Can you think of a time when you were so surprised that you literally fell off your chair, or spit out your coffee, or (insert terrible cliché about being shocked here)?

Well, it turns out that being surprised can often leave a big impression. In fact, those moments in which you were caught off guard just might be stickier for several reasons having to do not with just your memory or experience, but your brain itself.

The Shocking Power of Surprise

A schema is a representation of a plan or theory in the form of an outline or model. You could say it is something common that everyone expects like saying, “How are you doing?” when you meet someone, or saying, “Hello?” when you answer a phone (at least in the USA)

When a schema is interrupted, the observer is usually surprised, forcing more cognitive engagement with the object of attention. Two contrasting concepts create surprise, humor, confusion, or offense.

There is even some actual academic support for this. Famed educator Jean Piaget argued that leaps in learning happen when we encounter new information that does not fit into our previously held worldview — what he called a schema — and we are thrown off — what he called disequilibrium.

Let me say that again. LEAPS IN LEARNING.

Let me give you an example that is relevant to the sales process.

Imagine you go to a car dealership to buy a minivan. You expect when you arrive that a salesperson will greet you, ask you what you are looking for and what kind of car you want to see and how much money you want to spend. That fits right into your schema of the experience of car buying.

But what if, instead, the person who greeted you said, “Why in the actual hell would you want to buy a minivan?” with a huge Cheshire cat grin on his face. How would you feel?

You might laugh, or be shocked, or even offended, but I am quite sure you would not soon forget this experience.

Here’s another example. Do you remember the Cottonelle commercials a few years back that told customers, “our toilet paper is so good, you can go commando”? I don’t know about you, but I was shocked the first time I saw that ad, and then afterward, I admired them for their bravery and audacity.

In sales and in marketing, there just might be value in using some disruptive tactics to shake someone’s schema of how a “print shop” “behaves” or the typical things that a salesperson is expected to say at the beginning of a sales call.

Here are a few ways you might just bust a schema and garner some fresh attention.

  1. Share a piece of content that you wouldn’t normally share. Sappi Off Register videos are some of my faves,
  2. Come up with a greeting or opening that is unusual. You might try “Happy {insert day of the week here} or “What’s going on over there?”
  3. Make an offer that is unexpected. This might include inviting someone for a “virtual” cup of coffee by sending them a Starbucks card or sending someone a lottery ticket and wishing them “good luck.”

There CAN be some fun to be had when you decide to shake things up a little bit. What do you say?  Ready to go out and shock some people into engaging with your brand? Please come back and tell us how it went!

See more posts from Kelly


Kelly Mallozzi.2018_print media centrAs a sales and marketing coach and consultant at Success In Print, and Girl #2 at #GirlsWhoPrint, Kelly Mallozzi advocates for graphic arts companies to keep fighting to keep print relevant. She may be irreverent, but what she lacks in convention, she makes up for in smart-assery.

Kelly is a regular co-host on the #GirlsWhoPrint Podcast along with Deborah Corn. She is also a mentor to several future sales stars and she connects to them through the Women’s Print Mentoring Network. Check out her book, co-authored by Bill Farquharson: Who’s Making Money at Digital/Inkjet Printing…and How. Kelly also occasionally guest blogs at Printing Impressions and you can see her most recent posts here.

Connect With Kelly: Twitter @SuccessInPrint and on LinkedIn where she regularly posts and is even often interesting.

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