Marketing and sales are essentially two sides of the same coin: both have the aim of raising awareness of a brand, product or service, and nowadays, both have to write to sell.
The only difference is that marketing tends to speak to a group of people all at once, whereas sales is done on a one-to-one basis.
As a result, over the years, the best salespeople have become those who have the smoothest talk, whereas the best marketers are those who can write the best sounding and most engaging content.
Things, however, are changing, and all salespeople now write dozens of emails, InMails, memos, content and god knows what else in an average week on the job.
In fact, the lines between marketing and sales are becoming increasingly blurred as salespeople send out mass InMail campaigns while – through social and better use of data – marketing is growing to be more and more personal by the day.
So, as writing becomes increasingly important in the sales world, what can salespeople learn from their marketing peers?
Simply put: a lot.
The best way to engage people with your writing is to write as though you’re having a conversation. It sounds easy, but there’s a skill to achieving this in the way you come across.
Get it wrong and you’ll turn your prospect off straight away. But get it right and you’ll have your prospects purring like a kitten on cat nip.
So, how can you write with a true, conversational tone while remaining professional? How does one write to sell? Here are my tips.
1. Ignore your teachers
At school, you were taught not to start sentences with ‘And’ or ‘But’, and to write ‘Do not’ instead of ‘Don’t’. While this might be correct practice if you’re writing a novel, will or an angry letter, writing for corporate communications is a completely different ball game.
As a marketing copywriter, one of the main tips that I can give you is to find a happy medium between the way you would write a message to a friend and the way you were taught at school.
Essentially, you need to write the way you speak, minus the slang, expletives and with good spelling and punctuation.
In your day-to-day life, you start sentences with ‘And’ and ‘But’ all the time, and you say ‘don’t’ as well. So make sure you do the same when you write. If you would say it out loud in a meeting with a client, feel free to write it.
But if your writing style is a million miles away from the way you sound when you actually speak, you’re writing the wrong way.
Don’t worry about what you were taught was ‘proper’ in school; write the way you talk, but always, for the sake of Shakespeare, spell-check your grammar and punctuation.
Most people don’t care about a mistake or two, but there are some strange people out there who won’t take you seriously if you spell something wrong. Is it worth the risk?
2. It’s all about ‘You’
You should make your message personal wherever you can by using words like ‘You’ and ‘Your’.
Doing this really makes someone feel like you’re talking directly to them and not to a group of people.
If you just talk about yourself, saying things like “I work with ABC & co” and “I solve such and such a problem”, you make it sound like you’re telling a group of people about yourself.
Shy away from this wherever possible. Always try to put a spin on your sentences which puts the other person at the centre of things.
“You may have heard of ABC and Co, who I currently work with.”
“You probably face XYZ challenge every day, something I’ve worked with on numerous occasions and would love to help you solve.”
The bottom line is that if someone loves to talk about themselves, you probably hate listening to them.
But someone saying your own name and talking about you, that’s pretty hard to ignore.
3. Sack the synonyms
I’ve seen a lot of messages in which people use words and phrases that we just don’t use in the real world.
They’re used to be impressive and make the writer look intelligent, a tactic which seriously backfires because it makes you look like you’ve just right clicked in Word and found the most complex sounding word under the synonyms.
In the wise words of Albert Einstein, “If you can’t explain something simply enough, you don’t understand it well enough.”
Based on that quote alone, I’m convinced Albert would’ve found it very easy to write to sell
If you’re using any words at all that you wouldn’t normally use, you’ll alienate your audience.
Seriously: any words you or they wouldn’t say out loud – no matter how many times you’ve written them in that past – should be removed from your typing vocabulary altogether. Forget using words like ‘Thus’, ‘Therefore’ and ‘Hence’. If you don’t use them in real life, don’t type them.
If there’s a simpler word or phrase that can be used, use it.
4. Calm down…
Avoid the use of exclamation marks altogether; they can easily make you look like you’re excited about something that isn’t worth being excited about, and you don’t want people to think of you as the annoying puppy of your industry.
“Hi [name]! I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions about [Company name]?! Looking forward to hearing from you! Oliver!!!!”
I have genuinely seen emails that use as many exclamation marks as the example above, and it can be a little embarrassing.
As a general rule of thumb, just avoid exclamation marks altogether. They’ve been overused in marketing for a long time now and rarely have a time or place.
If you want to let someone know you’re excited about working with them and their company, just tell them!!!!!! There’s no need to infer it with annoying punctuation!!!!!!!
5. Ask away
This is a really simple tip but also one of the most effective.
When someone asks you a question, do you immediately think about your answer to it?
Of course you do, you just did then.
And when someone is thinking about the answer to a question, they feel like they have something to say.
So, adding the question you need to ask in at the very end of the email or InMail you’re writing seriously increases the chances of getting a response.
But be careful not to write your message with a list of questions. That makes it feel like you’re writing to more than one person, which immediately lessens the conversational feel and chances of a reply.
Rather than listing off questions and leaving them up in the air, stick to one key question and maybe even give a hint as to how you think they should answer.
“I was just wondering if you struggle with ABC? I’m trying to establish whether it’s a case of [X] for your company, or if it’s more that you [Y].”
Doing this makes it easy for them to reply. But if you list 3 or 4 questions back-to-back people are far less likely to reply.
6. Never, ever, ever pitch
Of course salespeople like to pitch, it’s part of the game.
Without the pitch, there will never be a sale.
So why not just jump straight to the pitch?
Cut right to the chase and forget all the boring dialogue before – surely that’s a great, time-saving idea, isn’t it?
Sadly, it’s not, but a lot of salespeople tend to do it anyway.
In fact, rather than saving you time, it will cost you a lot of leads, and that’s never good.
Remember, very few prospects are ready to be pitched to straight away.
Take the example below:
“I was just wondering if you struggle with XYZ? The reason is that I know [company name] do and it’s a pretty common challenge in the industry.”
After writing this do not continue to justify your question with a mini pitch.
“The reason I ask is that we are the market leader in solving this problem. We currently work with companies like [name], [name] and [name] every single day and, by doing ABC and XYZ, help them to succeed in the industry.”
By all means introduce yourself at the start, but don’t show all your cards.
When you write to sell, avoid any sales pitch in your writing as much as you can. You immediately make it about you and your company.
To make it a conversation rather than a lecture, you need to keep it about them and theirs.
As a salesperson, one of your key strengths is that you’re good at talking, have great people skills and know how to gauge someone’s reactions. So why waste a pitch in your writing when you can use your emails and InMails to build up a relationship and then pitch over the phone or in person?
Now you have your email writing up-to-scratch why not continue with us and learn ’18 Steps to a Productive Sales Meeting’