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How to Overcome “The Resistance Factor”


“I generally avoid temptation — unless I can’t resist it.” – Mae West

There are two parties in any sales transaction — the potential buyer (the recipient of the pitch) and the seller (the pitch maker). The seller has a specific agenda. He wants to get the buyer to do something … take his offer. The buyer has an agenda, too. He wants to avoid spending his money (and wasting his time). So there’s a natural tension between buyer and seller. But the buyer is not a sitting duck. He moves. He thinks. He anticipates the actions of the seller and ACTIVELY TRIES TO RESIST.

You send a direct-mail package. The recipient recognizes it for what it is and tosses it in the trash. This is his first line of defense. But if you put some good copy on the envelope, you can get him to open it. Once he’s done that, he gives himself a couple of seconds to figure out “What is this all about?” Because he doesn’t want to waste his time, he makes an immediate determination as to whether or not he is interested in proceeding.

This is why blatantly logical approaches do not work in direct mail: “115 Reasons to Buy This Product,” for instance. The reader sees the title, figures out where you’re going with your pitch … and dismisses it. He doesn’t want to spend his money or time.

So what you want to do is this: Approach at an unexpected angle and an unprotected flank, in an unforeseen moment and an undefended place. This is the recipe for victory. And once you’re there, you also want to keep your potential buyer off balance by never letting him see exactly how you intend to proceed. He erects his defenses … you go around them. Never is he able to see where you are going, dismiss your approach, and save himself the time and money he wants to save.

Let’s give it a try. Here’s a good example from the AWAI copywriting course:

Let’s say you’ve got something to sell. Maybe it’s the story of how you lost 30 pounds eating peanuts. You wrote a book about it, and now it’s time to write a sales letter to sell your new peanut diet. On the outside of your envelope, would you say:

“Want to Lose Weight? Look inside …”

No. That’s not the ticket. Sure, you might hook a few people who are so desperate to lose weight that they’ll look at anything. But this copy won’t get past the average prospect’s resistance.

Not to worry. Just give it another go.

First, revisit the big promise you can make about your peanut diet: “You can lose weight by eating peanuts.” Then, consider all its wonderful benefits: “No starving yourself … no rabbit food.” And think about your unique selling proposition: “I’ve figured out a way for you to shed weight by eating tons of peanuts.” So you begin writing. And here’s what you come up with:

“Overweight? Love Peanuts? See details inside …”

Not bad. But not great either. The question is more intriguing. The prospect has no idea what peanuts have to do his weight problem … and this stirs his curiosity. Let’s try another one:

“You can lose 8 pounds a week eating peanuts. Details inside …”

This is definitely better. You’ve focused on the big promise — a promise that is Useful, Unique, and Ultra-specific. But there’s one thing missing — one more component of what we call “the 4 U’s.” It could be a bit more Urgent.

OK. Let’s give it one more shot. Try to be as audacious as possible while still making your claim believable. This might seem like a tough task — and, yes, there is a fine line to walk here. But how about this:

“Doctors Uncover “Lost” Study”

“INSIDE: A proven way for you to lose 8 pounds a week — EATING PEANUTS!”

Now you’re getting somewhere. After reading this, your prospect will almost certainly open the envelope to find out what it is all about. You have made a convincing promise and have stated an intriguing fact that he surely didn’t expect. You have overcome “the resistance factor.”

And, now that you’ve got his attention, you have plenty of time to convince him to buy your peanut diet in your sales letter.

(Of course … there had better be a “lost study.” And you must be able to prove that the diet works. If not, you’re in trouble.)

This is just one of many secrets you’ll find in the AWAI copywriting course. If you really want to understand your customer, your role as a marketer, and the relationships between buyer and seller, check it out.