In a minute, I’m going to get to what I firmly believe is the #1 skill you need if you’re going to become a successful direct response copywriter.
First, a micro-rant.
I’ve gotten a bunch of sales phone calls recently…
Calls where, when I saw the caller ID, I had probably a 95% confidence that it was someone calling trying to sell me something.
And I’ve started asking them one question, right away, in order to handle these calls.
Now, I’m in a selling profession, as a copywriter.
And I respect people who are GOOD at selling. Meaning, they’re able to identify my needs efficiently, connect with me on that basis, and offer me a solution to what ails me.
Most salespeople are NOT good salespeople.
(In fact, I was listening to an old episode of The Brutal Truth About Sales & Selling podcast and apparently the host, Brian Burns, was involved with an academic study on selling. And this study found that less than 2% of salespeople were really good at selling, when it came to closing complex sales — the type of sales that require more than hard-selling and emotional manipulation to get the deal.)
Anyway, while I respect and even enjoy interacting with good salespeople, I want to spend as little time as possible on the phone with bad salespeople — especially when they’re interrupting my day.
I’ve started asking this question: “Is this a sales call?”
Now, this is a pretty straightforward question. If the desired end result of the call, on their side, is to sell me something… Well, the answer is, “Yes.”
Maybe it’s more than just “Yes.” For example…
“Yes, part of my reason for calling you is because we do offer XYZ. And I’d love to sell that to you today, but I don’t know if this is something you’d even be interested in. Before we even talk about that, I wanted to ask you three quick questions that can help me gauge whether or not I should even be talking to you… And if I should, if it’s better for me to help you by giving you advice regarding XYZ for free and at no obligation, or if it’s the best thing for me to share with you the special offer we have today. Now can I at least confirm with you that we’re NOT a fit today, before we hang up, so I can mark that down here?”
If it’s truly NOT a sales call, they should be able say, “No, I have nothing to sell you today. Here’s my reason for calling.” And it should really have nothing to do with sales.
Unfortunately, those are NOT the answers I’m getting…
It’s been pretty consistent, too…
I answer the phone politely. They ask for me. I tell them that’s who they’re speaking with. And then I ask, “Is this a sales call?”
Their tone goes from warm and friendly to a little hot and bothered. “No, this isn’t a sales call,” they insist. And then they proceed to ask what is very obviously a leading question toward selling me something.
That’s when I say, “I’m not interested, please add me to your do not call list.”
They know I know the game. They grumble. And they hang up.
Now I can tell you for certain I’m not interested in buying from anyone who answers in this way…
Because if you’re going to call me with something to sell… And then tell me that’s NOT the reason you’re calling… You’re a lying sack of you-know-what!
And if you’re going to lie to me about something as simple and innocent as that, what else are you going to lie to me about?
If I can’t trust you to honestly tell me that you’re calling because you have something to sell, why should I trust anything else that comes out of your mouth?
Makes that stat that suggested only 2% of salespeople (actually it was well under 2%) are truly good at what they do seem very real.
Why do most salespeople suck so bad?
Well, because they operate on a bunch of assumptions, instead of being radically present with their prospects.
They assume to sell, you have to be a fast talker… You don’t.
They assume to sell, you have to lie and manipulate… You don’t.
They assume to sell, you have to resort to hype… You don’t.
And they assume that I’m not interested in talking to a salesperson… I am! But only a good one…
If they were present and honest with me, they’d get a lot further. I wouldn’t necessarily buy what they have to offer, unless it was a perfect fit for my needs, wants, and desires. But they’d get a lot further than, “I’m not interested, please add me to your do not call list.”
They’d be able to figure out if I’m a real prospect for their products or services. And if I were, they’d be able to figure out what it would take for me to move forward with them, if possible.
Instead, they get fast rejection.
Okay, rant done — now on to that #1 skill for copywriters…
You may not have known it, but your lesson already started. In fact, it’s almost done!
The #1 skill you can develop if you want to become a copywriter, responsible for making sales and accomplishing business goals with your writing…
Yes, that’s right — you need to become a good salesperson.
(Hat tip to Doberman Dan who talked about this on a recent episode of his Off The Chain With Doberman Dan podcast, and gave me the idea to write about this. If you’re not following Doberman Dan, why not?! Oh yeah, and I have a surprise from me and Doberman Dan for you, probably later this week.)
Long before I became a copywriter, I was in sales. I sold credit cards (that lasted until I was owed my 60-day bonus). I “sold” donations for nonprofits. I sold newspaper subscriptions — over the phone, and nose-to-nose, toes-to-toes in local grocery stores. I sold appliance repair plans for the local gas company. I sold IT training, ranging from $199 exam packs to $30,000 server-based video training solutions.
I learned how to make a simple sale — the type that’s made in one contact. And I learned how to make a complex sale — the one that takes months of follow up to get it through 15 decision makers and the purchasing department.
In sales you learn a few important lessons…
For one, it’s far easier to sell to a qualified prospect who’s ready, willing, and able to buy, than to sell to someone who’s not ready, not willing, or not able… And so once you’re dealing with a prospect the best thing you can do is to DIS-qualify them (rather than shoving-a-square-peg-into-a-round-hole “qualify” them as most salespeople do and are taught).
And if you want to deal with more qualified prospects, the best thing you can do is put out an easy offer (free report, consultation, etc.) that will get the best-qualified prospects to raise their hand. This needs to be completely prospect-focused, meant to actually solve their problems and fulfill their needs before they do business with you.
Also, while aggressive sales tactics may work in some “simple sale” selling situations, they often blow up the deal in more complex selling processes.
Being you, being present, being helpful, and being honest is usually a very effective approach to selling — especially for sales that require ongoing contact or have a long selling cycle.
You think I’m not talking about copywriting? Think again…
Claude Hopkins wrote that advertising and copywriting is “salesmanship in print.” Updated, you can call it “sales multiplied,” because, well, there are great saleswomen, too, and the multiplied part refers to all the multiple media we can sell in.
Principles of selling apply in good marketing and advertising. In fact, marketing and advertising should primarily be judged on its role as a selling tool. Any other criteria is bound to get you suboptimal business results.
And so your goal — and the goal of any great copywriter, or great-copywriter-to-be — is to think critically about how to apply the principles behind effective selling to your copywriting and marketing.
One example, then I’m done…
(Ever since I said I’m trying to keep these shorter, I think they’ve gotten longer… But this is important stuff!)
When I was selling those $30,000 IT training solutions, I did something nobody else was doing, that got me better results than everyone else.
First, I identified a page on the site that would have a predominantly large number of people interested in that expensive and comprehensive training solution. It was a special landing page set up to present our different multi-user training solutions.
I added a text ad on the page that offered a free, no-obligation training consultation.
The premise was that a “Training Advisor” (me!) would answer your questions, and help you decide which if any of our solutions might fit your needs.
For folks who were doing a competitive evaluation of department-wide training solutions, we had a bunch of advantages over competing solutions that I knew I could present well as part of that consultation.
I offered a form for people to request their consultation, when they clicked on the text ad.
I got an email whenever someone submitted a consultation request, and I think it automatically created a lead in Salesforce.
I’d schedule a phone call with these leads, and walk them through a number of questions to identify their training needs.
In some cases, I’d actually tell them that we didn’t have a fit for them.
In most, I’d find which of our solutions would be the most effective way to meet their training needs. And I’d make that recommendation.
Following our phone call, I’d send them a brief recap email, along with a quote if necessary.
Then, I’d do something very important…
I’d put a follow-up appointment in Salesforce. Usually the first follow-up was within 24-48 hours, unless there was a reason to wait longer.
I’d check in with them at that point, and see what I could do to help.
And then, until they either bought or said they were no longer in the market, I would check in from time to time to offer help, or provide new and valuable information.
When the conversation was fresh, I’d contact them every couple days. When the sales process wasn’t going anywhere, I’d set up the next touch for 2-3 weeks out. Every lead in the database though got at least one touch per month, until they said stop.
This is pretty much everything I did that nobody else was doing.
They weren’t segmenting off the best leads. And they didn’t have a regular and indefinite follow-up process for keeping the deal alive.
Well, once this got rolling, I was selling at least one major training solution per month (and a ton of minor ones) — and many of them were $30,000 deals. It got to the point where I think a lot of the other people thought it was unfair I was getting all the big deals (and the commissions).
In short, it was very effective.
Now, what does this have to do with copywriting and marketing?
I hope you’ve come to this conclusion already, but you need something like my “consultation” approach to get your best prospects to raise their hand… And then you need to have a system in place to follow up with them as long as they still may be interested in what you have to offer.
The good news is, this is easier than ever before. More on the tools to use in future issues.
But once you get this strategy, you’ve already gotten 99% of the breakthrough.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
Editor, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets