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Craig’s List, a Lawn Mower, and a Southerner

People buy emotionally and justify their purchases logically. We’ve heard this a million times. But how do we make it work? It doesn’t matter if I want to sell a lawn mower, grow my coaching business, or land a Fortune 500 contract; the answer is to tell stories.

If you want to achieve success in your business and perpetually drive sales, you appeal to a person’s emotions by telling stories they can relate to.

I’ve got one of my own.
Last summer I went looking for a used lawn mower. I didn’t need anything fancy—it’s just for trimming in the summer when the grass grows really quickly—so I went to to see what was out there.

I’m an educated consumer with a flare for being methodical and logical. So I did my research and tested out three models. The first two were decent mowers; they were less than five years old, both self-propelled, had reputable engines, and worked fine when I got there to test them out (I just started them in place, let them run for a minute, and shut them down). They were both around $100–$120.

I didn’t buy either of the first two; I bought the third one. 

The third mower was about ten years old. It too had a reputable engine—a Craftsman—and was also self-propelled. The owner was asking more money—$140. I remember when he told me about the features and benefits of the mower and then told me the price, in my mind I leaned towards going with one of the first two. Apples to apples, logically it made sense to do that. The first two were newer, had good engines, were self-propelled, and cheaper.

Why did I buy the third one? Three reasons.

1. Create an experience.
First, after briefly telling me about the features and benefits, the guy said to me, “Look I’m sure there’s lots of other decent used mowers out there but I’m telling you this one is special. I saved a strip of lawn for you to test it out in my side yard … go take it for a spin.” Take it for a spin?? No joke. I went and “test drove” this puppy and guess what? Yep, it cut the grass! 

Now, I’m sure the other two would’ve done the same damn thing but I didn’t take those for a “test drive.” When I was finished, the owner actually said to me, “handles beautifully, doesn’t she?” He wasn’t kidding. I mean, yes, it “handled” well (I guess, I haven’t “test driven” too many lawn mowers), but he was genuine. This guy was seriously in love with his lawn mower! 

So, I’m starting to write my own story in my mind. I’m emotionally engaged from having actually used the mower. Plus, the owner has a clear attachment to his machine—which in my mind must mean it’s special and really dependable. 

2. Tell a compelling story.
 “Remember the hurricanes that came through in 2004?” I didn’t, because I didn’t live in Florida at the time, but I was intrigued to see how his lawn mower saved his life, or something dramatic, during the hurricanes.

“Well, the day before we got hit with the first one I must have gotten distracted because two days later, surveying all the damage to my yard, I discovered that I left her outside. A heavy tree branch was lying across the engine. I thought she was a goner. But I cleared it away, pulled on the handle and she started up on the first try. Two days of pouring rain and even a tree can’t stop this baby! After clearing my yard of most of the fallen debris, I took her for a spin—must have run over a dozen big rocks and thick branches—my yard never looked better. It was a beautiful site after a hurricane just tore up my yard two days prior.” I thought he might shed a tear.

I’m totally immersed in this guy’s story (so much so, that I didn’t stop to think that all that rain may actually have deteriorated the [girl’s] engine). Emotionally, I’m taken.

“Would you be willing to go down to $120?” I asked. Nope. He said it was worth every bit of $140 he was offering. I believed him. 

3. Make it convenient.
Third, and he didn’t need to say it because I was already buying, but he put the nail in my buying coffin by appealing to my emotions again. He simply said, “listen, this here mower will last you the rest of your life; besides, you’ve already looked at two others; you don’t want to have to drive all the way back across town and then back home just to save a few bucks, do you?”

No, I sure didn’t! Holy shit … this guy was good! And that’s what really made the difference for me: he wasn’t giving me a line; he was real. Genuine. No smoke. His story was compelling. I was emotionally drawn in.  

I bought emotionally. As I drove away, of course I justified spending the extra $20 by telling myself that Craftsman was really the most reliable, dependable engine on the market and I would get more use out of it anyway. Funny how true that old business principle—people buy emotionally and justify logically—really is. 

Try telling stories when you’re talking to your prospects. It’s the key to being successful no matter what you’re selling.