“Operators are Standing By!”

Now“Call before midnight tonight! Operators are standing by.”

We’ve heard words like this before, usually on late-night television advertisements. We can’t sleep, and then an ad regales us with the magic of a high-speed home cabbage slicer. It looks appealing, and you notice a countdown timer on the screen: Only 35 are left in stock, and you’re reminded again that “operators are standing by” to take your call.   

“I hope that the red ones are still in stock,” you think as you reach for the phone.

The reality, of course, is that there are probably warehouses full of your coveted red cabbage slicers, and that there is possibly a better selection and better prices available at your local mall. But that’s tomorrow, and you want that cabbage slicer now. 

No. You need it now!

The ad has done two jobs very well. First, it created a desire to own a high-speed home cabbage slicer when only moments before, all you wanted was to get to sleep. Then, while you could practically taste the healthy goodness of fresh coleslaw, it created a sense of urgency. You were pressed to act right away or be forever doomed to slicing your cabbages (and the occasional finger) with an old-fashioned knife.

Advertisers have been playing the ‘scarcity card’ to move buyers to action for years, and they use it for one simple reason: It works. Having created the desire to buy, they persuade us to make a decision, rather than waiting until the mall opens, checking for similar cabbage slicers on Amazon.com or taking other steps that would permit us to lose the passion that they have instilled for their cabbage slicer.

If the scarcity card works well on $24.95 cabbage slicers, why don’t we use it in our own sales endeavors? If we’ve laid the proper groundwork by lavishly describing our lovely executive suite with walk-in closets, Jacuzzi and butler service, why do we let clients get away with a promise to call back after they’ve had a chance to think about it?

At least give them the security of knowing that while they’re thinking, they have locked in the suite with a reservation they can cancel, free, up to 24 hours prior to arrival.

You owe it to your clients to give them the opportunity to make a reservation now. Let them know that you only have four suites in inventory, and two have been claimed. Or confide that rates are going after the first of the month. Or offer them an amenity, like fresh flowers or a free fruit basket.

Or perhaps offer a complimentary high-speed home cabbage slicer. 


Scott H. Lewis is managing director for the CIS region of Signature Europe. A former journalist and public relations counselor, he has provided crisis, public speaking and presentation training to senior executives across Russia, Ukraine and Turkey. He is the author of “60 Seconds to ‘Wow!’,” a book on presentation skills.  An American, he has lived in Kyiv, Ukraine for more than a decade.

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