Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Developing a Sales and Marketing Mindset

I had a client write me a testimonial the other day. It was great. Here are a few of the high points:

"From day one of our new and improved website copy we received favorable comments and leads. We had one prospect that we were waiting to contact until the new material was available and as soon as it was we sent a link. It led to a sale that closed in the fastest amount of time in our company’s history...through Jennifer's research, I actually learned something new about a segment of our market. Now that’s the way to deliver above and beyond expectations!"

This is exactly the type of testimonial I used to read on other writers' sites and think to myself, "I don't think I could do that." Not because I didn't have confidence in my writing ability, but because I had this idea that writing and sales were two separate things. In my mind, I kicked arse in the writing department. But I had no confidence in my ability to sell.

I think the problem was that for a long time, "sales" was kind of a dirty word to me. It made me think of overbearing used-car salesmen and telemarketers. The closest I ever came to sales at work was a college job I had my Freshman year, where I had to call alumni and persuade them to donate to the school. I stunk at that. I think I raised about $50 the entire semester I worked there, and it was from my dad.

But through working with clients and honing my skills, I've realized that my perception of sales and marketing was entirely wrong. I didn't have to change my writing ability, but I did have to change my mindset. Here are some of the ideas I learned that completely changed my attitude towards sales.

By pitching your services, you are not doing anything dishonest. I think my biggest block about sales and marketing was that I felt like it was fundamentally dishonest. And sure, some ads exaggerate. But as a writer, I offer something of great value to clients--the ability to explain why customers want their services, educate readers and connect with an audience. Think about it--you might charge a certain amount to write a website, but how much will the client make as a result of your rewrite? Each time this particular client lands a gig, it's thousands of dollars. If my writing lands him even one such client, my services are well worth it. I'm not lying when I tell potential clients my writing can boost their bottom line.

If you're not preaching to the converted, you're talking to the wrong market. Another thing I hated about my perception of sales was its pushiness. I hated the idea of trying to make someone buy something they didn't want. But most seasoned salespeople will tell you not to pitch to people who don't want what you sell. The right audience is an audience of people who need what you sell and who are used to buying it.

Writing is sales is writing. I also thought there was something mysterious about sales that set it apart from typical writing skills. There really isn't. When you sell your client's service or product in writing, you're simply explaining in clear, simple language--your target audience's language--how your client can solve their problems. The business that explains it best wins. You're building a case for your client. It's the same basic skills you used to write A+ research papers, but with a more accessible style.

By letting businesses know about your services, you're doing them a favor. Businesses need copywriters. Anyone with a website needs a copywriter. Especially people with any kind of e-commerce website. If they're looking for good writing, they want to hear from you. There's nothing bad or intrusive about contacting these businesses.

If you are a writer, you can be a great in-writing salesperson. Maybe you don't shine in in-person sales or over the phone, but you don't have to. If you can simply explain what you do and how it helps your customers, you'll get business--and you'll make sales.


Anonymous said...

I definitely shared your mindset on sales when I first started doing it. Once I realized that everyone else was focused on their product instead of selling themselves, I increased my network and selling skills big time. Sales is so vital to your personal brand because people buy you.

Great post!

Kathy@TheFlawlessWord said...

Funny, but I still steer clear of sales writing, for many of the reasons you list. If it were a product/service I believe in, I wouldn't be opposed to giving it a shot, though. And where's the link to the sales copy that earned you such a great testimonial?!!

Jennifer Williamson said...

@Christien: Sales definitely used to be the bane of my existence. Until I figured out it was just explaining how you can help clients and customers in the clearest way possible. Sales wasn't my thing, but explanations are doable.

@Kathy: I steered clear for a while too, but I started noticing sales writing paid a lot better than other stuff I was I decided to give it a shot. Now I'm thinking of changing the focus of my business to e-commerce and website copy. If you're interested, the link is here.