The Meathead From France

One of the most popular taped interviews I’ve ever done is “The Go-To Guy”, which I recorded with Gary Halbert over two years ago. It’s also one of the most valuable interviews… if you can “get” the lesson.

Trouble is, a lot of people just can’t wrap their minds around this kind of teaching. They scowl, shake their heads, and are sometimes energized enough to email me to complain.

They want “actionable” advice. Stuff like “… Step 12: Now lick the stamp and place it in the upper right corner of the envelope. Be careful not to put it on the back, because the postal people have to see it!…”

Anything other than that just goes over their head.

Listen: It’s important, when you come across stuff that looks like rambling from an expert, to stop and try to see if you’re not missing something. It’s true that you need lots of concrete advice to get really good in marketing, because the details are what gets your site posted, your ad mailed, and your orders filled.

But not everything is going to be cut and dried. When I was coming up through the ranks, I worked with a lot of amazingly talented veterans. And while I took copious notes about the tricks they used, I also paid close attention to the nonspecifics — how they dealt with clients, how they treated information, even the warm-up routines they went through before working. I couldn’t use everything I observed, because it often didn’t fit my style.

But often, by listening carefully to what seemed like tangents or rambling, I would come across details that changed my life.

This is why I tell so many stories in the Rant. I’m not trying to be colorful, or even interesting. I’m just relating the entire experience to you. Because a cold-blooded listing of the concrete lessons would miss some of the profound underlying genius.

Anyway… I just went through a brief email exchange with someone from Europe who complained that I wasted too much time being “entertaining”, and not enough time conveying true advice. The guy is not a meathead — I just liked the sound of that in the headline here.

But he very much DOES miss this lesson of “seeing the lesson within the telling” of the story. I guess it’s a little Zen thing. But you don’t have to be a Zen master to “get” it.

Not at all. All you have to do is empty your mind of contradictory and skeptical thoughts… and allow the story to come to you.

That said… here’s a few tidbits from my “Salesmanship 101” file that don’t require any mystical or intuitive understanding:

1. The whole concept of “reason why” copywriting can be summed up thusly: Give your prospect a reason to buy.

The trick here is… it often doesn’t even need to be a good reason. I’ve found that having a good reason for being in front of him with an offer works to a higher degree. As in: “I’m writing to you today because of a special opportunity that just came up. It’s a way for you to save 50% over what everyone else is paying for a very popular item… but you must contact me today. There are only a few of these items available at this price, and when they’re gone, that’s it.”

Most rookies will just say “buy this — it’s available.” Moving up a notch, they will include either the urgency factor of limited supply, OR the story of why this opportunity came up, but seldom both.

The pro’s pack their pitches with this stuff. It’s urgent, and here’s the reason. It’s in short supply, and here’s the reason. It’s the biggest bargain of your life, and here’s the reason.

Imagine your prospect standing in the virtual aisle of your virtual store, holding your product. He’s checking the price, looking around to see what similar items go for, frowning as he tries to remember what the price was last week, wondering what he’d say to his mate if he came home with it and she yelled at him for wasting money.

If you answer all those meandering objections, he feels confident. And, he’s armed with information he can use to make his case. “Yeah, I just got this for half-off. There were only 12 at this price, and they went like hotcakes, because it’s something all the players have…”

2. Long ago, someone tested having just one offer, versus having multiple “layers” of offers on the order form. They discovered that, sometimes, having just one offer worked better when you added a special bonus for ordering faster. This make it a multiple offer, with a choice. (Though it was a “set up” choice, since the free bonus was always something the prospect had to have.)

However, it was also discovered that reversing the order of multiple options increased sales of the higher priced option.

The “intuitive” way of listing products is to have the lowest priced version first, followed by the next highest-priced one, and then the next, and so on. You’d think, since the copy explaining each offer was so close to the next one, that the reader could do his comparing easily and come to a rational decsion.

Not so. Listing the lowest price first resulted in most purchases being the lowest offer. Reversing the order resulted in most purchases being the highest priced offer.

Lesson: Even in the seconds it takes to read an order form, there are subtle psychological earthquakes going on in the prospect’s mind. If he’s read through your pitch and gotten to the order form, he wants what you’re offering. But he’s still struggling with paying for it.

Letting him see the lowest price first gives him an “out” — his mind, which is forever making snap-impulsive decisions, can just say “Yeah, let’s get that.” And he may skip the copy for the more expensive option, out of fear of having to change his mind.

Once humans make a decision, it’s very hard to get them to change it. This is how MLM works — no matter how insane the facts of the deal are, MLM pushers (and they are pushers) know that all they have to do is get the mark to decide to go for it. After that, they may as well be in a cult.

3. Finally… to bump the results on your higher-priced options, be sure to use the “dump/gem” take-away tactic. Some car dealers use this by first showing a stripped down model, and making a show of the price — which is always the maximum they would ever charge for a car.

Then, they immediately show the premium version, as tricked out as a car can get. The premium price suddenly doesn’t look so bad. Outside the dealership, you may never consider paying $60,000 for a car. Out of the question. But inside, when you discover that ugly, common vehicles are being touted for $45,000… well, suddenly that luxury model seems like a bargain.

This seems to contradict the “list the highest priced version first”, but it doesn’t. In your sales pitch — before the order form is reached — you will generally “build” your offer, even starting with the lowest priced option.

But you’re not “building” in the order form — you’re asking for a decision, an action. It’s the moment of truth.

Subtle difference.

When you’re selling product through mulitple offers, make sure to have the lowest priced offer as expensive as you can possibly go and still make the sale.

Then — and here’s the trick — make sure your highest-price option has a jaw-dropping amount of added-on value. Stuff the prospect would drool over, and desperately wants… but can only get in the premium option.

And list that option first. If there are any snap decisions to be made, let the first candidate be your best deal.

John Carlton

P.S. I will be posting again after the Super Bowl. An embarrassing number of people watch this meaningless game, and of course the commercials are positioned to be the best Madison Ave has to offer.

Not a great track record. But always buzz. I’m betting there’s going to be something to be outraged about, no matter how PC they try to make the halftime show. They need it.

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  • Patrick says:

    Hi John,
    I notice you mention Mark Twain quite a bit in recirding, etc.
    Can you share with me what you like best?


  • Hi John:

    I remember the “Go To” guy tape. I think you sent
    it to me when I bought the “Kick-Ass Copywriting
    Secrets Of A Marketing Rebel” and I thoroughly
    enjoyed it. Unfortunately, I lost it (along with
    bunches of other tapes) in a move.

    Funny thing how your blog post sort of dovetails
    with a question I sent Gary Halbert for his
    upcoming conference call with Fortin.

    It’s about closes. Headlines are the ad for the
    ad and it is clear and can’t be said enough.

    But, I rarely hear anyone talk about closes.

    Here’s the email:


    We know from testing and studying the greats that
    headlines are the ad for the ad and they are of
    utmost importance (after getting your letter
    opened and read).

    What about closes? Have you seen significant
    boosts in response on closes?

    I’m hooked on Karbo’s killer close:

    “I know you’re skeptical. After all, what I’m
    saying is probably contrary to what you’ve heard
    from your friends, your family, your teachers and
    maybe everyone else you know. I can only ask you
    one question.

    How many of them are millionaires?
    So it’s up to you:
    A month from today, you can be nothing more
    than 30 days older – or you can be on your way to
    getting rich. You decide.”

    Gives me goosebumps…

    — Jason Bedunah
    “Tested & Proven No-Risk Copywriting to Capitalize on the Hidden Profits
    that Lay Dormant in Your Business – and You Pay
    Only When You Profit!”

  • Andy Havens says:

    Hi John,

    Thanks for the great insight on multiple offers. It reminds me a bit of John Lawson’s tact in The Selling Bible (out of print).

    He suggests offering three levels…and only three (face to face selling). Lowest price, highest price and the third real offer – a moderate price with almost exactly benefits of the highest priced offer. You can guess which one sells the most.

    Has this technique been done successfully in direct response?

    Thanks for this blog it’s fantastic.


  • The Selling Bible, John F. Lawhon’s book mentioned above by the previous commentor, is not out of print.

    Along with many of Mr. Lawhon’s other products, it is available directly from the publisher at

  • Great. Yeah, I love the “Go To Guy”. I listened to it a couple of times when going to sleep and let it seep in. But when coming accross a post like this, I still feel like I found a special gem.

  • Read This says:

    […] Read John Carlton’s the Meathead From France. […]

  • Jesus Miguel says:

    Very cool stuff regarding the contrast principle.

    Thank you John

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