The magic of adding “1-2-3” to your marketing

Have you ever walked into a fast food place and been overwhelmed by the sheer number of options?

This problem happens elsewhere, too: Ever walk onto a car dealership and scratch your head in wonder at how you’ll ever find a vehicle to test drive? Ever walk into a grocery store and wonder where to start? Or my biggest frustration: Ever walk into a home renovation box store and start hyperventilating at the towering shelves of renovation equipment?

And it’s not a problem with product choice. The problem goes deeper: What’s the process to buy?

I think this holds a lot of customers back. They want to buy (they have a problem that your product or service solves) but they don’t know how to buy.

I mean: They don’t know the process. How does buying work? Are there steps to do first? What will they get? And what should do they do with whatever they get?

Prospects need to be led by the hand through the buying process — we all know that is a must! But prospects should be given a sort-of big picture overview or “table of contents” about the process of transacting.

In my opinion, the best way to do that is with a nice clear visual that outlines exactly what someone can expect during the transaction. It doesn’t have to be detailed; it just needs to be a clear overview.

Here is a great example that I received along with my monthly bill from the power utility. They are trying to convince people to install insulation in their house and receive a rebate for it. This little flyer shows them the 3 easy steps they can take to make it happen.


Here is one example from a client of mine. He’s a real estate investor and he buys properties for cash from people who are facing foreclosure. Again, he uses a 1-2-3 approach to outline the simple process that sellers will experience when they work with him. The emphasis is on SIMPLE.


And here’s a third example from a previous client of mine. This company is a firm of virtual assistants for business owners to hire for their administrative tasks. Although we didn’t use a graphical depiction when I wrote this, the result is the same — a simple 1-2-3 outline that describes how people will transact with the company.

I use the same thing in my business. In many of my proposals (especially the more formal ones), I include a call to action using a 1-2-3 system. Although the exact details change, the process is usually something along the lines of (1) Approve the proposal, (2) Get in touch for an initial meeting, (3) I’ll deliver the first draft to you!


Most businesses will benefit from including this “1-2-3” process in their marketing and sales content, websites, proposals, and more.

The first reason you should do use this in your business is because it helps to illuminate the process and eliminate the question marks that your prospects have about how to buy from you. Prospects who don’t know what the process is during the transaction and after, are less likely to act even if they are motivated. But prospects who feel confident that they generally know the process will be more likely to act.

The second reason you should use this in your business is because people want to buy when things are simple and they try to avoid complicated purchases. A 1-2-3 transaction outline simplifies your process. (You’ll note that the examples I gave above are all actually multiple, complicated steps but the 1-2-3 outline makes it appear simpler).

The third reason you should use this is because it helps to highlight the benefits you provide. As you’ll see in some of the examples above, a benefit was outlined prominently in the final step, reinforcing that their earlier actions will result in the benefit they seek.

The fourth reason you should use this is a little sales funnel trick: People are more likely going to keep going in your sales funnel if you write the 1-2-3 step in such a way that they are already in the middle of step one when they start reading. They’ll see that they are in the middle of step one, and that there are really only two more steps to complete. It’s an innate sense we have of needing to finish what we start, especially when it’s already underway. (You don’t HAVE to do this, and not all of the examples above used this, but it is a compelling reason and an effective way to implement in your marketing).


Here are some tips to help create your own 1-2-3 process in your business

  • Build this 1-2-3 process around your transaction. Resist the temptation to make it a depiction of something earlier in the sales funnel. In other words: The product or service should be sold in this 1-2-3 process. I’ll use the example of a car dealership to illustrate: Don’t make the 1-2-3 process about looking for a car (1. Narrow your choices, 2. Research online, 3. Test drive). Rather, make the 1-2-3 process about buying a car (1. Research online and test drive, 2. Work with a sales expert, 3. Buy your car and enjoy it!)
  • Keep it simple. Even if there are many steps, don’t put them all in. Your goal here isn’t to outline every single step. Rather, demonstrate the big picture. Divide it up into (preferably) 3 steps, and no more than 5 steps.
  • Keep the descriptions really short. If you’re putting this on a website, use links to “Learn more” if you have more info about each one… but don’t feel that you have to if you don’t have enough info.
  • Graphics are great.
  • Make the 1,2, and 3 prominent.
  • Make the transaction one of the steps, preferably the middle steps.
  • Make the ultimate reward (i.e. receiving the product or the service, and receiving the benefit of the product or service) as the final step.
  • If possible, put the reader in the middle of the first step (or, if you are using 5 steps, seriously consider putting them in the middle of the second step!)

How can you add 1-2-3 into your marketing?

Acronyms: Should your sales staff START or STOP using them when selling?

Years ago, when I was selling insurance, I was explaining to a prospect about a particular feature of her coverage and I referred to that feature by an acronym rather than by the full name. The prospect totally called me out on it with a rather harsh “I’m not IN the industry so I don’t know what you’re talking about. Use the full name if you’re going to explain it to me.

I was taken aback at first but then realized she was totally right. And it changed how I thought about acronyms in sales.

Every business and industry uses acronyms instead of the full names of products, services, features, add-ons, industry codes, regulations, or some other aspect of the business. It’s pretty common to do this and it happens in all industries, even to the point where the acronym becomes the name and people forget what the acronym used to stand for!

(And when I say acronyms, I also mean abbreviations and initialisms, which are related — learn the difference between these from Grammar Girl if you’re not sure what they are).

Over time, these acronyms find their way into our everyday speech and their usage become so commonplace among industry insiders and business staff that we forget we’re using the acronym instead of the full name. As a result, salespeople may end up using them in sales presentations — as I did when I was selling insurance in the example at the beginning of this post.

But acronyms are not always a bad thing in sales. Sometimes they can be bad… but sometimes they can be good. Here’s the difference:

Use the full word INSTEAD OF the acronym if…

  • … your prospect is brand new to your business
  • … your prospect is brand new to the industry
  • … your prospect has never bought a product with that particular feature before
  • … you don’t connect with your prospects and customers regularly or don’t discuss the acronymed aspect of the product or service very often

Educate your salespeople to use the full word throughout the sales presentation. Have your marketing department use the full word in all marketing collateral intended for new audiences.

Use the acronym INSTEAD OF the full word if…

  • … you speak regularly with prospects and customers who are familiar with the acronym and use it all the time
  • … you are selling to someone who perceives themselves as a “savvy insider”
  • … it would be an advantage to you to appear to be an expert
  • … the actual word of the acronym is difficult to say, complicated to explain, or may cause confusion

Educate your sales people to “test the waters” first when selling to people who may fit the description above. Someone who considers themselves a “savvy insider” but is actually a total novice in the industry may get confused by the acronym.

Should you use acronyms in your sales or not? In some cases you should; in other cases you shouldn’t. Let the prospect and the selling situation dictate.

How to create more effective calls to action

Any interaction you have with a lead, a prospect, or a customer will likely have some kind of call to action or desired outcome attached to it. Those calls to action or desired outcomes are key to how well your business runs today and how successful it will be in the future.

Here are some desired outcome examples: It might be about educating them about your amazing product or service so they them further down your sales funnel. As they get closer to buying something, your desired outcomes might be to take action and buy now. Once they are customers, you might interact with them and end with desired outcomes of deepening your understanding of them or perhaps asking them to refer you to someone else.

Calls to action help to propel your prospects and customers forward and, ultimately, they help to propel your business forward. So doesn’t it make sense to improve your ability to create better calls to action? In doing so, you’ll improve how your marketing and selling abilities, your networking, your copywriting, and more!

Creating an effective call to action is about understanding what your audience is looking for and showing them how the desired action you’re describing will help them find it. (This is really basic sales stuff and you probably know this part already).

But there’s another aspect to creating effective calls to action that I never really thought about before now: You also need to understand exactly what you are asking the person to do — what behaviors you are asking them to change. Are you asking them to take action once (“buy now!”)? Are you asking them to hire you for some service (“let’s work together!”)? Are you asking them to make a permanent change (“stop smoking!”)?

I stumbled across a really useful tool about this. The tool is called the “Behavior Grid” and it was created by BJ Fogg of Stanford University. The behavior grid is useful for many applications (and I first noticed it in an article about improving the user experience in web design). But I realized that this tool is really useful to help you create powerful calls to action in your marketing and sales efforts (including interactions and copywriting).

Click here to check out BJ Fogg’s Behavior Grid (opens in a new window).

Screenshot of Behavior Grid websiteThe Behavior Grid shows the 15 different types of behavior changes someone could make. Down the side of the grid are the three possible scopes of change — one-time, over a period of time, or permanent (from now, on). Across the top of the grid are the 5 possible types of change — do a new behavior, do a familiar behavior, increase behavior intensity, decrease behavior intensity, and stop existing behavior.

So when you are thinking about the call to action you want to ask your lead, prospect, or customer to do, you would figure out the scope of the change you are asking them to do and then you would figure out the type of change you are asking them to do. “Buy now”, for example, is a one-time new behavior if you are asking a prospect who has never bought from you before.

Once you’ve figured out the scope and type of behavior then click on the intersecting square in the grid to get more information about the change and tips about triggers and motivation to help you compel the action.

Click here to check out BJ Fogg’s Behavior Grid.

Empower your staff to do deals!

I get calls from time to time from a carpet cleaning company. They’ve cleaned my carpets in the past and periodically they call to ask if I want them done again. Normally I don’t like these calls but it’s a good reminder to do my carpets and they are a good company so I’m okay with it.

So recently I received a call from the company asking if I wanted my carpets cleaned, and telling me about an “amazing” 3-room deal for some fixed price. The telemarketer gave me a few more details and I agreed, and then said: “I have 6 rooms I want cleaned. How much is that?”

To her credit, she was very professional but she said something that alarmed me a bit. She said: “One moment and I’ll pass you over to my manager.”

Her manager!?! I wasn’t asking for anything crazy. Heck, if she just doubled the deal, I would have been fine with that.

Anyway, the manager came on the phone right after and confirmed my question then punched his calculator and came up with a number that, to my benefit, turned out to be less than double the deal (huzzah!). So I ordered and they showed up the other day and cleaned my carpets and did a good job.

But heck, why doesn’t the company just empower its staff to do their own deals?

Presumably these are minimum wage staff who are perhaps paid a bonus or commission for every deal they close. So empowering them to do their own deals will most certainly give them more money.

On the other hand, I get that there’s a risk that the company will give away the farm. When I first started in sales, I asked my manager to put together the deals for me and finally he got sick of it and empowered me to do the deals myself. I was freaked out but at first I ran the deals by him to make sure I wasn’t giving something away for too little. Then I gained some confidence. And when I became sales manager, I did the same thing to my staff.

Empowering your staff to do deals is easy and it will free up your time to do other things. Here are some tips to help:

  • Give them parameters. In some cases, you can give them a maximum and a minimum to work in. In some businesses, it might be as simple as just giving them a metric to use. In the case of the carpet cleaning company, the manager should have said something like: “The deal is $100 for 3 rooms. Sell that. But if they want more rooms, we’ll do $25/room” (or something like that; I have no idea what metric they charged me and maybe THAT is why they don’t tell their staff).
  • Educate your staff. Help them to know the value of doing more deals and offering to do additional rooms. Even if they don’t get a direct financial benefit from each additional sale they make (although I think they should!) help them to see that more sales increases the likelihood of job security and it makes the business stronger, which adds even more job security.
  • Role play. Give them a few scenarios to practice. In very short order, they will be able to do some of the most common deals without breaking out the calculator and putting the client on hold.
  • Reward them. Sales is hard work. People should be rewarded for the effort. Even if you don’t pay on commission, a bonus structure (heck, even some earned time off) is a good way to motivate people to do more deals.

Fall in love with ‘no’ — Follow-up post

Recently, I wrote a post about why business owners and sales people (and especially financial advisors) should fall in love with no.

You should go read the post but, to summarize, I suggested that “no” isn’t as bad as we tend to make it out to be and a bunch of “no’s” are just part of the journey towards “yes”!

Shortly after writing that post, I spotted a link on Twitter about someone who has created a technique for falling in love with no. It’s pretty awesome and I think you should read it.

His name is Jia Jiang and he owns a company called and he blogs at a site called His blog is built around a concept of “Rejection Therapy” in which he is attempting to make 100 odd or even audacious requests with the “hope” of becoming immune to rejection. He writes:

I am going through 100 days of Rejection Therapy, aiming to have one rejection per day by making crazy requests. My goal is to desensitize myself from the pain of rejection and overcome my fear.

Among his requests so far, he has tried to borrow $100 from a stranger, ask a girl out to dinner, slide down a firepole at a fire station, challenge a CEO to a staring contest, have Jeff Probst sing a song to his son, make an announcement on a Southwest flight, and more. Some are weird, some are way out there, some are pretty awesome. You can see his rejection scorecard here and following along on his blog here.

I think this is awesome because Jiang has correctly identified the importance of desensitizing himself to the pain of rejection… which goes along with my assertion that we have to fall in love with “no” instead of fear it. A sales person could very well create his or her own “Rejection Therapy”. You don’t have to just become immune to the fear of “no” in a sales setting… why not become immune to the fear of rejection in any setting? Surely that will have an effect on your sales efforts, too!