Listen to this post:
I’ll bet I know what you are thinking now. You are probably saying to yourself something like this: ” ‘Letters that produced miraculous results!‘ Absurd! Smacks of patent-medicine advertising!”
If you are thinking that, I don’t blame you. I would probably have thought that myself if I had picked up a book like this fifteen years ago. Sceptical? Well, I like sceptical people. I spent the first twenty years of my life in Missouri – and I like people who have to be shown. Almost all the progress ever made in human thought has been made by the Doubting Thomases, the questioners, the challengers, the show-me crowd.
Let’s be honest. Is the title, “Letters That Produced Miraculous Results,” accurate?
No, to be frank with you, it isn’t.
The truth is, it is a deliberate understatement of fact. Some of the letters reproduced in this chapter harvested results that were rated twice as good as miracles. Rated by whom? By Ken R. Dyke, one of the best-known sales promotion men in America, formerly sales promotion manager for Colgate-Palmolive Peet Company and Chairman of the Board of the Association of National Advertisers.
Mr. Dyke says that letters he used to send out, asking for information from dealers, seldom brought more than a return of 5 to 8 per cent. He said he would have regarded a 15 per cent response as most extraordinary, and told me that, if his replies had ever soared to 20 per cent, he would have regarded it as nothing short of a miracle.
But one of Mr Dyke’s letters printed in this chapter, brought 42 1/2 per cent; in other words, that letter was twice as good as a miracle. You can’t laugh that off. And this letter wasn’t a sport, a fluke, an accident. Similar results were obtained from scores of other letters.
How did he do it? Here is the explanation in Ken Dyke’s own words: “This astonishing increase in the effectiveness of letters occurred immediately after I attended Mr. Carnegie’s course in ‘Effective Speaking and Human Relations.’ I saw that the approach I had formerly used was all wrong. I tried to apply the principles taught in this book – and they resulted in an increase of from 500 to 800 per cent in the effectiveness of my letters asking for information.”
Here is the letter. It pleases the other man by asking him to do the writer a small favour – a favour that makes him feel important.
My own comments on the letter appear in parentheses.
Mr John Blank,
Dear Mr Blank:
I wonder if you would mind helping me out of a little difficulty?
(Let’s get the picture clear. Imagine a lumber dealer in Arizona receiving a letter from an executive of the Johns-Manville Company; and in the first line of the letter, this high-priced executive in New York asks the other fellow to help him out of a difficulty. I can imagine the dealer in Arizona saying to himself something like this: “Well, if this chap in New York is in trouble, he has certainly come to the right person. I always try to be generous and help people. Let’s see what’s wrong with him!”)
Last year, I succeeded in convincing our company that what our dealers needed most to help increase their re-roofing sales was a year ’round direct-mail campaign paid for entirely by Johns-Manville.
(The dealer out in Arizona probably says, “Naturally, they ought to pay for it. They’re hogging most of the profit as it is. They’re making millions while I’m having hard scratchin’ to pay the rent… Now what is this fellow in trouble about?”)
Recently I mailed a questionnaire to the 1,600 dealers who had used the plan and certainly was very much pleased with the hundreds of replies which showed that they appreciated this form of co-operation and found it most helpful.
On the strength of this, we have just released our new direct-mail plan which I know you’ll like still better.
But this morning our president discussed with me my report of last year’s plan and, as presidents will, asked me how much business I could trace to it. Naturally, I must come to you to help me answer him.
(That’s a good phrase: “I must come to you to help me answer him.” The big shot in New York is telling the truth, and he is giving the Johns-Manville dealer in Arizona honest, sincere recognition. Note that Ken Dyke doesn’t waste any time talking about how important his company is. Instead, he immediately shows the other fellow how much he has to lean on him. Ken Dyke admits that he can’t even make a report to the president of Johns-Manville without the dealer’s help. Naturally, the dealer out in Arizona, being human, likes that kind of talk.)
What I’d like you to do is (1) to tell me, on the enclosed postcard, how many roofing and re-roofing jobs you feel last year’s direct-mail plan helped you secure, and (2) give me, as nearly as you can, their total estimated value in dollars and cents (based on the total cost of the jobs applied).
If you’ll do this, I’ll surely appreciate it and thank you for your kindness in giving me this information.
KEN R. DYKE,
Sales Promotion Manager
(Note how, in the last paragraph, he whispers “I” and shouts “You.” Note how generous he is in his praise: “Surely appreciate,” “thank you,” “your kindness.”)
Simple letter, isn’t it? But it produced “miracles” by asking the other person to do a small favour – the performing of which gave him a feeling of importance.
That psychology will work, regardless of whether you are selling asbestos roofs or touring Europe in a Ford.
To illustrate. Homer Croy and I once lost our way while motoring through the interior of France. Halting our old Model T, we asked a group of peasants how we could get to the next big town.
The effect of the question was electrical. These peasants, wearing wooden shoes, regarded all Americans as rich. And automobiles were rare in those regions, extremely rare. Americans touring through France in a car! Surely we must be millionaires. Maybe cousins of Henry Ford. But they knew something we didn’t know. We had more money than they had; but we had to come to them hat in hand to find out how to get to the next town. And that gave them a feeling of importance. They all started talking at once. One chap, thrilled at this rare opportunity, commanded the others to keep quiet. He wanted to enjoy all alone the thrill of directing us.
Try this yourself. The next time you are in a strange city, stop someone who is below you in the economic and social scale and say: “I wonder if you would mind helping me out of a little difficulty. Won’t you please tell me how to get to such and such a place?”
Benjamin Franklin used this technique to turn a caustic enemy into a lifelong friend. Franklin, a young man at the time, had all his savings invested in a small printing business. He managed to get himself elected clerk of the General Assembly in Philadelphia. That position gave him the job of doing the official printing. There was good profit in this job, and Ben was eager to keep it. But a menace loomed ahead. One of the richest and ablest men in the Assembly disliked Franklin bitterly. He not only disliked Franklin, but he denounced him in a public talk.
That was dangerous, very dangerous. So Franklin resolved to make the man like him.
But how? That was a problem. By doing a favour for his enemy? No, that would have aroused his suspicions, maybe his contempt.
Franklin was too wise, too adroit to be caught in such a trap. So he did the very opposite. He asked his enemy to do him a favour.
Franklin didn’t ask for a loan of $10. No! No! Franklin asked a favour that pleased the other man – a favour that touched his vanity, a favour that gave him recognition, a favour that subtly expressed Franklin’s admiration for his knowledge and achievements.
Here is the balance of the story in Franklin’s own words:
“Having heard that he had in his library a certain very scarce and curious book, I wrote a note to him, expressing my desire of perusing that book and requesting that he would do me the favour of lending it to me for a few days.
He sent it immediately, and I returned it in about a week with another note expressing strongly my sense of the favour.
When next we met in the House, he spoke to me (which he had never done before) and with great civility; and he ever afterward manifested a readiness to serve me on all occasions, so that we became great friends and our friendship continued to his death.”
Ben Franklin has been dead now for a hundred and fifty years, but the psychology that he used, the psychology of asking the other man to do you a favour, goes marching right on.
For example, it was used with remarkable success by one of my students, Albert B. Amsel. For years, Mr Amsel, a salesman of plumbing and heating materials, had been trying to get the trade of a certain plumber in Brooklyn. This plumber’s business was exceptionally large and his credit unusually good. But Amsel was licked from the beginning. The plumber was one of those disconcerting individuals who pride themselves on being rough, tough, and nasty. Sitting behind his desk with a big cigar tilted in the corner of his mouth, he snarled at Amsel every time he opened the door, “Don’t need a thing today! Don’t waste my time and yours! Keep moving!”
Then one day Mr. Amsel tried a new technique, a technique that split the account wide open, made a friend, and brought many fine orders.
Amsel’s firm was negotiating for the purchase of a new branch store in Queens Village on Long Island. It was a neighbourhood the plumber knew well, and one where he did a great deal of business. So this time, when Mr Amsel called, he said: “Mr C____, I’m not here to sell you anything today. I’ve got to ask you to do me a favour, if you will. Can you spare me just a minute of your time?”
“H’m-well,” said the plumber, shifting his cigar. “What’s on your mind? Shoot.”
“My firm is thinking of opening up a branch store over in Queens Village,” Mr Amsel said. “Now, you know that locality as well as anyone living. So I’ve come to you to ask what you think about it. Is it a wise move – or not?”
Here was a new situation! For years this plumber had been getting his feeling of importance out of snarling at salesmen and ordering them to keep moving.
But here was a salesman begging him for advice; yes, a salesman from a big concern wanting his opinion as to what they should do.
“Sit down,” he said, pulling forward a chair. And for the next hour, he expatiated on the peculiar advantages and virtues of the plumbing market in Queens Village. He not only approved the location of the store, but he focused his intellect on outlining a complete course of action for the purchase of the property, the stocking of supplies, and the opening of trade. He got a feeling of importance by telling a wholesale plumbing concern how to run its business. From there, he expanded into personal grounds. He became friendly, and told Mr. Amsel of his intimate domestic difficulties and household wars.
“By the time I left that evening,” Mr. Amsel says, “I not only had in my pocket a large initial order for equipment, but I had laid the foundations of a solid business friendship. I am playing golf now with this chap who formerly barked and snarled at me. This change in his attitude was brought about by my asking him to do me a little favour that made him feel important.”
Let’s examine another of Ken Dyke’s letters, and again note how skilfully he applies this “do-me-a-favour” psychology.
A few years ago, Mr. Dyke was distressed at his inability to get business men, contractors, and architects to answer his letters asking for information.
In those days, he seldom got more than 1 per cent return from his letters to architects and engineers. He would have regarded 2 per cent as very good, and 3 per cent as excellent. And 10 per cent? Why, 10 per cent would have been hailed as a miracle.
But the letter that follows pulled almost 50 per cent… Five times as good as a miracle. And what replies! Letters of two and three pages! Letters glowing with friendly advice and co-operation.
Here is the letter. You will observe that in the psychology used – even in the phraseology in some places-the letter is almost identical with that quoted [earlier]. As you peruse this letter, read between the lines, try to analyze the feeling of the man who got it. Find out why it produced results five times as good as a miracle.
22 EAST 40th STREET, NEW YORK CITY
Mr John Doe,
617 Doe Street,
Dear Mr Doe:
I wonder if you’ll help me out of a little difficulty?
About a year ago I persuaded our company that one of the things architects most needed was a catalogue which would give them the whole story of all J-M building materials and their part in repairing and remodelling homes.
The attached catalogue resulted – the first of its kind. But now our stock is getting low, and when I mentioned it to our president he said (as presidents will) that he would have no objection to another edition provided I furnished satisfactory evidence that the catalogue had done the job for which it was designed.
Naturally, I must come to you for help, and I am therefore taking the liberty of asking you and forty-nine other architects in various parts of the country to be the jury.
To make it quite easy for you, I have written a few simple questions on the back of this letter. And I’ll certainly regard it as a personal favour if you’ll check the answers, add any comments that you may wish to make, and then slip this letter into the enclosed stamped envelope.
Needless to say, this won’t obligate you in any way, and I now leave it to you to say whether the catalogue shall be discontinued or reprinted with improvements based on your experience and advice.
In any event, rest assured that I shall appreciate your co-operation very much. Thank you!
KEN R. DYKE,
Sales Promotion Manager.
Another word of warning. I know from experience that some men, reading this letter, will try to use the same psychology mechanically. They will try to boost the other man’s ego, not through genuine, real appreciation, but through flattery and insincerity. And their technique won’t work.
Remember, we all crave appreciation and recognition, and will do almost anything to get it. But nobody wants insincerity. Nobody wants flattery.
Let me repeat: the principles taught in this book will work only when they come from the heart. I am not advocating a bag of tricks. I am talking about a new way of life.