The Secret of the Aviator’s Cigar

How to Sell a Complex Service, Part Two

Once upon a time, a young airplane mechanic named Tom had a brilliant idea.

Tom realized that he could make more money, with less work, by refurbishing the interiors of small, private aircraft.

He knew how to make the inside of a plane more luxurious and comfortable. At the same time, his mechanic’s background ensured the modifications to the plane would be safe, and legally compliant.

Soon, Tom had a steady trickle of business through word-of-mouth. But he wasn’t getting the high-end clients he needed to take his business to the next level.

Around this time, Tom hired me to create a brochure for his business.

I remember sitting outside the hangar, looking around, and trying to figure out how to make him stand out from other businesses that were doing the same thing.

The airport was like a giant parking lot filled with planes instead of cars. There were acres of asphalt, spotted with grease stains. The air smelled like burnt fuel.

But in the middle of this mess, I noticed a man dressed in a smoking jacket.

He was sitting on a lawn chair next to the wing of his plane, puffing lazily from a fat cigar. Occasionally he would take a sip from a glass on the ground next to his chair. Somehow I knew it had to be full of brandy. And then I had my answer!

I realized that owning an airplane is a lifestyle choice. It’s a stylish luxury, something like a racehorse or a yacht. To an aircraft owner, this oily field held the same prestige as an exclusive country club.

When I wrote the copy, I didn’t just write a laundry list of the services Tom offered. I wrote about luxury and craftsmanship. I focused on the look and feel of leather and memory foam. I hinted at adventure, seduction, and bragging rights.

After Tom distributed the brochures, his next client was the owner of a private jet. This kind of job came with a much higher payoff. From there, his business took off. And so did mine.

Sneak Under the Radar and Into Your Prospect’s Mind

Do you see what I just did? I made a pitch for my business with a case study, but I made it totally palatable by telling it as a story.

Everyone loves a story. We’re wired to follow them. Stories are the basis of almost all entertainment.

And speaking of entertainment, if you remember Gandalf from Part One, you might remember that your first job is to offer something your prospects want. If you can’t do that, they won’t buy from you. You’ll have to change your offer, or change your prospects.

But once you’re on the same page about what your potential client will get from you, your work still isn’t done. Now you have to convince them you can deliver what you promise.

The obvious way to do this is with case studies, testimonials, and other social proof. If you have a lot of happy customers who will publicly say great things about you, you’ve got a much better chance of closing the deal.

Still, I’m going to give you three additional tools. These will bring you your first clients, when you don’t have a lot of solid proof. They’ll be a force-multiplier when you combine them with testimonials.

More importantly, they will show your prospects how you’re different, probably better, than competitors who can also do everything you do.

You’ve already seen the first tool in action: Tell a story.

A story will get the attention of someone who is too tired to read a case study. A good story (or even just a mediocre story) engages people and suspends their disbelief.  We know there aren’t really elves or dragons or three little pigs who build houses. But we pay attention anyway.

Tell a story, and people listen.


The one thing you need to know about stories

You don’t need to invent a story for your business.

You already have the true story about who you are, how you came to offer your service, and what brought you face to face (or face to screen) with your potential clients.

Telling your story shouldn’t be hard. If it seems that way, you’re probably overthinking. Or, you’re too deeply engaged in your work and you can’t see it from the fresh eyes of an outsider.

Both of these problems are simple to fix.

The only part of your story that you should obsess on is the title. If at all possible, make your title state the positive outcome you created for someone, or the most exciting part of the story. A few examples:

  • How to ‘find’ an extra $48,000 using a simple process change
  • What I learned about insurance while running from a mad man with a chainsaw
  • How a man afraid of flying saved an airline from bankruptcy

I just told you my story at the beginning of this article. Tell me yours in the comments below.

And stay tuned, because I have two more tools for you. The next one is so simple you’re going to smack yourself on the side of the head and shout, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

Make sure you’ve subscribed. You won’t want to miss it!


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