- Next trainer development cohort 10th - 14th June 2024

That Time I Got Conned by Santa

1st December, 2017

That Time I Got Conned by Santa

The doorbell rang. A white-haired, twinkly-eyed old man stood at my door. He looked a lot like Santa Claus.


‘Oh hello!’ he said in a warm voice, as comforting as cocoa. ‘Does your tree need pruning? I’ve just been doing your neighbour’s garden and we’ve finished a bit early.’


So we go to look at my tree. Yes, it needed pruning badly. It was blocking out light and turning my kitchen into the Upside Down from Stranger Things. So I asked him to quote.


But when he did, it sounded like a LOT.


‘Really?’ I asked. ‘Just for cutting a few bits off a tree? I’ll think about it.’


‘No problem,’ replied Santa Tree Surgeon. ‘But don’t wait long to get it done otherwise you won’t get blossom in the spring. And if all the tree surgeons are as busy as me (and they usually are at this time of year) you might have trouble finding anyone else with time to do it. I can knock off 20% if you go ahead now.’


So now he’d got me thinking. I loved the blossom. And he was ready to do it straight away. And with a discount it wasn’t so bad…And surely Santa wouldn’t lie, would he….?


So Santa did the job well enough. But it turned out (yes, you’d guessed) he’d charged me way too much, even with the discount. And we could have waited weeks to get it done and we’d still have got blossom in spring.


What You Can Learn About Sales From Santa’s Con

If you want to get customers to buy from you, solving their problems ISN’T enough. You HAVE to create urgency too. Why now? Why not wait?


Santa’s case for urgency was a triple whammy. If I waited, he’d implied, I’d:


  • not be able to get my tree pruned at all (tapping in to my FOMO or fear of missing out)
  • have to pay more (uncovering my fear of overpaying)
  • miss out on the blossom (making me worry about making a mistake)


It was powerful. Now of course I’m not suggesting that you dupe your customers like Santa did with me, but you can build an honest and compelling case for why they need to act now.


This might be a:


  • time-sensitive special offer
  • vivid picture of what might happen if they don’t take action (what will they miss out on?)
  • reminder of an imminent deadline (e.g. new regulation or event that will have a big impact on them)


Pain alone isn’t always enough to get us to act. After all, we can live for weeks, months or even years with an ailment before seeing a doctor.


So remember, if you want that sale, make the feeling of urgency so overwhelming that your customers just HAVE to buy from you. Right here. Right now.

University of Cambridge


- Next trainer development cohort 10th - 14th June 2024

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