Costly errors in sales writing and presentations

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By Goke Ilesanmi

Selling, like any other profession, is based on certain guidelines. It is noteworthy that selling can involve products, services or ourselves as personal brands. Two things that have great impacts on a corporate organisation’s profitability are sales forecasting and targeting. Writing persuasive letters or proposals and making effective oral presentations are central to successful selling.

Julian Clay, author of “Successful Selling Solutions” says presenting your solution to a target account will confirm that it can meet the needs. This is a stage that a buyer will often need a more detailed confirmation of the financial investment in your product and service.

Deciding when to put something in writing or in an email will depend on the price of your products, the type of relationship you have with a buyer and the length of your sales cycle. For low-cost, fast-turnover products or services, you might need to send written confirmation after a first meeting.

If you sell high-cost products or services, it will take a longer time to gain genuine commitment from (prospective) clients. This means that a detailed proposal will be needed to link your solution to the target account’s needs. To be successful in selling, you need to avoid some errors made in sales writing and oral presentations.

One of these avoidable errors is when a salesperson focuses on what matters to him or her by using the first person singular pronoun “I” or even the plural version “We”. It is easy to appear selfish when your message is filled with “I” or “We”. It is better to use double or triple the amount of “You” and “Your” for every “I” or “We” used in your message.

Closely related to this is the error of data dump. This is about telling your prospects about every feature of your product or service. You may be in love with your product, idea or service but your prospects are in love with making their businesses run more efficiently or effectively. Talk MORE about the benefits of your offer to your recipients or audience not the facts and features of what you are selling.

In short, one of the rules of persuasive communication is that a persuasive writer or speaker should concentrate on issues important to the recipient of his or her written message or lister(s) of his or her oral presentation. Therefore, in your proposal or oral presentation, focus on what will interest the recipient, audience or client not you.

To reinforce your proposal or presentation, for instance, gather as much relevant data as you can. The fact that you have done your homework gives you a clear advantage over those who demand or plead in the name of being persuasive. Also mention benefits to the clients or audience. But mention benefits that matter to them. It is meaningless for instance, to tell a father of 70 years that you also do free training for your clients or prospects on how to choose a life partner for enduring marital success.

Rambling by just writing for the sake of writing is another error in sales writing. Every effective sales letter has a purpose. Whether it is to close a sale, get an appointment, motivate prospects to accept your phone calls, if you do not clearly know what you want from your message, you will not get it.

Before you write, that is, at the pre-writing stage. Ask yourself: Why am I writing? What do I want to accomplish? Scribble that answer down on a piece of paper. After you have written your sales letter, see if you have met your goal. The rungs of the Purpose Ladder are Information, Education, Persuasion and Motivation. To achieve results, you must always ensure that your sales writing and/or presentation reaches the rungs of Persuasion and Motivation.

Another error is to fail to ask for action. Always ask yourself about the purpose. The time you are at the pre-writing stage and thinking through your purpose of writing is a good time to do so. What will the next step in this sales process be? How will I make it clear to my reader(s)? If you make this action step compelling, you will make your job easy.

Additionally, you need to be specific about your expected result and state why. You need to be specific to achieve effective persuasion. So, vaguely telling prospects that you will call in a few days to see if they have received the materials you sent is another error. Sue Hershkowitz-Coore, CSP, a dynamic speaker with a background in education, a graduate degree in counselling and a UC Berkley fellowship says you first date the action. Tell prospects exactly what day you will call to follow up. This will show your responsiveness and reliability when you call.

Therefore, say, “We will meet with you on Tuesday, next week by 12 noon” NOT “We will see very soon.” Also say, “We will call you on 29th December to talk more about your company’s training needs and see how we can offer your people the most comprehensive and reliable training at the best cost possible” NOT “We will call you very soon to talk more about your company’s training needs….” Say, “Prices of our products range from N10,000 to N40,000” NOT “Our products are always cheap”. Give prospects reasons that matter to them to talk with you after receiving your letter.


Use of complex diction or language

Another error identified in sales writing or presentations is the use of complex, grandiloquent or bombastic language. Communication experts say it is better to impress (prospective) clients with what you know not the fancy words you know. Anyone can consult a dictionary or thesaurus and find bigger words.

To achieve success in your sales writing or presentations, use clear, concise, conversational words to connect with your prospects. And do not be intimidated by their titles. Use specific words that make a point to express your point. It is okay to use the exact words in the same paragraph, by the way.

If your clients call the meeting a meeting, then you may not bother yourself calling it a conference, workshop, symposium or convention. Just use their word for accuracy and mutual understanding.

To be continued

PS: For those making inquiries about our Public Speaking, Business Presentation and Professional Writing Skills programme, please visit the website indicated on this page for details. Till we meet on Monday.

GOKE ILESANMI (FIIM, FIMC, CMC), CEO of Gokmar Communication Consulting, is an International Platinum Columnist, Professional Public Speaker, Career Mgt Coach and Certified Mgt Consultant. He is also a Book Reviewer, Biographer and Editorial Consultant.

Tel: 08055068773; 08187499425

Email: gokeiles2010@gmail.com

Website: www.gokeilesanmi.com.ng

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