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Write it right using 5 rules for great sales communications

By Dawn Josephson    

Most salespeople have great ideas, but when it comes to putting those ideas on paper for their prospects, theysales commun ramble on for pages and quickly lose their readers’ interest.

But with the proliferation of e-mail and sales-oriented web sites, writing skills are of paramount importance in today’s business landscape. In fact, when your written documents get to the point quickly and effectively, you will turn more prospects into clients, thus increasing your bottom line.

Here are the five rules of written sales communications that all salespeople need to know. Master them and watch your sales figures soar.

1. Know the specifics of your audience. Just as you would tailor your message depending on whether it was going to employees versus prospects, you also need to tailor your message to your clients’ demographics.

For example, if you’re writing promotional materials for your product or service, and the majority of the people who do business with you are older, well-established professionals, you’ll want to highlight the product or service’s safety features, reliability record, or guarantee. However, if your main clientele is primarily younger Gen Y types, you’ll want to emphasize your product or service’s trendy image, quick results, or easy to use and understand features.

Do a survey of your most loyal customers to determine which demographic gives you the most business. Also, keep track of those who visit or call your business,[private] even if they don’t buy from you. Really get to know who walks through your doors, find out what’s important to them, and then tailor your message appropriately.

2. Organize your material according to the way your reader thinks about the subject. Not everyone thinks like you. So, just because you want your message to be organized one way does not mean your customers would have it that way.

For example, one company created a free informational booklet about its product and organized it so that the product’s most popular features appeared first. When customers still asked questions that were clearly answered in the text, the company was stumped. Why weren’t its customers reading the booklet?

After interviewing some of their customers, company managers discovered that their customers found the booklet’s organization confusing; they wanted to see the features explained alphabetically, not in the order of most popular.

The better you know who your clientele is, the better you can organize your information to meet their needs. Get inside their heads and discover how they think about your product. Do they typically want to know bottom line price first, and then want to know the features and benefits? Do they tend to think testimonials are more important than facts? When you understand how your customers think about your product, you can more easily present your information in a way that’s logical to them.

3. Write to express, not to impress. The more successful a salesperson is, the more often he or she thinks that big words and long documents impress people. In reality, just the opposite is true. People who try to write with the hope of impressing others with their knowledge accomplish only one thing—they lose the reader!

Examine each marketing piece you write and distill its core message or purpose down to one or two sentence. If you can’t do that, then your piece is not focused. If that’s the case, then go back to each paragraph within the piece and try to condense each down to one or two sentences. String those new sentences together, and then pinpoint your marketing piece’s purposes. That’s the core message you want to express! Rewrite the piece with the core message in mind, using common, everyday language. Remember: True genius happens when you can explain your idea in such a way that a five-year-old child can understand it.

4. In messages containing both good and bad news, give the bad news first. At some point, every salesperson will have to deliver bad news to a customer. Whether a particular feature isn’t available in their favorite product or the customer’s interest rate will be higher than expected, occasional bad news is a fact of life. Whenever you communicate bad news in writing, state it first, and then counter it with a bit of good news.

For example, in a follow-up email to a prospect you could write, “After checking with our warehouse, I discovered that the Widget 2000 doesn’t come in red. It does, however, come in the larger size you requested and you can have it delivered by Friday.” By ending with the good news, you take the sting off the bad news and leave your reader with a positive image.

5. Write colloquially when appropriate. People like to read documents that sound as if the message is coming from a real person, not a formally trained Ivy League scholar. If you write too formally, you’ll quickly lose your reader. Have you ever reread your own writing and said, “It sounds all wrong!”? That’s because the tone of your writing was likely wrong. Determining your tone is important, because a follow-up letter should not have the same tone as web copy.

Most salespeople try to use an excessively formal tone in all their writing as a way to show their expertise. But realize that excessive formality often comes from a writer who is insecure with his or her authority. By using an overly formal tone—complete with many large words, long sentences, and technical terms—the writer attempts to mask his or her insecurities. Most prospects don’t want to do business with someone who is insecure, so keep the tone of your writing colloquial and approachable.

The more effectively you write, the more business you’ll gain. So no matter what you’re writing—whether it’s a sales letter or a brochure—always keep the five rules for effective written sales communication in mind. Your ability to write clearly and succinctly will make your sales pieces stand out and will enable you to win the deal.

Dawn Josephson smallDawn Josephson, the Master Writing Coach (www.masterwritingcoach.com) has been helping business leaders write better to earn more since 1998. She is the author of Write It Right: The Ground Rules for Self-Editing Like the Pros and Putting It On Paper: The Ground Rules for Creating Promotional Pieces that Sell Books. Contact her at dawn@masterwritingcoach.com].[/private


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