Recently, I offered free copywriting services to a local charity, not only to promote them, but also to bump up my own portfolio. Sounds straightforward, doesn’t it? Who’s going to turn down an experienced sales and marketing professional when the charity has a major event coming up?

They did.

After spending time, money and effort getting to the meeting/interview, the person in charge told me the charity didn’t need a copywriter – even for free. Despite having (ahem) a none-too-eyecatching website and not keeping the public up-to-date on the charity’s successes and future plans, a copywriter was surplus to requirements.

We’ve all been there – invited for an interview, then told we’re not needed. Apart from grabbing the interviewer’s head and ramming it down a toilet, what else can the interviewee do? … Try and rescue the situation, I guess.

Successful salespeople build trust and rapport by empathising with their customer and mirroring their speech patterns and actions, suggesting that they are like the customer – they are, therefore, trustworthy (like their customer).

So I did just that (except for agreeing there was no need for a copywriter), I listened intently as the customer explained how it would take him too long to get a newcomer up to speed, how he wrote all his own press releases, how he realised that the website needed radical updating …

… and how the sponsorship director had left two weeks before and he hadn’t found anyone to fill their place and how it was just down to him and his secretary now …and would I like a job?

By nodding encouragingly, and making reassuring noises I’d got the gig …which I turned down.

The alarm bells had sounded in my head when (after prompting) I was told that people were leaving and not being replaced. The word, ‘rats’ and, ‘sinking ship’ featured heavily in my decision – especially as new recruits were, seemingly, actively discouraged.

However, I’d turned the situation around and proved that, no matter how inflexible a customer appears to be at the start of a meeting, they can be persuaded to change their mind if they feel listened to and understood. It doesn’t always work, but I’ve had enough successes with this method to know it’s worth a try.