Her best friends say she’s “Bohemian” and they like hanging with someone who isn’t into Top 40. Alt is an important part of Clare’s junior-high identity.
When I pick up Clare after school, she hops in my Jeep and before even saying “Hi,” she rapidly spins the radio dial from Classic Rewind on Sirius to Alt Nation.
If we’re only going to be driving for a few minutes, I don’t mind listening to her music. It’s a window into her world, and 13-year-old daughters don’t give you many of those.
But there’s a problem.
Alt Nation and your local Clear Channel pop station have something in common: their playlists could fit on the front of PostIt note.
As a result, I get bored with Alt Nation. But “ordering” Clare to listen to my music wouldn’t end well.
What to do?
(Hang with me. The info about what world-class salespeople do is coming up.)
Clare had recently given me the backstory on one of her favorite new bands. She said they’re called Haim, a Los Angeles-based group that consists of three “nerdy but cool” sisters (Este, Danielle, and Alana Haim), plus “some guy who’s the drummer.” The Haim sisters all play electric guitar and the lead singer, Danielle, “tries to look like Steven Tyler,” according to Clare.
“Interesting,” I said to myself. A current pop group that plays guitars. A throwback band. And Clare likes them.
I had a thought: for one day, could I get Clare to turn off Alt Nation and listen to the CD that’s established residency in my Jeep’s stereo — “Eagles: The Very Best of,” disc one?
I began researching. I learned:
• Haim has an indy/alternative vibe but with pop influences — they’re an alt band whose music isn’t all morbidly depressing.
• Music-industry publications said Haim was the breakout band of 2013 and their popularity crossed over into mainstream.
• Danielle Haim, who sings lead vocals and plays lead guitar, is a highly-respected guitarist who’s been asked by several headliner bands to tour with them.
• The Haim sisters and their parents had a band, Rockinhaim, that played 1970s and 1980s rock covers, performing mainly at street fairs and fundraisers.
I searched YouTube for a video of the Haim clan in action and found a recent performance when the daughters called Mom and Dad onto the stage to perform “Mustang Sally.” (You’ll be able to see the video in a moment.)
Mom sang lead and had a commanding stage presence; even while wearing “mom jeans” she’s a rocker — no kidding, she’s really good! Dad was rock-solid on the drums.
The daughters showed not even a twitch of embarrassment, which was neat.
• The Haim sisters still enjoy the family’s old cover tunes and even listen to 1970s bands when they’re tooling around Los Angeles. Bless their angel hearts.
• Then, finally, I discovered gold: a detailed review of Haim’s latest record in which the reviewer compared their hit single “The Wire” to one of the Eagles’ greatest hits, “Heartache Tonight.”
“Boom, boom, boom, boom! Cue John Lee Hooker, I have my hook.”
Armed with this stack of Haim information, I picked up Clare from school one day in early December. As she spun the radio dial I asked:
“You remember that band you were telling me about — Haim? Did you know the Haim sisters once played in a cover band with their parents?”
“Yeah, last night I was on YouTube and I saw a video of them playing a song with their parents during a recent concert. Their Mom is a rocker, kind of a bluesy voice. Dad plays it super cool on the drums.”
“Yeah, and I read that the Haim girls like to rock out to the Eagles in the car.”
“Yep. Check this out. Go to your phone right now and listen to the opening bars of Haim’s ‘The Wire.’ I’ll wait.
“Now go to YouTube and search ‘Heartache Tonight by the Eagles.’ Listen to the first 10 seconds.”
[The openings for “The Wire” and “Heartache Tonight” are nearly identical — an obvious homage to Don Henley, Glen Frey, Don Felder, Joe Walsh, and Timothy B. Schmidt, who were the band members when “Heartache Tonight” was released. And it was probably a nod also to Bob Seger, who wrote the song.]
“That’s crazy, right? The openings are the same.”
That’s when I asked for the sale:
“You want to listen to an Eagles song?”
With that, Clare turned off Alt Nation and turned on my Eagles CD.
I had closed the deal.
Learn to Sell in One Week, Without Taking a Class
If you’re like I was when I started my business, you’re god-awful at selling.
You’re timid. Asking for a sale feels like an imposition, kind of rude, even. You don’t ask for the sale at the client meeting and then you lie awake at night wondering if you had closed the deal. (You hadn’t.)
You’ve banished calls-to-action to the catacombs of your website — you say CTAs clutter the page and ruin the user experience.
Sound familiar? I know those feelings. I’m an introvert who’d rather go to the dentist (which I do in Presidential election years) than try to sell.
When I started out in business, I had a small stable of clients (former employers) who gave me a lot of work. Thank you former employers! Thus, I had time to get my head right and prepare myself for the next 20+ years of selling and persuasion.
You probably don’t have the luxury of time. You have to learn to move people to action, persuade them, sell to them. And you must learn now. Your future as a solopreneur depends on it.
The good news — great news, actually — is you can learn to sell well and be comfortable selling, without taking a class or buying a book.
I Won’t Lose This Bet
I will bet you an Italian-sausage pizza (with choice of two toppings, plus extra cheese) that less than 1 percent of business owners in the United States know what I’m about to tell you.
What do world-class salespeople do that you don’t? They practice the art of persuasion every day with everyone they come into contact with, in business and in their personal lives.
They’ve become masters of persuasion because they’re obsessed with it, according to legendary persuader and filthy-rich copywriter John Carlton.
And you can quickly become much better at persuasion in the normal course of your daily life.
As we say in Minnesota: “What the heck?!”
Yep, you can improve your persuasion skills during every waking hour of the day, like I did with my daughter in the car-radio story. I bonded with her. I built credibility. I used third-party testimonials (“Haim loves the Eagles”). I asked for the sale.
“I practice persuasion constantly in my daily life,” Carlton says in his book “The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Getting Your Shit Together.” (Crappy title, great book.)
Baby-Size Steps Are Good
If you need a few ideas on how to get started practicing persuasion in daily life, here you go:
• Start with baby steps, if necessary. When you’re getting change back at the bagel shop, ask the clerk for two 5-dollar bills and five 1’s, instead of a 10.
• Get your significant other to see a movie he or she otherwise wouldn’t consider.
• Figure out how to get a non-sports-loving friend to come over this weekend and watch the NFL Playoffs with you.
• Convince your brother or sister to eat at the new Italian restaurant in town.
It’s actually a lot of fun to practice persuasion in everyday situations. It makes your brain work in ways that it’s not used to, which feels great. If the thought of selling terrifies you, persuasion practice gives you a role to play, and having a role to play banishes fear for many people, me included.
Don’t keep score as you practice, Carlton says. Just pay attention to your “prospects” and observe how your tactics work and don’t work. You’ll find out quickly that bullying — and meekness — won’t produce the result you’re seeking. Passive aggressiveness is a disaster. Tantrums get you nowhere.
“Notice how much romance, empathy, feeling, and concentration is needed to successfully persuade,” Carlton says. “It ain’t easy, but it’s the essence of world-class advertising.”
Cut to our musical guests!
Haim on SNL
Mom and Dad Haim grab the spotlight from their daughters