By Goke Ilesanmi
Selling makes a major contribution to the economy and it is a profession to be proud of. Like any profession, it requires certain disciplines. And two disciplines which can have a major impact on a company’s profitability are sales forecasting and targeting. One of the things central to successful selling is writing proposals. 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 you might need to send written confirmation after a first meeting. If you sell high-cost products, you will take longer to gain genuine commitment. 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 mistakes made in writing.
One of these avoidable mistakes is to open weak by beginning with a statement like, “Thank you for your time on the phone today.” Sue Hershkowitz-Coore, CSP, a dynamic speaker with a background in education, a graduate degree in counselling and a UC Berkley fellowship says, “You want to compel them to read! If you’re trying to grab their attention, go for the gusto! Start with strong, clear benefit statements like, ‘Your attendees will thank you! You’ll make their life easier by selecting a hotel right there—in the airport. Easy in, easy out. No hassle and immediate transport cost savings for you and them! Oh… and don’t forget to tell the bellman to bring their baggage right to their room!”
Even if you discuss these ideas with your prospect on the phone today, forget the standard “thank you” and focus on what he or she can enjoy because of your offer.
Another mistake is to focus on the stuff that matters to you by using the first singular pronoun “I” word like that. Your sales letter is not your life story nor is it a narrative of everything you will like. It is easy to appear selfish when your message is filled with “I” words. A good rule of thumb is to use double the amount of “You” and “Your” words for every “I” or “We” in your message.
Rambling by just writing for the sake of writing is another mistake in sales writing. Every effective sales letter has a purpose. Whether it is to close a sale, pique interest, get an appointment, motivate prospects to accept your phone call, whatever it is, if you do not clearly know what you want from your message, you will not get it.
Before you write, pre-write. 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.
Failure to ask for action
Another mistake is to fail to ask for action. Always ask yourself, when you are pre-writing, thinking through your purpose for writing, is a good time. What will the next step in this sales process be? How will I make it clear to my reader? Make this action step compelling, and you have made your job easy!
Telling prospects you will call in a few days to see if they received the materials you sent is another mistake. Hershkowitz-Coore advises that you first, date the action. Tell prospects exactly what day you will call to follow up. This will give you a great opener, however, and show your responsiveness and reliability when you call and say, ‘Good day Mr. Adeyinka. This is Adebola, and I promised to follow up with you today’.”
Second, why should prospects talk with you to tell you they have received your mail? Give them a reason that matters to them to talk with you. In your email or sales letter, write: “I’ll call you on January 29, to talk more about your company’s training needs and see how we can offer your people the absolute most comprehensive and reliable training at the best cost possible.”
Use of multi-syllabic words
Another mistake identified in sales writing is to use fancy, multi-syllabic words. Communication experts say you need to show prospects how well you have learnt to use the thesaurus so that you do not repeat the same word in a letter. It is better to impress people 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, use clear and concise, conversational words to connect with your prospects. And do not be intimidated by Mr. VIP’s title. Prefer specific words that make a point to express your point. It is okay to use the same words in the same paragraph, by the way. If your clients call the meeting, a meeting, why call it a conference, workshop, symposium, or convention? Use their words over and over!
Data dump is another notable mistake in sales writing. This is by 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 more effectively. Talk more about the benefits of your offer to your readers, not the facts and features of what you are selling.
And only write about the benefits that matter to prospects. It is meaningless for instance, to tell a father of 60 years that you also do free training for your clients or prospects on how to choose a life partner for enduring marital success. Also ensure that you personalise every sales letter.
Another mistake is to apologise and put yourself into legal jeopardy. Even if there was a delay in getting the materials to your clients, avoid the temptation of beginning with the apologetic expression, “Sorry for the delay”. In fact, an apology in writing makes the writer feel better about a situation that he or she caused. But it is rarely helpful to the reader. When you write, always focus on the solution. If you want to apologise verbally, that is up to you. In writing, start strong and stay strong. Focus on solution and you will not be “sorry”!
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, Managing Consultant/CEO of Gokmar Communication Consulting, is an International Platinum Columnist, Certified Public Speaker/MC, Communication Specialist, Motivational Speaker and Career Management Coach. He is also a Book Reviewer, Biographer and Editorial Consultant.
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