Derek Sivers

Assume the basic sale, and go for quantity


My first job ever was telemarketing: renewing people’s subscriptions to Time magazine. We worked on commission.

I would call subscribers and timidly say, “Hi. Your subscription is coming up for renewal. I’m wondering if, maybe, you might want to renew it again this year?” Almost everyone would say no.

My sales were so terrible that the boss told the manager to fire me. But the manager thought I was cute, so she let me listen in to the top salesman on the floor. Here’s how his calls would go:

“Hi there this is George Amos from Time Magazine, and I’m calling to renew your subscription today. I notice you’ve been renewing only one year at a time at $54/year, and I hate to see you waste money like that, so let’s get you in for a three-year subscription, bringing your price down to only $25/year. That way, as the price of that one-year renewal keeps going up each year, it won’t matter to you, because you were smart and got in at the half-price rate for three years. Now are you still at the same address?”

If they complained about the price of a three-year subscription, he’d say, “Ok — we’ll just do a two-year renewal, then.”

If they complained about that, he’d say, “Alright — a one-year renewal it is.”

He made a sale with almost every call! For me, it would take almost two hundred calls before I’d make one sale. But after listening in to a few of his calls I imitated his approach, and within a few weeks I became the top salesman on the floor.

A band on CD Baby called Celldweller did this wonderfully. When their new album came out, they emailed their fans and said, “Our new album is out tomorrow, and nobody anywhere has it yet. If you buy only one, the price is $12. But if you buy more than one, the price is only $8 each. So buy ten. It will cost you $80, but you’ll be able to sell them to your friends for $12 each and make a profit.”

What’s amazing is most of them did! Most who didn’t buy ten would apologize at the end of the order form, saying, “Sorry I don’t have $80 now, but I’ll buy 5 copies today and come back for 5 more soon.”

They sold thousands of CDs in a couple weeks, and became the top-seller of the year.