Writing for Sales Success

By Lain Ehmann

Not knowing how to effectively convey your message in a written format – whether as an email, proposal or internal memo – actually can hinder your sales career. “It can make or break your sales success,” says Deborah Dumaine, president of Lexington, Massachusetts-based Better Communications and author of Instant-Answer Guide to Business Writing: An A-Z Source for Today’s Business Writer (Writers Club Press, 2003).

In her seminars and books, Dumaine leads professionals through a process that helps them become more efficient and effective writers. Here are some of her top tips.

  • Start with the purpose in mind. “What salespeople are really trying to do with their writing is to drive the action,” says Dumaine. If nothing happens after you send your document, then you haven’t succeeded.
  • Focus your writing before you start. Dumaine suggests starting with a focus sheet that allows you to gather and analyze your ideas, think about your intended audience and define what you’re trying to achieve before you even begin to write. This prework actually can speed the writing process by allowing you to concentrate on the important elements and eliminate the rest.
  • Concentrate on the reader’s pain. Sales writing typically concentrates on the reasons prospects should buy, rather than their pain, says Dumaine. “That’s what’s going to cause a reader to buy,” she says.
  • Make your document easy to read. Don’t make your readers work to read your words. Organization, simple sentences, information grouped together and clear concepts will work in your favor. Dumaine also reminds writers that formatting, including headlines, bullets and bold type, makes for a reader-friendly document.
  • Think visual. Try to paint a picture with your writing. Short, visual words are better than multisyllable stuffy ones.
  • Go against the grain. To stand out in the crowd, Dumaine suggests sending a real letter rather than an email. “If you really want to catch people’s attention and wow them, send them a letter,” she says. It’s rare, and therefore people think it must mean something special.
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