Show 12 – Why Civilians Hate Good Salesmen

The biggest problem in business today is in our heads — it’s the inability to understand how salesmanship works.

Veteran marketers just roll their eyes at the clueless rookies (and criminally-naive gurus) who rattle on about “selling without selling” and other attempts to circumvent the ONE TRUTH about business: If you want someone to buy what you offer, you need to sell them.

2:40 – How a copywriter prepares their mind to sit down and write and ad

5:00 – The type of marketers John insists should “rot in hell”

5:30 – How to get your prospect out of their passive state and taking action

5:52 – How to know there’s something missing from your product that will kill sales

7:04 – When not to delete internet troll comments

8:00 – Why “civilians” remain shocked about what it takes to sell unethical product

9:54 – The “Shark Tank” test that reveals bad marketing

12:31 -The inherently hostile nature of salesmanship

12:49 – Why the “used car salesman” analogy still dominates the average buyer’s mind

15:50 – When good persuasion can be completely transparent and still work

25:35 – The true meaning of “salesmanship in print”

11 thoughts on “Show 12 – Why Civilians Hate Good Salesmen

  1. Aaron Miller

    The first time I bought from a direct response ad was probably 8-9 years ago from OHP Direct. It was an ad for Tony Benett’s guitar dvd for $99.

    After I watched it, I packed it up and sent it back.

    The experience turned me off to direct response up until about 2 years ago. I started my own business and couldn’t figure out why no one was buying my stuff… so I started to learn about copywriting. I’d see these “sleazy” sales letters online and think “there’s no way those work”. And to be honest I felt like I was stupid for buying that DVD and being gullible. But now that I’m studying copywriting and have had some pretty good success, I realize I just had a terrible experience with one product and that marketing and direct response isn’t evil. Actually, I’ve become a big fan of the guy who wrote that ad! Funny how stuff works out huh?

  2. Kevin Rogers

    Funny story, Aaron.

    Not unusual, except for the part where you come around at the end to realize salesmanship is not inherently evil. It usually happens around the time we need to start making some money ourselves.

    I spent my entire career as an entertainer convinced that money was bad for you… and I got away with having none through most of my twenties… but then I got a kidney stone and wife… both taught me that planning ahead and procuring luxury items like, ya know, health insurance!.. is a good way to avoid lots of unnecessary suffering.

    Growing up sucks in a lot of ways, but it sure is more comfortable (if you do it right).

    Wonder whatever happened to that copywriter who bullied you into the DVDs? 🙂

  3. Henry

    Realizing that you need to sell is a baby step in the process.

    Once you get over that hurdle, which happens fast for anyone who’s really trying, you’ve got the real issues to deal with. Like, what is the definition of a “good product?”

    I’ve seen multi-million dollar products that have obvious, old-news information selling for $47… then they get that sale up to $147 with a bunch of even older-news fluffy bonus reports in a 1-click upsell – but their follow up is so good they have less than a 5% refund rate and generally happy customers.

    I’ve personally sold millions of dollars worth of a $2,000 investment service that had a great track record for years… then the service proceeded to historically BOMB after my promotion.

    I know bleeding heart liberal copywriters who sell “survival” products for a coming armageddon they are 100% convinced is never coming… but the authors and customers are dyed in the wool believers.

    The point is, the concept of “value” is subjective.

    If the product is iffy, but the marketing is so good that people are happy they bought, are you a “bad person” for selling it?

    Conversely, if you have the best product in the world but people wish they never bought because they don’t like something about you, is that still better than selling a crappy product that people are thrilled to get?

    There are things that, to me, are very clearly over the line. But there’s a giant grey area where everyone makes their own judgment call and I’m not necessarily going to think they’re a bad person, even if I disagree.

    1. Kevin Rogers

      Intriguing questions, Henry.

      You’re right about that giant grey cloud floating over the middle. I recently hosted a webinar and a subscriber wrote to tell me how much she disliked the guest. She expressed her disappointment at his “aggressive” attitude towards selling. Yet, I didn’t find it agressive at all, just more “effective.”

      I was flattered that she took the time to let me know, but it opens your eyes to how subjective our opinions are about selling. And how attached most people get about their perception of people they follow.


  4. Brad

    One of the best instances that I can recall of being flat out sold on something without even knowing it was needed happened to me quite a few years ago.
    In 2001 I was a 21 year old dips**t (still am in some ways) that was still living with mom and dad AND had a baby on the way.
    Late one night, (or early one morning, depending on how you look at it,) I was watching TV trying to escape the hellish reality of my situation, when the infamous Carlton Sheets came on.
    With one line, he spoke directly to me and seamed to solve all of life’s troubles.
    “No Money Down Real Estate Investment”
    “NO money, NO credit, and NO experience required”
    He proceeded to make me sit through another 30 minutes of pure enticement before getting to the price. Testimony after testimony of regular Joe’s, just like me striking it rich with real estate. I watched in absolute awe with my nearly maxed out credit card clenched in my hand. Waiting to hear the price and praying it wasn’t going to cost more than $250 (that’s all I had left on the card)
    This is when the real genius of the marketing came to life.
    “All you pay today is $199. And if you are not completely satisfied, send it back for a full, no questions asked, refund!”
    I reasoned in my mind that this was a “no lose situation”. If it didn’t work, just send it back!
    But to be honest, my cheap a$$ had every intention of coping the materials and quickly sending it back for a refund…regardless of the outcome.
    But that didn’t happen.
    Instead, I ended up using the knowledge I gained from the course to buy my first house less than 3 months later.
    When I closed on the house I actually received a check for $3k! And when we sold the house 3 years later, we made almost $50k!
    The danm course actually worked!
    Say what you want about infomercials, but my experience was literally life changing!
    The best part is, I didn’t even know I needed it!

  5. Peter Michaels

    Inspiring discussion guys.

    Any marketers or copywriters unsure or on the fence about why they do what they do should listen to John’s ‘rant’ towards the end of this podcast… it makes so much sense and it’s good to hear someone so genuinely enthusiastic about our part in the game.

    In terms of what you’re saying about ‘selling without selling’, I get what you’re saying, and we all know who the main culprits are when it comes to this movement (in its most recent manifestation anyway)…

    But it’s funny, in a niche I work with often (startups and SaaS companies) that’s largely populated by college grads and assorted ‘young folk’ who’d never think about heeding the advice of a seasoned car salesman, you’d think there was more resistance to selling… but actually, a lot of people I talk to are pretty accepting of it.

    They’re clued-up, and there seems to be a real emphasis on the importance of conversion these days – there are some great examples of landing-page optimization services doing good business for example, and some smart freelancers targeting this conversion-focused market.

    I’m finding less and less that I have to ‘convince’ clients and prospects on the importance of selling in their messages, which is great – maybe the ‘grey area’ between civilians and salesmen is narrowing?

    Or are you seeing it more pronounced these days?

    1. Kevin Rogers

      Good question, Peter. I guess that’s sort of subjective, too, isn’t it?

      The marketing market is definitely evolving, but it also depends who you’re on the phone with any given day. There are still a lot of people out their calling themselves marketers who have zero sales under their belt. I think you’re talking to higher quality people these days.

      Great hearing from you,


  6. Bob Burger

    First, love the show. Great insight.

    As I was listening to the car dealership piece, two thoughts came to mind. First if Carmax states that their cars are reliable (safety check and standards). you have to wonder if their research showed that more people were worried about buying a lemon than paying too much. Second, I spoke to an internet manager at an auto fleet department. I asked him about Costco pricing. He told me that almost all of the people who came in after getting a quote from Costco (supposedly the best), they still wanted to haggle. People almost always think they can do better. Why do consumers get to play the capitalist dance (love that term), but if marketers do it they are bad? Obviously, rhetorical.

    Thanks for the great info.

  7. Mark S

    I’m wondering whether the ‘problem’ with selling lies in the difference between ‘convincing’ and ‘compelling’. People don’t like being convinced into a sale. They can’t help being compelled.
    If you agree then the skill in good copywriting is knowing how to compel, and I would add, also recognising the context that certain language and phrases will be perceived as compelling rather than an excercise in convincing. Yes, context. In the wrong context the right phrases can be perceived as ‘convincing’ rather than compelling. That’s my experience.
    When people object to copywriting I think that it is ‘convincing’ copy that they read. Good copy is perceived to be compelling and as smooth as silk.


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