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Selling is Often About a Single Word

February 3, 2015

 

One of my first gigs as a consultant was rewriting a sales deck. The client was a veteran entrepreneur with a ton of experience. We had an initial call to discuss the kind of improvements he was looking for and then he sent me the document.

 

My first impression of the sales deck was that his offer was great, but the writing was poor. His style was a bit chunky and awkward. Of course, I thought I could do much better. So I rewrote most of the deck, and sent him a first draft. He was pretty happy with it, but he told me that there were a few slides that I wasn’t quite getting.

 

So we decided to have a call and work through those slides in real time. The objective was to convey a benefit in the best way possible. He offered a bunch of wording suggestions—and I thought they were all very clunky and awkward, like all of this writing. I offered my own suggestions. We went back and forth like this for about 30 minutes. Then, he said something that, at the time, totally caught me off guard:

 

“Your weakness is that you don’t know how to incorporate a sales hook in your writing.”

 

I was—to be honest—a bit shocked and insulted. Who was this guy to tell me my writing was weak? I smouldered with resentment.

 

Then he went on to explain what he meant. That lesson turned out to be one of the best I’ve ever had.

 

Sales writing doesn’t necessarily have to be fantastic writing (although it can). It doesn’t depend on eloquence, polished prose, or poetry. It has to do with a hook, and that hook is often a single word. But it has to be a real word. An honest word. No  “solutions” or “turnkey” or “professional”. It has to be a word that truly resonates with your target market.

 

In the case of my client, that word was “battle-tested.”  When he first said he wanted to put that in the deck, I cringed. Why not “experienced” or “senior” or “veteran”?

 

“Because those are bulls--t words,” he said. “They’ve been used to death and they don’t mean anything any more. They’re fluff. If my prospects read those words, they’ll get turned off. Battle-tested will resonate with them. These guys battle every day to get up in the morning and work. They battle against the competition. They win. If I use that word, they’ll know exactly what I mean and they’ll know I’m one of them.”

 

So battle-tested it was. And the presentation was better. Instead of just filling space, the word jumped out and really meant something.

 

So when you write—and when you talk—think hard about those words. Find the real ones that have meaning. The ones that show your prospects that you’re one of them and you understand their point of view. It will be hard. Very hard. You might spend hours trying to find those words. But when you do, you’ll start selling.

 

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