I’m not saying Jehovah’s Witnesses have got it wrong.
That’s the first thing I wanted to say. This isn’t about religion, or about what you should believe in. It’s about copywriting (which I suppose is what you’re expecting).
But being a copywriter is being able to sell, at least in part. It’s about telling people about something you have to offer, explaining how it will help them, and pushing them to take action on it. To buy it. Or buy into it.
Recently, I had regular visits from a Jehovah’s Witness.
I kept inviting him back because, truth told, I wanted to take the opportunity to ask him about lots of things I never quite understood. Why can only a certain number of people get into heaven? If that’s the case, why are you telling everyone to join up?
He cleared things up. He answered my questions. But, above all else, he was trying to sell me on an idea.
And I think we could all learn a thing or two from his techniques.
When selling really matters
If you’ve got a warehouse full of trinkets that you want to shift, selling’s important. It’s what’s going to keep you in business, buy you a lunch, or buy you a house.
But when you’ve got the answer to all of existence and an important message that, if unheard, will lead to certain doom?
That’s when selling really matters.
So it’s no surprise that my friendly Witness used established sales techniques (intentionally or not).
His client wasn’t just the person holding the purse strings and paying the bills.
His client was an omnipresent God and his singular reason for being.
Using the rule of reciprocation
I’ve blogged about it before – you give something away, you greatly increase your chances of getting something back. Even something that’s not worth much or, in some cases, not worth anything at all.
My Jehovah’s Witness opened up by handing me a copy of The Watchtower. He’d opened the sale by giving me something for free.
It’s also interesting how the proposed bible study was presented using the word ‘free’. This man is going to take his time to tell me more, share his ideas, and explain what he believes.
Without a doubt, that creates the sense that I should give something back.
Using the power of yes
I’m a great believer in the idea that people fall into patterns of behaviour. Just look at the way we talk to each other, like, using certain words, like, as a matter of habit.
And, as a freelance copywriter, I try to get people into a ‘saying yes’ mentality. I try to make ‘yes’ their habit, just for a few moments.
My Jehovah’s Witness did the same:
- “You want the best for your family, don’t you?”
- “You can see that times are getting more difficult for people?”
- “There are a lot of wars going on in the world, right?”
Try saying no to these questions. They frame every conversation in the word ‘yes’.
Creating an aspirational image
From Mad Men selling The American Dream to Colgate selling me the idea of brighter, shinier teeth, the most powerful copy shows us who we want to be.
We can do that in two stages – reflect the prospect (the person we’re selling to) back at themselves, then present the exciting new alternative.
My Jehovah’s Witness did exactly that. He explained that he’d been like me, running a business and looking after his family. He’d been uncertain, unsure. And now here he was, transformed, happier, more content.
Dressed nicely. Hair combed. And a kid standing next to him who is engaged, well behaved, and polite.
He told me how his own life reflected mine.
Then he showed me the image to aspire to – and told me how to get it.
Handling big objections
Now, what makes the Jehovah’s Witness on your doorstep unique is that they’re facing big objections. Objections like:
- I don’t believe in anything
- I believe in something else
- I believe I’ve got better things to do than talk to you
After one or two visits, I explained that I couldn’t talk for long because I had work to get done. My visitor took a leap and told me something strong: “That’s Satan getting in, trying to distract you.”
If I had lots of work? Satan. If I didn’t have enough? Satan.
If I simply shut the door and closed the curtains next time he came? Satan.
This is the part I thought was really smart.
You see, when a Jehovah’s Witness knocks the door they know that a ticking clock starts. Every time you talk, you’re simply heading toward the moment when the door shuts. Or when you ask them politely not to come back.
The objection, the negative response, is inevitable. The proposed bible study is a long, time-consuming process – one I can’t imagine has much take-up.
So the smartest thing this Jehovah’s Witness did? He made it so that, even when he ‘lost the sale’, the ideas he’d shared were positively reinforced.
The seeds are sown, and I’d be interested to know how many people fall onto hard times long after their engagement with the Jehovah’s Witnesses and suddenly think back to that promise of something better.
Does the Jehovah’s Witness sale work?
It’s a long sale, one that nurtures a prospect over days, weeks, months, and even years. It’s a hard sale, too, one that’s not likely to connect soon – if at all.
But the techniques work. They’re proven. So it’s not all over, not ever. A belief isn’t a transitory thing, a desire for a product that you need right now. It’s a desire for something bigger – for hope, for faith, for an infinite future.
And so, even when you close the door, the truth is that there’s an entire lifetime for a Jehovah’s Witness to close the sale.