Sean D’Souza drops by the podcast to conduct sales training where he will focus on changing your selling mindset with his Seven Red Bags analogy. This analogy shows you how to convert visitors into buyers and the importance (and the trickiness) of working with urgency as a motivator. He also shares where you can find the first chapter of his book for free.
Transcript: Sales Training That Will Change Your Selling Mindset with Sean D’Souza
Welcome to the Project Ignite podcast, this is your host, Derek Gehl.
Today’s guest is a brilliant marketer, and an expert copywriter–but that’s only part of the reason why he’s on the show today…
About a month ago, I was out for a ride on my bike on the north shore in Vancouver and I was multitasking–I was listening to an interview given by today’s guest. It’s not often that I stop my bike for anything, frankly, but I kept finding myself stopping to take notes on my iPhone–which is not easy with gloves on, for the record. When I got home, I did a bit more digging, and I found his podcast, website, and book–The Brain Audit, which I immediately purchased as well–but all of these resources were absolutely packed with strategies on being better at selling.
This is a skill that every online entrepreneur should have.
I don’t want to pigeonhole him as a copywriter, though he is incredible–but what really drew me to him was his mastery at breaking down the fundamental psychology behind the sales strategies that we use and he teaches in sales copy.
Without further ado, I would like to welcome Sean D’Souza to the show.
Sean, thank you for being here.
It’s a pleasure to be here Derek.
Fantastic. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your journey?
I wouldn’t consider myself to be an expert on anything. I started out as a cartoonist. I moved to New Zealand in 2000, and I wanted to make sure that I took my dream a little further. I studied marketing. I read over a hundred books that year. I found that consequently, I could take three months off every single year, and that was my goal–but outside of those three months, I wanted to do the best work possible.
What do I mean by that? By my definition, the best possible work to me meant something that anyone could follow. I had someone in mind–a client from decades ago, named Trisha–if I could solve her problems, I could solve anyone’s. Because my job was to deconstruct things to the point where it was impossible to goof up.
I don’t believe in in-born talent. I know that’s a big topic. But I believe that if the teacher breaks it down to tiny steps that anyone can understand, then it can be implemented, and one can become talented. That’s been my journey.
That is reflected in everything that I’ve read from you. You do have this gift or talent that you’ve learned–this ability to really break down what needs to be done and why, and you can explain it in a way that people understand.
When I was putting this interview together, there were so many areas that I wanted to talk about. I know that we could spend hours on any of these topics. But today I really want to focus on the big picture: in your book, The Brain Audit, you break the entire sales process down using your Seven Red Bags analogy. That’s where I’d love to start, because I think it does an amazing job of teaching the sales process and the psychology behind that.
So to start, can you share your Seven Red Bags analogy? Let’s dig into each and explore how they all apply.
The Seven Red Bags analogy is very simple. You take Seven Red Bags, and put them on a flight. Your plane arrives, you’re waiting at the carousel, and the first red bag comes out. You pick it up–and then you find the second, and the third red bags follow. You have a green bag, and a purple bag, and then the fourth red bag, fifth, and sixth bag, and you pick each of them off.
The question is, when do you leave the airport? You have six of seven bags. You don’t leave the airport, because you don’t have the seventh red bag.
This is approximately what happens in the brain of the customer. When you’re presenting something, they want to find all of their bags, to check all the boxes, before they make a decision.
When they’re making a simple decision like buying a hairbrush for example, not all of those bags are extremely critical. But the moment that the complexity or price of the purchase goes up, they want to make sure that each of those bags are checked off.
It’s not just the number of bags that you need to remove, but the sequence in which you need to remove them.
Customers go through two distinct phases: the first is analyzing, is this product for me? And the second phase is about evaluating the risks in buying the product.
So those seven bags cover those two phases. When you take those seven red bags off, you have a sale.
I want to dig into these seven red bags. We need to take all of the bags to make the sale. How much of this is happening at a conscious versus a subconscious level?
Almost all of it is subconscious. If you say, I want to buy a television, or a car, or a computer, you’re not slowing down and reading every word on a sales page. Certain things will be conscious, but you’re checking off a lot of things very quickly, especially in the attraction phase.
When you get to the last four bags, the risk factor, you get very precise. You go consciously. But the first three bags, you skim very quickly. But if the person presenting that information skims over the first three bags, you might put the customer off.
Got it. Let’s jump into the first three bags. You called it the attraction phase; why is it called the attraction phase?
It is the attraction phase because the brain is an enormous spam filter. When you look around your room, you can see 700 things, but your brain will focus on a few. When you are looking around, we see the same thing with advertisements–so the brain has to act like a spam filter, rejecting most and accepting a few.
So what is it that is accepting? The thing that gets its attention is the three bags. The first bag is the problem, the solution, and the target profile.
If someone asks us what we do, we present our solution. We say, we mow lawns, or sell products. That doesn’t get the brain’s attention. The bag that gets the attention is what problem are you solving for me?
So applying this to a sales process online–if someone lands on our website, how are we displaying the prompt to grab their attention?
You have to understand the target profile. That’s entirely different from the target audience. The target audience is illogical–you can’t address an audience like you can address one person. Say you want to buy a product: at this point in time, you have a problem or a perceived problem.
For example, my wife and I went to buy plates. She went in with a very specific situation: the plates we have at home are chipping, and she wanted to find anti-chip plates. When she went into the store, her spam filter came into play. She was the target profile: she didn’t just want plates, she wanted anti-chip plates. That what she was looking for.
She very quickly became the target profile. The problem is the chipping plates, the solution is chip-free plates.
When we look online, we have a similar situation. We have a course called a presale course which helps you to sell workshops and courses. You look at it and think, well, yes, there are lot of products that do that. What this does is attack the target profile. This isn’t the average audience–it’s one person with a small, specific audience. Maybe they only have 500 people on their list.
How do they sell presales or workshops to their list of 500 and still run a profitable business? Now what you’re doing is speaking to that person, they’ve brought up their problem, and you begin tailoring your answer to their problem specifically: selling to their list of 500.
People listening to this are thinking, yes, that’s me–I have 500 people on my list.
So it’s about being specific with your profile. So if we picture it online, we have someone landing on our website: this solution needs to happen in the headline.
Yes, very quickly. Usually what happens when you do a target profile interview is you don’t have to write any copy. Customers will tell you exactly what you want.
As a copywriter, you write a lot of nonsense. I’m not an expert, the client is the expert. They’ll tell you that they want to hold this storytelling workshop from 500 different perspectives. That’s your headline. If you have a single message that you’re trying to portray to 500 different people, that’s your problem.
People say, yes! That’s it. I’m talking all day about productivity: how do I do this in 500 different ways? I’m only talking about product launches, how do I do this in 500 different ways? And when you do your interview, you get your answers, and you don’t need to copywrite.
That sounds a lot easier. Let’s transition from the problem to the solution.
The solution is the exact opposite of the problem. So the problem is that your list is very small. When you do the target interview, the real problem is not that I don’t have a great product, it’s just that I have such a small list–how do I sell to them?
You transcribe what they say. What you’re doing is presenting your product, and here’s how you can sell to those 500 people. They had a problem, you have a solution, and they’re telling you how you can solve the problems.
Then moving onto bag number three, the target profile. We’ve been talking about that throughout already, so please go on and explain the profile.
So why is the target profile number three? When people read the book, the real problem hits them and they’re sucked into the rest of the book.
If they think that they’re the target audience, they would not be sucked into the book. If you really want to start, you have to start with the target profile. It provides you with all of the answers that you want to put on the sales page.
Start with the profile, they give you the problem, they give you the solution, and you write it down. My wife said, I’m not interested in decorative plates. I just want chip-free plates. So someone sat down and said, we’re going to make chip-free plates. They put the sticker on the box.
The target profile has brought up a problem, created a solution, and now we have buyers.
Now we’re moving out of the first three bags. What’s next?
The next four bags. So what you’ve done is really grabbed their attention. My wife is thinking, these are chip-free plates, this is what I want. We still have four more bags: testimonials, risk reversal, objections, and uniqueness.
The moment someone decides that they are the person that’s going to buy it, they go through these risk factors. It’s like the first stages of dating. You go to the movies, out to dinner, it’s risk free. Then, you want to get married. There’s no more games; it’s a risk. The moment you have to bind to something, the objections come out.
It doesn’t matter what you’re selling. There will be objections. What we do is try to hide those objections. We hope that they bring none up, but the Brain Audit says to bring up the objections and to kill them. When you have the objections on the page, the customer will look at it and think, this person understands me.
They understand that I’m going to have this objection on pricing or value. Usually people have 5 or 6 critical objections. So you bring them up, and you kill them.
So when you’re building the target profile, at the beginning, I assume that you’re also pulling objections out as well.
Yes. You’re just the transcriber. People try to translate, but you must only transcribe.
Web developers will say things like, we need to design a website that will accept your content. The target profile will say things like, I want to put pictures and text. The website designer says, yes, of course. We’re talking about content, right? And the client says, yes, pictures and text.
There’s an obvious discrepancy. So the client doesn’t argue with you, but if they don’t see the words they’re looking for, they tune out. The target profile will bring up those objections and you’ll learn to solve those as well. The client will cooperate. You just have to listen.
Yes, absolutely. You just need to listen.
So as we’re going through this process–and I’ve been a direct response marketer for many years–I’m applying this to different segments of a standard sales process. I’m taking this information and putting it into a sales process online. The problem and solution, we use those to grab attention. When we hit the solution, using their language, at some point we need to be introducing the features and the benefits of our product.
At what point do we handle those objections?
Well, if you want the sequence, you have the headline with the problem and solution. You bring up the biggest problem, no solution, just driving home the problem and its consequences. At this point, the client is saying, okay, I’ve had enough of this problem, show me the solution.
It’s at that point that you present the solution. Then you drive home the solution. From there on, you go to the objections. You kill at least a few of them, and then after that you have the features.
You have five big features that follow a clear relationship of problems and solutions.
Then, we have the next stage: testimonials. They can be anywhere on the page, but once you’ve covered the objections, you need the testimonials. What you’re really doing is killing those objections and then using the testimonials and having the client kill those objections again.
So you should be soliciting testimonials that are addressing specific objections.
At the very least. Using the testimonials, the customer will review the product and say, “here’s what I actually found.”
Usually people mess that up, I think, because they go out and solicit very general testimonials that mean nothing to the individual.
You want reverse testimonials. Based on human nature. People don’t necessarily outright compliment you. There’s a before to the testimonial that never seems to make it to publishing–they’re skeptical to begin with, before they get into the meat that praises you. You don’t want it to be sugar coated.
The client reading those honest testimonials, where people didn’t want to pay for the course or didn’t want to drive so far away to find you, they’re not reading a testimonial per se, they’re reading an experience.
You can have short versions of your testimonials, or longer.
I just want to pause you for a minute there. For everyone listening, that was one of the most valuable lessons in testimonials you will ever get. If you have testimonials on your website, if they’re those plain, vanilla testimonials–you have to make sure they’re effective.
I wholeheartedly agree with you, Sean, those vanilla testimonials don’t really resonate. Moving from testimonials to handle objections again, which brings us next to…
Risk reversal. So people have gone through attraction, objections, and testimonials. Next, they’re onto risk reversal. Risk is the single biggest issue. If you want to boil down marketing to three factors, it’s attraction, risk, and urgency.
If I have the slightest doubt about the risk factor, I will bail out of a sale. You want to test everything you do with real life. If you go through a dating sequence, you will evaluate your risks. What are the objections I would have in dating this person? What do the other people say about this person? Is this a crazy person? What is the risk involved?
Most people think of risk as money back. But we’ve found that that isn’t true at all. Money back is just this concern about not making a stupid decision. People want to solve the objections they have, but this is the biggest.
When we were doing home studies, the biggest risk that people had was that they were afraid to manhandle the CD or the notes. They were concerned that if they broke the disc, they wouldn’t get their money back.
What we said was if you don’t like the CDs and the notes, run your lawn mower over it, send it back to us, and you’ll still get your money back. That dramatically improved sales. We only knew that because we spoke to them and they told us.
Let’s say I’ve developed a product and it’s going to teach people how to train an aggressive dog. If someone is investing in this course, obviously they’re concerned about the problem. How do we position a guarantee that is effectively handling their real problem?
They don’t want their money back. They want you to solve their problem. They want proof that it will work. What you’re saying is, when you get this package, within five minutes your dog will be behaving. That’s it.
The rest of the package will help you reach your goal, but you’ll know in the first five minutes. You won’t have to go through seven hours of training; you’ll know within five minutes if the product will work.
So another way to look at this is naming your guarantee to overcome that objective.
Right. You’re focusing now on a specific thing. If I’m going to buy a course that will help me sell to 500 people, I want to see at least 3 people buy something in the next day or so.
I see crappy guarantees everyday. Everyone defaults to the 100% money-back guarantee. But I love the way you explain and position that. I wrote down lawnmower guarantee because that feels like an incredible guarantee, especially for something in the information realm.
So for everyone listening, if you have a guarantee on your website, you need to look at it and ask yourself about the reason people are buying your product, and create a name that addresses that in the guarantee. Go beyond the standard.
Bag number six.
So we’ve gone through the first one, attraction, solution, target profile, and then through objections, testimonials, and risk reversal. This last bag, it’s so critical that if you don’t get it right, you’ve only set your customer up to go to your competition.
So my wife, she’s identified herself, she’s got her risk reversal, but now she’s got two sets of plates. On the shelf, she has two or three sets doing the same thing. That’s where uniqueness comes into play.
This is why Domino’s Pizza became a million dollar brand. This is what makes you completely different than everyone else.
Domino’s became a million dollar brand was because they promised delivery in 30 minutes or less. When you take on that uniqueness, you have to remember that you are promising to do better than anyone else. This can be a positive or a negative uniqueness.
Positive uniqueness is like Domino’s Pizza. If they don’t keep their promise, they offer you something in return. With Volvo, the uniqueness is safety. What they’re doing is saying we have tons of benefits and features, and we’re going to pick one thing and become the best in the world at that one thing.
Let’s say you’re dog training. What’s the unique thing about it? Most other dog training programs, it takes you three weeks to solve the problem, we can solve in 24 hours.
My wife had a ton of allergies. When she went to the doctor, they said, in 24 hours, if you’re allergic to cats, you will be able to go hug a cat. That’s what you call a uniqueness that guarantees something.
The other side is anti-uniqueness. We offer a course called the Toughest Writing Course in the World. Why would anyone sign up for that? The day we change that course, we’ve had a waiting list for years. We charge $3,000 for that course. I can’t handle the demand.
Nothing changed except the uniqueness. When people look at other courses, they find cheaper courses on article writing. But people still choose our course, because they need to know what toughness means. What do you mean by that?
You have to write five days a week for three months in a row.
So there’s the positive uniqueness, and the–
That’s a very interesting positioning on that. When you implemented that, your results changed dramatically.
As far as pricing goes, that’s probably one of the most expensive courses out there for article writing. That’s huge.
So we’ve covered all of these different elements here. When somebody is just getting started, what is your advice to them?
I would say, get a yellow marker, print out a page, and identify the red bags on it. Don’t look at the pages with all of the urgency: look at the stuff you want desperately but aren’t sure if you should buy it. Print out a sales pitch, find the objections, the testimonials. Is there a risk reversal? Maybe not.
Why is there no risk reversal? Because it’s been taken care of earlier on. At the first level, familiarize yourself with the language of copy. The best way to go about it is to read the Brain Audit, keep the bags, and go through it all with your yellow marker.
The way to implement it is by following the target profile questions.
Stage one is the yellow marker stage.
Got it. One thing you said when we were talking about the three most important things: urgency.
Urgency is a tactic that I see messed up in so many different sales letters where it just doesn’t make sense or isn’t believable. What’s your first piece of advice?
Never go back on your word. Pick a date, and stick to it. When you get greedy, people will remember. That’s rule number one. Rule number two is that people do not buy when you’re wanting to sell. If I try to sell my book to you today, you won’t want to buy it. But somewhere down the line, you will buy it. What you have to understand is that marketing is not an urgency factor.
You’re selling all the time, and you have an event, with the maximum number of sales. People buy long before they pay; you have to sell and tell long before they’re ready to pay.
First of all, thank you so much for sharing. We’ve gone through the framework of your book, but I know there’s so much more there. Where can people continue to learn from you?
If you are wanting to buy the book, PsychoTactics.com/BrainAudit. You’ll find the PDF or the ePub version of it. There’s also the more expensive version where you get the whole workshop. It’s a steal. If you don’t want to do that, just look at PsychoTactics.com/XBrain and you’ll get the whole first chapter–why clients put off buying your product, all of those kinds of things.
It shows you exactly what is happening in the client’s brain and will be very helpful to you.
All of those will be included in our show notes and summary. As far as getting started goes, I picked that book up and it’s a steal. Again, Sean, one of the things you do so well is explaining why you do things and how that psychology works; and I totally agree that if you understand it, you can implement it.
Thank you so much for being here with us today Sean, and thank you for sharing so generously.
It’s been an absolute pleasure.
Fantastic. Alright everyone, I hope you took a lot away from this podcast–there was a ton of value in there that you should be able to apply right away. I encourage you to take a look at your sales process with those red bags, and make sure you can tick every box. Make sure you check out his website, and I highly recommend his book as well.
Thank you for joining us on the show today, I hope you found lots of actionable tips! See you in the next episode.