Marketing Lessons from High School Cheerleaders

I was a bit reluctant to lead off this week’s Briefs with a reference to high school cheerleaders. I certainly don’t want to offend you if you were a cheerleader, your wife was a cheerleader, or your daughter is now! But I couldn’t resist the opportunity to grab your attention.

Why does a high-school cheerleader play hard-to-get? Why does she make the quarterback sweat the invitation to the Homecoming Dance, even if she knows she’ll say yes? Because she can!

You’re not looking for a date to the dance. But you might find playing hard-to-get helps grow your business. Picture this:

You’ve met a prospective client, at your office or theirs. You’ve walked through their tax return and identified mistakes and missed opportunities that cost them extra tax. Perhaps they’re not taking advantage of a medical expense reimbursement plan. Perhaps they’re missing opportunities to hire their children. Perhaps they’re investing in taxable bond funds when municipals would make more sense. In any event, you discover you can save them money.

If you handle that part of your job well, you won’t have to “close” them. They’ll close themselves. But sometimes prospects resist.

When that happens to me, I’ll bring out my “secret weapon.” Sales trainer Dave Sandler called it “negative reverse selling.” Marketing guru Dan Kennedy calls it “takeaway selling.” But I call it “the high-school cheerleader” strategy. And you’ll recognize it immediately as playing hard-to-get. Just hint that they can’t have your service, or perhaps that they don’t qualify. In many cases, that will eliminate their resistance.

Prospect: “I don’t know if this will really help me.”

You: “You’re probably right. It sounds like taxes don’t really bother you.”

If that sounds too snotty, feel free to soften it up. You might ask them what they would do with their tax savings. Now you’ll know what they won’t have without your service.

Showing your client why they should want your service is the tax-planning equivalent of the cheerleader flashing her million-watt smile. Now that you’ve established your value, you can play hard-to-get to take advantage of your prospect’s natural desire to want what they’re now afraid they can’t have.

Oh, and if your prospect balks at your fee, I suggest a simple three-word response:

Prospect: “Your fee is too high.”

You: “Compared to what?”

If you can show your prospect that your service and your fee are worth more than the taxes they would otherwise pay, then you can afford to play hard-to-get.