The Five “Why’s” of Sales

It came in the middle of a Michel Fortin teleseminar on copywriting a few years ago. Fortin was interviewing the legendary direct-response writer John Carlton, and he let Carlton do most of the talking. But in passing, and without elaboration, he mentioned his philosophy on the sales process.

The most important word to your customer, said Fortin, is “Why?”. From attention to interest to desire to action, there are five “why’s” that need to be answered.

Here’s what the client wants to know:

  1. Why me?

  2. Why your product or service?

  3. Why from you instead of a competitor?

  4. Why at that price?

  5. Why now?

A few examples (elaborations are mine):

If you do home remodeling, your prospect needs to be dissatisfied with something about his or her home; decide that new windows or a remodeled kitchen will improve the situation; become convinced that you are the best one to do the job; believe that your work is worth the money you charge; and that now’s the best time to get started.

If you’re a Ford dealer, your customer must be convinced that he needs a new car or truck; that a Ford is a better choice than a GMC, Dodge or Toyota; that your store is a better place to buy than another Ford dealership; that your price is a fair one; and that now is the time to buy.

If you offer anti-aging medical services, your customer needs to decide she needs to improve her appearance; that the procedure you offer will make her look the way she wants to look; that your practice is the best place to get the procedure; that your price represents the best value; and that now is the time to get it done.

It’s not enough to tell your customer each of these things — you need to show that customer why.

Although advertising will begin the process and move it along, in most cases it won’t completely answer all of these “why’s” by itself. The rest of the process will happen when your customer calls, looks at your website, or walks into your store or office. But before your prospect pulls out wallet, credit card or checkbook, all of the “why’s” need to be answered — and answered to the customer’s satisfaction, not yours.

Make sure you know where you are in the sales process with each customer. Which “why” do you need to answer next?

Question: When you lose sales, which “why” is the one you’re most likely to have missed? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

When People Complain About Your Advertising

“Most ads aren’t written to persuade, they’re written not to offend.” — Roy Williams


What do you do when people don’t like your ads?

Chaos on my mind

Photo Credit: Hermano Gris via Compfight cc

Not long ago an ad agency pulled a home improvement commercial off the air in Portland and Seattle because several listeners had called the client to complain about it. The client was concerned that he was offending potential customers, and the agency had to  scramble to come up with something else.

So what happens when some people don’t like your advertising?

Sunny Kobe Cook, whose relentless pitches for Sleep Country USA in the 90’s irritated thousands, once told a seminar audience that she would occasionally work behind the counter at one of her stores.

Customers would walk up to the counter after choosing a bed, hand her their credit card, and then do a double-take. She described the typical encounter like this:

Customer: You’re Sunny Kobe Cook!

Sunny: Yes, I am.

Customer (leaning forward, whispering): I hate your commercials!

“They’re standing in my store,” said Cook, “and making a purchase for a thousand bucks or more. I want everyone to hate my commercials like that!”

Cook annoyed people with her voice and relentlessness. Rob Christensen, by contrast, deliberately pushed the envelope of good taste. Christensen ran Apple Auto Sales of Charlotte, North Carolina. In his TV ads, he played “Reverend Rob”, a televangelist who would “HEAL your credit.” They’re cheesy, poorly-acted, and have the ability to offend on multiple levels.

They also sold cars. You can watch one here.

According to Mike Drummond of the Charlotte Observer, Christensen began running these ads since 1997. Viewers  complained, and some stations  refused to run the spots.

Christensen aired the commercials on stations who would accept them, and took his money to the bank. “I’ve had people tell me they hate my ads — hate them,” Christensen told Drummond. “And yet they still bought a car from me.”

Roy Williams echoes the sentiment:

Ninety-eight point nine percent of all the customers who hate your ads will still come to your store and buy from you when they need what you sell. These customers don’t cost you money; they just complain to the cashier as they’re handing over their cash.

A caution is in order here: An annoying campaign may get you noticed, but you can’t forget to sell within the commercial. The Sleep Country and Apple Auto Sales commercials were more than just exercises in irritation. Each one contained a powerful sales message and a call to action.

Don’t reject an idea simply because some folks might not like it. They don’t have to like it — they just have to buy.

Question: If you work in advertising, have you ever had to deal with a client who wanted to bail on a campaign that was generating heat? How did you deal with it? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Is Your Website Killing Your Campaign?

Is your website working against the rest of your advertising? A poorly-conceived site can stop the traffic dead in its tracks.

Old Window Grid

Photo Credit: Free HDR & Photomanipulations –
via Compfight cc


I met recently with a personal injury attorney in the south. His practice handles the usual PI stuff — car wrecks, product liability, medical malpractice, etc. But he has a special expertise in one particular area: oilfield injuries.

He graduated college with a degree in petroleum engineering, and spent several years working on the rigs before going into law. An oil worker injured on the job might be very interested in an attorney who knew the industry, and this guy knows it.

The attorney’s TV commercial does a great job telling the story. He appears in a workshirt and hard hat. There are powerful images of oil rigs, workers in baskets hanging from a crane, helicopters.

The commercial invites viewers to go to his website to find out more. And that’s where everything he’s gained with the TV ad begins to evaporate.

  • Instead of oil rigs, there’s a picture of a generic courtroom.
  • Instead of workers hanging in baskets, there’s a photo of a gavel.
  • Instead of the story of a guy who worked on the rigs right out of college, there’s a generic “About Our Firm” page.

The TV ad was working — it drove people to the website — but that’s where the traffic stopped. Viewers wanted to hire the guy in the hardhat, but the guy in the hardhat was nowhere to be found. I’ve advised him to work with his web developer to make sure the message on the site matches the message on the TV ad.

By contrast, Doctors of the World recently did a fabulous job of matching offline and online marketing. As I discussed in this space last week, the humanitarian organization tapped into the “Ebola Costume” craze by encouraging people to donate money to buy real Ebola gear for real doctors. The print ad looked like this:

Ad appearing in USA Today October 30, 2014

Ad appearing in USA Today October 30, 2014


Readers were directed to an online direct-response landing page. You can see it below.

 Doctors of the World Ebola landing page.

The photo on the site immediately notifies readers they’ve come to the right place. Below the photo is an easy way to take action — a simple set of “click to donate” buttons with amounts cleverly matched to specific pieces of equipment.

Question: What’s the best message-matching website you’ve encountered? What’s the worst? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

How to Raise a Buck on Halloween and Ebola

Here is a terrific example of advertising that enters the conversation America is already having in its head.

What are we thinking about on October 30, 2014? Ebola and Halloween, that’s what. Many fine American entrepreneurs are offering “Ebola costumes” this year.

An organization called Doctors of the World* has set up a fundraising landing page at, and is using the current American zeitgiest to raise some money and do some good.

They have cleverly tied donation levels to particular pieces of equipment — you can “donate gloves” for a buck, goggles for $10, etc. At the high end, you can “donate a doctor” for $2500.”

The ad below appeared in USA Today on October 30. It is awesome.


Ad appearing in USA Today October 30, 2014

Ad appearing in USA Today October 30, 2014


*I am not familiar with this organization, which claims to be “fighting Ebola in Liberia and Sierra Leone, engaging with local communities to prevent Ebola’s spread, raise awareness and deliver essential protective equipment”  and am not endorsing it in any way. Except for their advertising approach, which I endorse as heartily as it is possible to do so.

Remind yourself: you are in the MONEY business, which you get by SELLING THINGS. You are not in the views, likes, friends, re-tweets, etc. business. You don’t GET PAID to pacify Google, please your peers, or by a million people watching your video of the moose parachuting from a plane in polka dot pajamas, your logo on the parachute.

  • Dan Kennedy
The Dan Kennedy Letter October 2014 (GKIC, 2014), Pages 11/13