One of my first jobs was selling display advertising for a weekly newspaper. I remember trotting back to the office, proudly grasping the first ad I had sold—a tiny coupon touting “10 percent off all merchandise!” for a specialty clothing store. My boss looked at me with equal amounts of pity and disdain.
“A 10 percent discount isn’t a very compelling reason to visit a dress shop,” he said. “Go back and talk to the owner.” Then, my boss gave me the first of his many “life hacks” … “Ask her the kind of questions you would ask if you were buying her business: Which inventory moves quickly? Which doesn’t? Is your business seasonal? Where do your customers come from? How have you advertised in the past, and what’s been effective? What do your best customers say about you?”
I did as my boss advised and quickly learned that the shop owner had too many winter coats in stock during springtime. I suggested that instead of offering a paltry “10 percent off storewide,” she should offer a deeper discount—50 percent—off winter coats. Once I discovered my client’s problem, the solution was as obvious to her as it was to me.
My boss knew how to hack into the complex world of selling and simplify it. He understood that effective selling isn’t a battle of wills between you and the client. It starts with understanding your client’s needs. Don’t fool the client; provide greater clarity.
Life hacks are tips that help you hack into your brain as though it were a giant computer to help you become wealthier, happier, or more productive. Dan Pink, the bestselling author and business thinker interviewed for this issue’s “10 Questions,” knows a lot of these shortcuts to success.
“There has been a shift from solving existing problems to identifying problems people don’t realize they have, and from the skill of problem-solving to the skill of problem-finding,” Pink tells Journal editor Carly Schulaka.
Pink will speak at the opening general session of FPA Experience 2013, October 19–21 in Orlando, Florida. If you’ve read Pink’s books, such as A Whole New Mind, Drive, or To Sell Is Human, you know he’s a pro at making you re-think what you know about sales, work, and business success. Pink’s presentation on the science of motivation is one of the 20 most watched TED Talks of all time.
Speaking of TED Talks, Harvard Business School professor Amy Cuddy, our closing keynote speaker for FPA Experience, has a popular episode running as part of the TV series TED Talks: Life Hacks. (If you have a Netflix account, check out her presentation “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are.”)
Rounding out the general session speakers at FPA Experience is Tyler Cowen, a professor The Economist magazine named one of the most influential economists of the decade. Cowen seeks to unlock the economic, financial, and demographic forces that will determine tomorrow’s winners and losers in fields as varied as health care, education, energy, and global markets. Visit FPAExperience.org for more information and registration.