Joe Sugarman: Triggers Book Summary





The Book in Three Sentences

  1. Joseph Sugarman, recognized as one of the nation’s top copywriters, marketers and catalog pioneers, has sold millions of dollars’ worth of products through copywriting.
  2. In Triggers, Sugarman takes the principles he learned from direct marketing and applies them to the field of personal selling with 30 powerful techniques he calls Psychological Triggers.
  3. Psychological Triggers are sales tools for effectively influencing, motivating and persuading a prospect to make a positive buying decision.

The Five Big Ideas

  1. Direct marketing is a general term that applies to any form of marketing where the prospect orders directly from the product source and does not touch the product until it is delivered (usually the prospect pays for the product before receiving it).
  2. As a direct marketer, Joe Sugarman has determined that the most important thing you can do to turn a prospect into a customer is to make it incredibly easy for that prospect to commit to a purchase, regardless of how small that purchase may be.
  3. Always make that first sale simple. Once the prospect makes the commitment to purchase from you, you can then easily offer more to increase your sales.
  4. Bring out an objection very early in the sales presentation. Further, figure out a strategy for resolving the objection.
  5. Be honest in everything you do and say.


Trigger 1: Consistency

Once a buying decision is made, the buyer is inclined to continue to buy or to continue to act in a way that is consistent with the buyer’s previous action.

Trigger 2: Product Nature

Each product has its own personality and nature—a special series of characteristics that can relate your product to a prospect. Recognize the nature of the product and relate its characteristics to the prospect and you will have the key to selling your prospect.

Trigger 3: Prospect Nature

Discover the emotional and logical reasons that your prospect will buy your product. Once you know these reasons you’ll have the key to effective selling.

Trigger 4: Objection Raising

Raise the flaw(s) or the objection(s) to purchasing your product right up front in your ad copy or your selling approach.

Trigger 5: Objection Resolution

Resolve the flaw(s) or objection(s) you raise in your ad copy or presentation to reinforce why your prospect should buy from you.

Trigger 6: Involvement and Ownership

Make your prospect use their imagination to feel more involved in the buying process.

Trigger 7: Integrity

Your prospect will be more likely to buy from you if everything you say is truthful and that you match your words with your action.

Trigger 8: Storytelling

A story provides a human element to your presentation and helps you bond with your prospect.

Trigger 9: Authority

It makes a big difference if the prospect can buy a product from somebody or some company recognized as an expert in the field.

Trigger 10: Proof of Value

Truthful comparisons with other products, savings possible, or simply bargain pricing should be emphasized.

Trigger 11: Emotion

In the selling process, emotion sells while logic justifies.

Trigger 12: Justify with Logic

For many products or services, it’s important to give logical reasons why your prospect should buy.

Trigger 13: Greed

People like to get more than they think they deserve. And this can be used to your advantage by pricing your product very low and making the perceived value high.

Trigger 14: Credibility

If something about your message is not believable, chances are your prospect will sense it. Make sure each statement you make is truthful, not too exaggerated and utterly believable.

Trigger 15: Satisfaction Conviction

A satisfaction conviction says “I am so sure you will be satisfied that I will put my money where my mouth is and do something that you would suspect many will use to take advantage of me.”

Trigger 16: Linking

A technique of using what the consumer already knows and understands to what you are selling, to make the new product easier to understand and relate to.

Trigger 17: Desire to Belong

People want to belong to a group that already own a brand.

Trigger 18: Desire to Collect

There is a strong urge in the human psyche to collect.

Trigger 19: Sense of Urgency

Make your call to action as compelling as possible with a sense of urgency that won’t allow procrastination.

Trigger 20. Exclusivity

To be the owner of something that the few others can own is one of the strong human motivations.

Trigger 21. Simplicity

By keeping the offer simple you, in essence, make the choice for the prospect.

Trigger 22: Guilt

Give something to somebody and you automatically engender a feeling of reciprocity.

Trigger 23: Specificity

When you use specifics, your advertising copy is a lot more believable. By using specifics, you enhance your offer and make your offer more credible.

Trigger 24: Familiarity

People are much more likely to buy if they are familiar with the brand name, the product or the company offering the product. The more familiar your prospect is with your brand, the more inclined they are to accept and buy your product.






Trigger 25: Patterning

If you have a product to sell and others have sold a similar product, find out how they did it and pattern your approach after theirs. But don’t copy. Later, when you are successful, you can pioneer new ways to sell your product.

Trigger 26: Hope

An implied hope tied to your product can be a very strong motivational factor in causing your prospect to buy from you.

Trigger 27: Curiosity

Use this trigger to keep the prospect interested and involved until the very end of your presentation.

Trigger 28: Harmonize

Get your prospect to agree with your truthful and accurate statements and start nodding their heads in agreement.

Trigger 29: Mental Engagement

By challenging the mental process of the reader or the viewer and not making your presentation too obvious, you will evoke a sense of mental engagement that leaves the prospect with good feelings toward your message.

Trigger 30: Honesty

Be truthful in everything you say—almost to a point where you are disarmingly truthful.

Triggers Summary

  • It is estimated that 95% of the reasons a prospect buys involve a subconscious decision.
  • Once a commitment is made, the tendency is to act consistently with that commitment.
  • How do you determine or learn about their nature? There are two ways. The first is to become an expert on the product you are selling. Specifically, learn about the emotional appeal of the product or service to a prospect. The second thing you can do is tap into your own broad knowledge.
  • Every product has a unique nature to it—a unique way of relating itself to the consumer. If you understand this nature and find the way to best relate the product to your prospect, you’ll hold the key to a successful sales program.
  • In selling, it is important to understand not only the nature of the product you are offering but the nature of your prospect as well.
  • Get to know the nature of your prospect relative to the nature of your product. Become an expert on your prospect. Be a good listener; talk to your prospects and those who know and have dealt with them. You’ll soon discover the very nature of your prospect and the emotional reasons he or she will buy.
  • Whenever Sugarman sold a product that contained some obvious blemish or fault, he brought the blemish or fault up first in his copy. In short, he shared his dirty laundry openly and honestly right up front. By presenting the negatives up front, he reduced and often eliminated a major objection to a sale.
  • You can’t just resolve an objection without first raising it.
  • You are wasting your time resolving any objection unless you raise it first.
  • If you raise an objection that really isn’t much of an objection in the mind of your prospect, you are raising a red flag that doesn’t need to be raised, let alone resolved.
  • In direct response, using a gimmick to get involved with the reader is often referred to as using an involvement device—something that involves the consumer in the buying process.
  • An involvement device that ties in with what you are selling can be very effective.
  • Advertising copy that involves the reader can be quite effective, especially if the involvement device is part of the advertising.
  • Whatever you say, you’ve got to walk your talk. If you say you are going to do something, do it. If you make a promise, deliver. If you agree to provide quality service, deliver quality service. In short, walk your talk.
  • People love stories and one of the really good ways to relate to your prospect is to tell a story.


  • If you tell a story in your sales presentation that is relevant either to selling your product, creating the environment for selling your product, or getting the prospect involved with your sales presentation, you are using this wonderful and powerful trigger in a very effective way to sell your product or service.
  • A good story should capture a person’s attention, relate the product or service to the sales message, and help you bond with the prospect.
  • Establishing your authority is something that should be done in each sales presentation, regardless of how big or how little you are.
  • Knowledge is a strong way to express authority.
  • Authority can be expressed by dress.
  • In Sugarman’s advertising, he always wants to convey, through examples or by comparison, that what the customer is buying is a good value.
  • By comparing your product with others and proving its value, you are providing the prospect with the logic from which he or she can justify a purchase.
  • In short, there is a value associated with the education you are providing your prospect and your prospect will be willing to pay more as a result.
  • No matter what Sugarman was selling, he’d express proof that he was providing real value to the prospect and that he was providing more than anybody else.
  • In short, it is up to you to visibly demonstrate, by example, that the product you are offering will, in the long haul, give more value than any other choice possible. Period.
  • There are really just three points to remember about the subject of emotion in advertising, which relates to the subject of personal selling.
  1. Every word has an emotion associated with it and tells a story.
  2. Every good sales presentation is an emotional outpouring of words, feelings, and impressions.
  3. You sell on emotion, but you justify a purchase with logic.
  • John Caples, one of the legendary direct marketers, changed the word repair to the word fix and saw a 20% increase in response.
  • When you justify a purchase in the minds of the consumers, they have no excuse not to buy, and in fact may even feel guilty if they don’t.
  • The higher the price point, the more need there is to justify the purchase.
  • View logic as the answer to the unspoken objection, “Why should I buy this thing?”
  • Greed is simply the psychological trigger you use when you provide the prospect with more value than he or she really feels entitled to.
  • If you convey honesty and integrity in your message, chances are you’ve gone a long way toward establishing your credibility.
  • Credibility is being believable.


  • One of the biggest factors that can affect credibility is not resolving all the objections that are raised in your prospects’ minds so that they think you’re hiding something or avoiding an obvious fault of the product or service.
  • You can also enhance credibility through the use of a brand-name product.
  • One of the techniques Sugarman used in his mail order ads to build credibility was inserting a technical explanation to add a certain expertise to my advertising message.
  • In a mail order ad or in person, technical explanations can add a great deal of credibility, but you must make sure that you indeed become an expert, and your statements must be accurate.
  • A satisfaction conviction conveys a message from you that says, “Hey, I’m so convinced that you will like this product that I’m going to do something for your benefit that will surprise you and prove how incredible my offer really is.”
  • The ideal satisfaction conviction should raise an objection or the last bit of resistance in the prospects’ minds and resolve it, but in resolving it, go beyond what your prospect expects. The resolution should be a passionate expression of your desire to please the person you are selling and to remove the last ounce of resistance he or she may have.
  • Basically, linking is the technique of relating what the consumer already knows and understands with what you are selling, to make the new product easy to understand and relate to.
  • One of the easiest examples of linking is to explain how it works in a fad.


  • The minute there is a lot of publicity about something and it has the potential to turn into a fad, it could be a great opportunity to link it to something that you’re doing, either to get publicity or to promote a product.
  • The consumer who buys a specific brand has been motivated to buy that brand by a desire to belong to the group of people who already own that brand.
  • The desire to belong is one of the strongest psychological triggers on why people purchase specific products or services. Use it to your advantage by realizing what groups your prospect belongs to and then matching the needs and desires of your prospect with those of your product.
  • When selling (whether in print, on TV, or in a personal selling situation), recognize that there is a very large segment of the population who, for whatever reason, has an emotional need to collect a series of similar products.
  • One of the ways the direct marketers optimize sales via the collecting instinct is by first sending, free of charge with the very first shipment, some sort of device to hold the collection.
  • Just because you have sold a customer a product, don’t ignore the opportunity to sell him the same product again or a new variation of that product.
  • In selling, the concept of a sense of urgency involves two emotional aspects in the selling process. One is loss or the chance of losing something, and the other is procrastination.
  • Always make sure there is a sense of urgency in your sales presentation so that the prospect does not leave without you making that sale.
  • Elmer Wheeler recognized that if you reached a point when your prospect says, “Let me think about it,” or “Let me discuss this with my partner,” chances are you’ve lost the sale.
  • It is critical that you make the sale and not accept a delaying tactic.


  • The basic concept of exclusivity is to make the prospect feel that he or she is special—that you are really allowing that prospect to buy a particular product that few people can obtain regardless of price.
  • Always make your offer simple.
  • Realize that only after your prospect becomes your customer can you present more complicated offers and products.
  • Consider many of the creative ways to instill the feeling of guilt in your prospect. You’ll find your selling to be a lot easier with a receptive buyer when you grease the way with this powerful psychological trigger.
  • When people perceive certain general statements as puffery or typical advertising babble, those statements are at best discounted and accepted with some doubts. In contrast, statements with specific facts can generate strong believability.
  • There’s a greater tendency to buy from somebody with whom you are familiar.
  • Whatever you are selling, with the proper credentials, you will automatically engage the power of hope—a powerful force that could motivate, inspire and even trigger a sale.
  • Realize that often you must go with the established way of doing things in order to accomplish your goals. You’ve got to pattern yourself with what is working and then harmonize with the marketplace. Once you have an established reputation, it’s easier to try something different that you yourself want to do.
  • The more the mind must work to reach a conclusion which it eventually successfully reaches, the more positive, enjoyable, or stimulating the experience.
  • If you make your sales pitch too obvious, the prospect will feel either patronized or bored. Make the prospect think, in order to come to a conclusion, and you create a very stimulating mental effect.
  • The more the mind must work to reach a conclusion that it eventually successfully reaches, the more positive, enjoyable, or stimulating the experience.







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