The Key to a Sale? Talk the Buyer’s Language

Businessman and columnist Harvey Mackay, perhaps best known as the author of five business bestsellers,  including Swim With the Sharks (Without Being Eaten Alive), Beware the Naked Man Who Offers You His Shirt, and Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty, has a very educational and entertaining column in the May 21, 2010 edition of the Cincinnati Business Courier.  Titled “Actions, not words, help make sales pitch personal”, Harvey explains the different ways sales pitches can be delivered, some more effective than others.  He concludes with a very poignant story to get his point across:

“During World War II, the U.S. government began offering soldiers a life insurance policy with a $10,000 benefit if they were killed in combat.  In one unit, a young lieutenant delivered a polished presentation on the details of the plan.  No one signed up.  Then an older sergent quietly asked the lieutenant if he could talk to the troops.

‘Men,’ he said, ‘if you get this life insurance and you get killed, the government is going to send your family $10,000.  If you don’t get this insurance and you get killed, the government isn’t going to send your family anything.  So who do you think they’re going to send up to the front lines – the ones who’ll cost $10,000 when they’re killed, or the ones who won’t cost anything?’

All the soldiers immediatley signed up.”

In this case the buyers didn’t care very much about the details of the insurance.  But give them a small dose of reality – aka, the government is somewhat selective in who it wants on the front line – and all of a sudden, insurance seems like a pretty good investment.  I’m going to keep this lesson in mind the next time I’m preparing to speak to a potential client!

And don’t forget – the real meaning of Memorial Day isn’t to kick off summer, or to have a three-day weekend…

Trip Topken is the president of Waste Auditing Consultants, the premiere solid waste management consultants in the Greater Cincinnati area. An affiliate of Environmental Waste Solutions, WAC can help any company spending $400 to $375,000 per month on waste and recycling. Savings of 30 to 50 percent are normal, but not guaranteed. WAC, in collaberation with EWS, can simultaneously produce results at all locations across North America. No up-front fees are ever due, and WAC simply shares the savings its work generates. Learn more about Waste Auditing Consultants here. You can contact Trip at 513-398-2117 or email


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