Martin Stellar - Coach & Consultant for ethical sales and business growth

Martin Stellar - Coach & Consultant for ethical sales and business growth

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Lies


Yesterday I told you about reciprocity and how – if used ethically – it’s a fantastic way to start a conversation with a prospect, and keep it going.

Today, I’m showing you an example of how it should not be used.


I’m strolling through the streets of Granada with a friend.

There’s a throng of tourists and locals in the street.

The sun’s out and life is good.

Suddenly there is a middle-aged lady in front of us, dressed in black.

She looks fairly unkempt and has the sly look of a crow in her eyes.

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New Shoes and the Compelling Effect of Reciprocity

I needed new shoes, so last week I drove up to Granada to go find some.
Taught me an important lesson about sales. One that I actually already knew, but it was uncanny to go through the learning experience once again.

I’m not an easy customer: I have size 46 (that’s about size 12 outside of continental Europe) and I’m very particular about what I do and don’t like.
They have to be comfortable, attractive, not flashy, durable, void of fashionable details, fit to go with shorts as well as crease-pressed trousers – not easy.
Oh, and I refuse to wear anything, including shoes, if the brand name is on the outside instead of the inside.

The sizes on display are usually 44 here, so each time I see a pair I like, I ask ‘do you have these in 46?’
And the moment I ask, the assistant runs to the back to grab a pair in my size.
But I don’t want to try them on – I just want to know if they’re available.
Because there are 20 shoe shops in that area, and I want to see them all, before I try any on.
After all, there’s so much choice, at such different price-points. I want to quickly scout shop after shop, see what’s there and at what price, and THEN I go back to the two or three most interesting shops (price/quality/style) to try on the three or four pairs that might be right for me.
But they won’t let me. They HAVE to get me a pair in my size and put it in front of me.
I don’t blame them, mind you: they’re doing their job, which is selling shoes. And the way those folk were doing it that day – I have to admit they all got it right.

Not just because it’s good customer service – there’s something far more powerful in what they did.
Sure you treat your customer well, and if he indicates he might want to buy, you instantly make it easy for him to do so.
In terms of shoes, that means getting a pair on those feet.

But far more importantly: getting that box in front of me is a way to ‘catch’ me.
We humans are hardwired to return favours. (Bunch of research to back that – Robert Cialdini is a good place to start).
If you do a prospective client a favour – no matter how small, you trigger an ancient psychological reaction.

It’s theorised that this penchant to return favours fostered survival of society, which may or may not be correct.
It’s not as relevant as the fact that the mechanism exists.
Because believe you me: it exists, and it works. Like clockwork.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to buy a pair of shoes just because they brought out my size.
But sales happen in increments, and getting just that little bit of willingness from a customer at the start, means he might just put them on.
After that, the sale depends on how the customer is treated, how the shoes feel and fit, the way they look in the mirror…

But if I don’t put them on, I might be out the door in which case none of that is going to happen.
You GOTTA get a pair on the feet of everyone who walks in the door.
I’m pretty sure that’s how shoe-salesman training works. Can someone check with Al Bundy please? Thanks.

Anyway: If people take an interest in your work and you want them to be your customer, the best thing you could possibly do is do something in their interest.
Not because that means they owe you a purchase – no, it’s just so that they’ll allow you to communicate with them a little longer.
That’s why it’s called Permission Marketing (Never heard of it? Must learn! Google Seth Godin…)
See, in order for someone to buy you need to do your little song & dance, your pitch.
They’re going to have to pay attention for that.
So you need to give them a reason to want to pay out that time and attention.
And doing a favor of some sort is a fantastic way to do it.
I do the same thing in these emails: I provide ideas that may be useful to you. It’s a little favour I do my readers.
Absolutely love writing them too, these daily emails, but that’s beside the point.
I give freely of what I think, and if I’m lucky, some people will find it interesting enough to read the next one, and the next one, and so on.
That means my readers allow me to talk to them, again and again. And as you can see, I do a little pitch at the end.
The people whom the shoe really fits (the folk who actually want to buy copy) at some point will get in touch and ask for a quote.
And thus, business is done.

So, recap: As soon as a buyer as much as looks at you, give them something.
Give what?
It doesn’t matter, as long as you give them a reason to continue listening to you.
A freebie, advice, a sample, some time – anything. But make it worth their time to pay you that attention.

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you how the same mechanism is also used on unsuspecting tourists for very odious purposes.
Because tricks like these are powerful and come with responsibility. If you’re an ethical business person, it’s important to know where to draw the line.
But that’s for tomorrow.

Here’s that pitch, by the way: Email marketing is one of the easiest, most cost-effective strategies you can use. Even if your list is small. (You have no IDEA how small my list is – and yet it works).
So, starting in 2014 I have a new offer: Captivating, highly converting emails, written fresh daily, in monthly packages. It’s not cheap (in fact it’s VERY expensive – but it gets you tons of sales.)
I’ll probably only take two or three clients for this service – it might look easy to write these, but actually it takes quite a lot of energy.
Anyway, I’ll put up a salespage for it in a few days. Or after the holidays, I don’t know. I need to go climb a pile of rocks with my yoga instructor now.



P.S. Some how and why of working with me:

My Wife Ran Off With My Best Friend – No, But Seriously

You know that corny joke: ‘My best friend ran off with my wife. I miss him a lot.’
Maybe it’s funny when you read it, but not so much if it happens to you.
And yes, it happened to me.
To be fair, she and I have been separated for 4 years now.
The two of them got together last year.
It’s not like he stole her away from me.
But still.

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Pet-Peeve Time: Sneaky, Conniving, Pseudo-Ethical Marketing Creeps

I’m pretty annoyed today.
Some bigshot marketer dude, one I thought I could trust, did something really sneaky yesterday.

Here’s what happened:
‘Read my blog post’.
Click, read post. Popup appears: “Want to read this too?”
Click yes, I read the second page.
Another popup: “Say, I have a 75% discount on this – want to read the details?”
I didn’t want to read the details – I wasn’t in a buying mood, and besides, I was enjoying my read.
So logically, I clicked the little cross in the corner, thinking the popup would disappear.
It did disappear, but instead of showing me the same page I had been reading… I was taken to the 75% discount page anyway.

Hang on a minute.

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Take Action, Wake UP! And If You'r Already Awake, How About We Wake Up Some of Your Friends and Neighbours?

As much as I love Spain and the quaint little town I live in, there’s one thing about this local culture that I dislike enormously, to put it mildly.
What’s this thing I’m so against?
It’s the sheer resignation with which people just let troubles and problems wash over them.
People here – not everyone, but many – just resign to the status quo.
(I know – the problems and the resignation are not just present in Spain. But it sure hurts to see so much of it concentrated, each time I step out my front door.
I see so much of it, and it’s the thing that guarantees (take that literally) problems and failure.

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Presenting: Your Inner Stoic. I Suggest You Two Become Good Friends

A wise man I know once said: “Life is about learning how to be at ease with things that aren’t easy”.
That line by itself has kept me going through some very difficult phases in my life.
I’ve discovered the truth in it, which is that ‘easy’ is a matter of perception.
And you as well as I, we can choose how we perceive things.
When we change our perception, that what is difficult becomes different: easy, bearable, temporary, a nuisance, or a fact of life – it changes.

I want to share my own best shift of perception, hoping it’ll help you too when times are tough.
Because perception or not, life tends to throw obstacles at us.
How we deal with them, that’s what matters.
Here’s how I deal with things in my own life: I talk to my inner stoic.

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Christmas Music on the Beach and Rat-piss Wine (I Didn't Drink it)

Went to have dinner at a beach-side restaurant the other day.
It was fun, the food was good, the staff were friendly.
The wine was terrible, but the waiter tasted it, muttered something in Spanish that roughly translates as ‘rat’s piss’, and swiftly uncorked a new, good bottle.
Food arrived, and a good time was about to be had by all.

Except for the music.
Oh god, the music…

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The Insider 'Secret' That Gives Copywriters Magical Powers

Copywriting is an intimate process.
Thing is, a copywriter can’t do anything to generate a sale until he knows who the buyer is.
But I mean: he has to REALLY know the buyer. Intimately.
We do tons – entire days or even weeks – of research. We routinely submerge ourselves in the world of the ideal buyer.
If you tell me to write copy for midwives – Give me a week and I’ll be a qualification and a license away from being able to assist a delivery. (Metaphorically speaking – do NOT send me any soon-to-be mothers).
Ask me to write about the building industry, and by the time I’ve done enough research to start writing, I could technically start a building company and make it succeed.
We do so much research, that by the end of it we practically ARE your customer.
And only then do we start writing.

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Why You Should Hang Out With People You Look Up To

Don’t you just love being the smartest kid in the class?
I sure do.
Question is: smartest compared to what?
See, we all like to have our ego stroked.
I sure do.

One of the easiest ways to do that is hanging out with people who look up to you.
They’re impressed, they’re grateful, they challenge your knowledge – and you end up feeling good, helpful, smart.
Not wrong in itself, but it has bad consequences.
If you spend a lot of time – online or offline – with people who look up to you, you miss out on something important: challenge.

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How to Test Your Copywriter With Tough Questions

Client got on the phone yesterday, ordered a 3-piece email series.

We had a constructive talk and he asked me to send an invoice.

In the morning, there was no money but a question instead:

Martin, since I run a charity, margins are really very thin. Every dollar really counts with us. Do you feel confident that my investment with you will get sufficient response?


I just LOVE that question.

For one thing, because this person appeals to my honesty.

He wants to be confident his money will be spent well.

And he’s looking to see whether or not that matters to me.

Dude… Of course it matters. A lot.

In fact, I wouldn’t even take a job if I don’t feel it’s going to be a worthwhile investment for my client.

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