I recently had a phone conversation with John, an Xfinity representative from Portland, about transferring my service to a different location. He pitched a couple of promotional offers to me using simple and impressive hot cognition techniques I’ve read about in best-selling marketing and pitching books. The conversation went something like this:
John: So Rohan, why are you moving to a new place?
Rohan: Just bought a place, so I’m moving out of my apartment.
John: Congrats! New home owner? Is it just you or do you have family moving in as well?
Rohan: My wife and I.
John: Great. Do you and your wife work from home a lot? Do you use the internet to stream videos?
Rohan: Yeah, a bunch of both actually.
John: Do you usually stream Netflix or Amazon Prime or Hulu or something else?
Rohan: We stream Netflix and Amazon Prime.
John: Cool! You should try this new show called The Boys, its awesome.
Rohan: Yeah, I’ve actually heard about it from a lot of people! Been meaning to throw it on the TV at some point myself.
John: You totally should! Let me look around and see if I can find a promotional offer for you. We usually have them for people who are transferring their accounts. I might be able to get you a better deal than the one you’re currently on.
Rohan: *Now, suddenly very interested* Oh cool! Yeah thanks John, that would be great!
John: *After taking his time to look them up* Alright, so I see a promotional offer here. You’re on a 75Mbps plan, and this new plan will give you 500Mbps, which is 5 times faster than your internet right now. You guys stream a lot, so how good is your streaming experience today?
Rohan: It’s alright, but sometimes takes time for the video to buffer…
John: If you’re streaming a video from Netflix and your wife is watching a show on Amazon Prime in another room, I’m guessing you’ll have issues today?
Rohan: Sort of..
John: You also said you work from home every now and then. So if one of you is connected to their work VPN and the other wants to stream a show, or you have multiple streams going on at once, this new plan will make the experience seamless. Its $20 more than your current plan, but will be super helpful in terms of improving the experience.
While this might sound like a standard sales call, here are the things John did great at:
John has set me up, right from the moment he began with what seemed like small talk while he was “pulling up my account”, to start thinking about the way I use my internet at home. This is something so mundane, I rarely think about it. I’m okay with it and it is a mere commodity, so for me transferring the service is a check box item in my task list within the larger context of moving to a new home. You’ll notice how blunt my responses were at the start. At the time it seemed like yet another small-talk conversation you make with a stranger just to make it less awkward. But by asking me about why I’m moving, who I’m moving with, and how we use the internet, my brain started processing thoughts about my experiences using the internet.
This type of conversation needs to last only a few minutes, or else you’ve lost the prospect’s attention anyway. John spared a few precious early seconds to:
Get me talking about myself
People don’t love anything more than to talk about themselves. It felt good, when someone at the fag end of my day, showed some interest in my new home purchase and my streaming habits.
Offer me some valuable information
Great new TV shows are good form of social currency for someone my age. By this point, John already knew I’ve made my first home purchase and I was looking to move in with my wife (not wife and kids). So he decided to offer me some information that was valuable to me. I now have another data point for this new show and more validation that it is worth my time. Even if I never watch it, I can go tell my friends it is a great show.
So at this point, he’s learnt so much about me (I’m a male in my late twenties or early thirties who streams content using popular services and works from home sometimes) that he was able to fit me into an archetype and pique my interest with some information that actually mattered in the context of my life. All this during the forty seconds while we were waiting for his system to load.
My interest is at its ultimate peak when he says he will look for a promotional offer for me and save me some money. I wouldn’t be surprised if he knew the offer right when he disclosed this. But he decided to make me wait while he was “checking” to see if one existed. He had me at the hook point, and for that whole minute of silence I left everything else I was doing to hang tight and watch this mystery unfold.
Speak the language of my lizard brain
When we have customer conversations, our choice of words always tends to align with the product rather than the use-case. But we need to speak the language of the customers’, as they call it, lizard brain. I wouldn’t be surprised if I call Xfinity back and a different representative pitches it by saying: “Hey Rohan, we’ve got a promotional offer for you, in which you can get 500Mbps for $79.99 a month. Would you like it?”. It is the same offer, but I’m more likely to ask the rep to simply transfer my account and let me get back to work already.
Beyond just pitching
In this single, short conversation, John not only set himself up to get straight through my lizard brain, but also learned a lot about me, my life, and my preferences while doing it. If he is half as good at taking notes as he is pitching, Xfinity now has enough data to model my persona to help them pitch anything to me or my archetype in the future. Oh, and he also created a living, breathing story-teller out of me about Xfinity service quality in the process because he made me feel important.
Customer conversations are super important and never easy since the customer usually doesn’t have any direct incentive in spending their time talking to you. John did this smoothly by getting me to talk about myself and asking the right questions.