To Sell The Truth


This article is about teaching clients a much better way to reach out and turn consumers into their loyal customers. It’s about how clients can attract new customers without ever having to put their product or service on sale.

Have you ever had a revelation so powerful that you just clasped your hand to your forehead and went, “Wow! And it’s so simple and easy! Well, that happened to me a couple of years ago when I discovered something about my local direct clients that I had failed to recognize for nearly 40 years. But it wasn’t just me who failed to recognize this “something.” Virtually all of the broadcast community, the advertising agencies, the print medium, everybody in the business of advertising missed it as well.

The successful client already has the perfect sales pitch that they deliver every single day, on the showroom floor, on the lot, in their offices, over the phone. They say things that make consumers say, “All right, that makes sense to me. You’ve convinced me. I want that. Here’s my money.”

We’re talking about sales pitches that have even been passed down through generations of business owners. From grandparents to parents to their children who wind up in the business…talking points that convince consumers to become loyal customers, in every single town, village, and city in the world. We’re talking about perfect sales pitches that work for these businesses on a daily and weekly basis.

Until we get ahold of them.

And reinterpret them.

And screw them up.

Our clients, and we in media, have the same lifetime of experience watching television, seeing and hearing advertising in all of its forms. So when it comes time to talk advertising, our eyes roll up in our heads and out comes the “ad speak.”

Instead of conveying the client’s already perfect message directly to the consumer, we rewrite it into a bizarre script thing. Then we take the client completely out of the picture by having someone with an “announcery” voice attempt to tell the client’s story. To further remove the reality of the client’s actual world, we add sound effects and big graphics and disclaimers. And if the client is actually doing his own ads, we make him or her read a surreal reinterpretation of what they would actually say to a real customer. In most cases, the client winds up looking and sounding like a prisoner of war reading a forced confession.

We’ve worked so hard to get our on-air talent sounding normal and conversational. Then comes the crazy commercial/promo break. We go from normal conversation to a completely surreal language experience. It’s like somebody suddenly slipped LSD into our coffee. The client’s perfect sales pitch is churned and washed out until there is nothing left but a limp rag, encumbered by clichés, too much information, meaningless details, and crazy talk. The resulting commercial in no way resembles the way the client actually speaks to customers. Instead we air freakish cartoon hallucinogenic versions of what the client is desperately trying to convey.

The creative solution? Get rid of the script. The client doesn’t read scripts to customers on the showroom floor. Why would he do it in commercials? Learn better ways to interview the client so that his/her perfect message and talking point comes across loud and clear. Collect 20 minutes of raw audio or video. Go through it and edit five :30s. One subject per commercial. Leave in the “uhs and errs.” If the client is enthusiastic about the product or service this will come across to the audience. We all have the same lifetime of experience knowing whether somebody is lying to us or not, based on how they talk to us. The client’s (or his testimonial evangelist’s) enthusiasm comes across. We put a human face on the client’s business.

People don’t like being “sold,” but they don’t mind being informed. With my “to sell the truth” style of commercial, the client has the opportunity to share information in a natural way, the same way he communicates every single day. Over time, our listeners get used to the sound of his/her voice and get some insight into the moral values the company embraces. Over time, our audiences begin to trust the client. The client has the opportunity to teach value to listeners and viewers. Value almost always trumps price.

These commercials work better than anything else I’ve ever tried. Why? Because they’re real. Try it yourself. This provides a way for account executives to get directly involved in the production of their client’s commercials. AEs may not be good at writing fake scripts, but they can ask good questions and get good answers.

On-air promos? Get rid of the tired scripted promos. Get people excited about attending station events. Use real people whenever you can. I recently visited a radio station that had the most effervescent promotions director I’d ever met. She was involved personally in every station event. When I asked her what was coming up in the next couple of weeks, she exploded with enthusiasm, giving me great reasons that it would be in my best interest to attend. I thought, “Wow! She should be doing the station’s promos. She’s their best cheerleader. And look at how great she sounds telling me about her events, before we weaken them by putting them into script form.


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