April 12, 2016

Salesmanship in court

On the evening of Monday 18th January 1993, 16-year-old school girl Claire Tiltman left her home in Greenhithe, North Kent, to walk to a friend’s house. On the way she made a small detour up a busy main road to a shop to buy cigarettes.

Walking back from the shop Claire was overtaken by a man, dragged into an alleyway and stabbed nine times.

A massive police investigation followed but uncovered no suspects.

Almost three years later on the 17th October 1995, about 300 yards from where Claire Tiltman was murdered, a lady called Charlotte Barnard was approached by a man. The man grabbed her, dragged across the road and stabbed her fourteen times.

Miraculously Charlotte Barnard survived. Her attacker was discovered to be Colin Ash-Smith.

A number of witness statements from the first attack on Claire Tiltman imply that Ash-Smith was indeed seen at the scene of the first attack, but because the evidence was circumstantial he was never tried.

New evidence and a recent change in the rules allowed the case to be brought to trial, 21 years after Claire’s murder. Besides the shocking nature of the attacks what interested me was lead prosecutor Brian Altman’s comments about the importance of his opening words.


Notice he didn’t start by saying: “I’m Brian Altman. I’m one of the leading prosecutors in the country.” He started with a big, gripping emotive idea, and wasted no time in selling this idea to the jury.

You might not be in court but every day your marketing has to sell your ideas to new potential customers. When a new prospect encounters your marketing do they encounter something that speaks to their problems and gets their attention?

Do they see a big idea? Or do you start off by talking about yourself?

The problem we have is that big ideas are hard, and talking about yourself is easy.

A friend recently asked for advice on a two-minute presentation he was giving at Google-campus. He spent the first 30 seconds telling me about himself. We changed things round and added a stunt at the beginning to get the audience to raise their hands to a question and focus the on the key problem at hand.

Nobody cares who you are. They only care about their problems.

The job of your marketing is to avoid talking about yourself so much and focus on a big idea that explains how you solve the problem you solve.

Rob Drummond

Rob Drummond runs the Maze Marketing Podcast and Maze Mastery. Rob specialises in content production, ad creation, storytelling and CRM systems. He has two published books, Magnetic Expertise and Simple Story Selling, affordable on Amazon.