Robert Louis Stevenson said, "Everyone lives by selling something." You sell yourself with a resume or portfolio. You sell your company news with a press release. You sell your ideas and expertise with promotional materials, website content and corporate communications.
In business communications, the power of words lies in their capacity to change behavior. Whatever your objectives, you can achieve more by choosing words that sell. How?
Inform and Intrigue
Inform and intrigue your reader with a clear benefit statement. Tell your reader specifically what they will gain by taking the action you suggest:
- With your approval of the software upgrade, we can reduce project overruns by 20% within seven days.
- By partnering with Sally Bacchetta for this project, Your Company will gain expanded creative services and unique insight into the pharmaceutical industry.
- Attend this workshop and learn how to close more sales today.
Each of the preceding statements answers the question that is always foremost in your reader's mind: "What's in it for me?" If you develop your communication around a clear benefit statement you increase the likelihood of a favorable response. (There's another one for you.)
Behavior is often driven by emotion. Whether you're making a request or selling a product or idea, you will be most successful by using language that promotes positive emotions.
For example, I wouldn't purchase anything that I think is cheap, but I appreciate a bargain as much as anyone, and I feel even better about a cost-effective solution. Why is that? Because the word 'cheap' connotes shoddy or inferior quality and makes me feel like I've made a poor decision. On the other hand, if I find a 'cost-effective solution' I feel smart and confident. I'll take two!
Respect Your Reader's Mind
Show respect for your reader's intelligence by avoiding outlandish claims and hyperbole. That's not positivity; that's overselling. Most people are sophisticated enough to be wary of words like 'revolutionary' and 'marvel', because so few things truly are. If you're using words to hype yourself or your product, chances are you haven't clearly defined your benefit statement. Begin again there, because if you don't know why I should hire you - or subscribe to your newsletter or visit your website - how are you going to motivate me to do so?
Respect Your Reader's Time
We each have twenty-four hours to spend today. Every word you write draws time from your reader and draws your reader either closer or further in relationship to you. Respect their time by getting to the point sooner than later. State your objective early so that your reader has a mental framework for the rest of your communication.
If you think you have to lure your reader in and then spring a pitch, you should find someone else to write for you. Seriously. Struggling through page after page of teaser copy, searching desperately for the bottom line, is just plain frustrating. If you believe in your purpose, make it clear.
Selling anything requires self-action before other-action. The surest method for choosing words that sell is to find words that sound like you. Find words that feel right. If you can't imagine saying, "Discover the secret that millions already know. Order before midnight tonight!", then don't write that.
Remember that your written communication is an introduction or a supplement to you. The words you choose tell your reader who you are, so represent yourself authentically, and write the way you speak.
Your writing will be stronger if you develop a habit of checking your internal power gauge when you write. Have you chosen words that motivate and influence? Is your writing interesting? Does it sound like you? Yes, yes, and yes? Sold!
Subscribe to receive my monthly Onwords™ column, and join me next month to learn ten powerful one-liners.
Copyright © 2006 by Sally Bacchetta. All rights reserved.