“Salesy.” It’s a term I hear all too often. Especially when people (clients) tell me “My brand isn’t salesy,” or “I don’t want to come across as too salesy.”
In my experience, the pushback isn’t against sales in general. No one wants to feel slimy or be perceived as that door-to-door salesperson. But selling? It’s essential for success and longevity in business. The job of your copy is to set up the expectation (and potential benefit) of working with you while telling your story. It’s also about guiding people about how to work with you next with compelling CTAs.
In order to have a business you want sales. But sales don’t happen unless you put yourself out there.
I often say, “This isn’t the Field of Dreams. Just because you build it doesn’t mean they’ll come.” In fact, “If you build it, they will come,” has no place in business. In a recent chat, my friend Aly Goulet reframed this nicely, saying, “It’s more like if you build it, they may see it, but you still have to sell it.”
Why? Because just crafting something special doesn’t guarantee an audience. To thrive in business, you need sales. But here’s the nuance: it’s not about pushing; it’s about connecting with people who need your product or service and desperately want someone to sell it to them.
So, how do you bridge the gap? With sales copy that tells your story and speaks directly to what your audience wants. It’s the language that shows your audience what’s in it for them. It’s the conversation that positions your product or service as the solution they’ve been seeking.
In a recent live video, I went into more detail here. Tune in to learn more about understanding your audience, crafting headlines that grab attention, and why an effective call-to-action is your new best friend. Dive in with me, and let’s redefine selling.
Prefer the reader’s cliff notes? Here goes.
People often say they don’t want to come across as salesy when writing copy, but the truth is that your customers want to be sold to.
However, they don’t want a slimy or pushy sales approach, which is why so many people, especially early-stage startups and founders, shy away from anything resembling sales language in their copy.
To succeed in business, you need sales. While traditionally, this happened through conversations with customer, it’s not a reality in today’s world.
And since all interactions can happen verbally, it’s important to understand your audience and their needs in order to reach them effectively.
Copywriting plays a crucial role in attracting and converting customers by addressing their problems and guiding them towards the next step.
It’s not about being overly salesy, but rather delivering an authentic message that resonates with potential clients’ desires and expectations.
Building awareness of your brand requires effort since simply building something doesn’t guarantee customers will come.
Instead of fearing being too salesy, focus on delivering an authentic message that meets customer needs while providing valuable solutions.
Tips for Writing Sales Copy Without Being Salesy
- Understand the audience, their wants, where they hang out, and the problems they need solved.
- Create sales copy that focuses on attracting the audience with a great headline, addressing their needs, and guiding them towards taking action.
- Include call-to-action buttons that direct visitors to the next step, such as booking a demo or downloading a resource.
- Flip the script so instead of thinking about being salesy, you find a message that feels authentic and makes people want to be sold to.
- Consider the different stages and messages needed for different types of customers, such as skeptics, prospects, and marketing qualified leads.
- Identify how to show up and communicate effectively at each stage.
- Think of sales as service or finding a solution to their problem.
Want to skip to a specific section? Here’s a quick overview of what to expect and where to find it.
Take a peek through the below timestamps so you can find exactly what you’re looking for to get some audio.
Chapter 1: Introduction to Copywriting and Salesy Language
Discussion about the misconception of being salesy in copywriting
Importance of understanding the audience and their needs
The role of conversation in sales calls
Chapter 2: Copywriting vs. Content Writing
Differentiating between copywriting and content writing
The spectrum of copywriting and the need for sales-focused content
The importance of attracting the audience with great headlines and addressing their needs
The focus on conversion and guiding the audience towards the desired action
Chapter 3: Balancing Sales Language and Authenticity
Addressing the fear of coming across as salesy
The importance of having clear call-to-actions and guiding the audience
Understanding that copywriting is not about pushing people to do something they don’t want to do
Providing information and options for the audience to make informed decisions
Chapter 4: Building Awareness and Conveying the Message
Acknowledging the need to build awareness and communicate what the business offers
Comparison to the movie “Field of Dreams” and the misconception of “if you build it, they will come”
Emphasizing the importance of telling people about the business and what it offers
Overcoming resistance to sales language and focusing on authentic messaging
Chapter 5: Understanding Different Stages and Messages
Addressing the different stages of the customer journey
Importance of tailoring messages for skeptics, prospects, marketing qualified leads, and potential customers
Balancing authenticity and mirroring the conversation at each stage
Offering to discuss messaging strategies and the different stages in more detail
Chapter 6: Conclusion: Service vs. Sales
Highlighting that selling is ultimately about providing the message people need to be successful
Viewing sales as a service rather than a pushy approach
Want to read along as you watch or listen?
Here’s a transcript of the video. (Beware of AI-transcription errors ???? )
So a lot of times people come to me and they’re like, so I’m writing copy, but I want to make sure we’re not salesy. And it always creates a really interesting discussion because your people want to be sold to. So I just made a post on LinkedIn the other day and I’ll make sure to drop a link in the comments here so that you can find it.
But ultimately people want to be sold to, but they don’t want to be sold to in a slimy way. And I think that’s what most people mean when they say, I don’t want to be overly salesy in my coffee or My brand is not salesy. So it’s especially true with people who are relatively new to being in business, who are in a passion driven startup, who it’s their baby and they want to make sure that they are being fully authentic in their brand.
So there’s a couple of things that happen here. The first is that no one wants to come across as overtly salesy. However, you need sales in order to succeed in your business. So how do you get those sales if you’re not being salesy in your copy? If you’re one to one, it’s really about a conversation. And in fact, a friend of mine said those are the best sales calls, when it feels like this happy conversation between friends and we’re just talking about the problem.
I’m listening to them and then I tell them how I tackle it and then we go from there. And I think that’s super true. Those are the best sales conversations. But you can’t have every sales conversation verbally. You can get every person that you’re selling to on the phone or via Zoom. But how do you get them there in the first place if they’re not aware of you?
The fact of the matter is you have to come to them wherever they are. And that means understanding your audience, understanding what they want, understanding where they hang out, and understanding the problems that they think they need solved. Because inherently what you do for your audience isn’t necessarily what they think you do.
Sure, I provide brand messaging and copywriting to my audience, but they don’t usually come to me and say, I need a copywriter, I need brand messaging.
They come to me saying, my website is not converting. Or they come to me saying any number of other things about their business problems. I’m just not converting people. There’s some kind of a disconnect between what my marketing says and what they expect when they get in the phone and on and on. So to solve that, you have to have sales copy. And when you talk about copy versus content, people in this space marketers tend to think of copy as more sales focused and content as being more informational based.
So blog content and infographics would be in the content side of things, whereas what goes on your website, what goes on your sales and landing pages, what goes any number of other places and other copywriting assets that is inherently more sales focused.
But I would argue that there’s a spectrum, meaning that everything that you put out on behalf of your business needs to have some focus on copywriting, some focus on what’s going to attract them with a great headline, some focus on what they desperately need to know, why they are coming into you. And thirdly, it needs to be focused on conversion. What is it that they are going to do to take action with you.
Understanding these pieces is what will inherently and that is my word of the day, is what will inherently build those connections with your audience. So if you can figure out what they want, you can speak directly to that in your website copy or in anything else that you’re writing.
So let’s back it up a step. We’ve talked about what the problem is and a little bit about why it’s a problem, but it still comes back to the idea that people don’t want to be, they don’t want to come across as salesy.
And I think what most people mean when they say that is they don’t want to be the slimy sales team who is just going to tell people whatever they want to hear to get it right or to be overly pushy like buy bye bye. But in your copy, people want to know what happens next.
They’re not going to stick around and keep reading if it doesn’t feel like the right fit. So if you’ve handled the audience, if you’ve aligned this to what they deeply want, if you have done some of these other things at that point, it’s then about having the call to actions that guide them to the next step.
So in this case, I haven’t told you what the case is. In the case of website copy, your hero section needs to have a call to action that directs them to the next possible call or the next action you want them to take, which for most people is a call or booking a demo.
What is the ultimate action they want to take the next step with you? Maybe it’s downloading a resource, whatever that looks like. That needs to be the primary action because if they don’t have some kind of guidance, people won’t know what to do or how to interact with you.
So if you think of it in terms of a client relationship, if they were already a client, you need to tell them what’s happening next so that they have this expectation and they truly, truly understand what these pieces look like. So what does that mean?
It means that you’re going to have some sales language in your copy, but it does not mean that you’re pushing people to do something that they don’t want to do.
It’s the Internet and it’s not like you have them trapped in a room where they feel awkward standing up and leaving. In fact, it’s not that kind of a situation at all. If it doesn’t feel right or they’re not interested, they are going to leave.
And if you think of copy as every line of copy having one role, which is to either get you to read the next line of copy or to get you to take action, you’re able to think of it as a pyramid or maybe as a funnel, as an inverted pyramid. So to go back to this, it’s not slimy to sell to people, especially if it’s something they’re interested in, because they are going to continue to hang around.
If they’re reading, it’s moving them to the next line, it’s moving them to whatever that action is. It is not slimy if they want to be sold to, and your people really do want to be sold to, they need to be sold to.
Unless you are launching with this enormous platform of millions of people or hundreds of thousands of people or even thousands of people who are hanging on to your every word, a lot of what you’re doing when you’re in startup mode is building awareness of what you do. That means you have to talk about it. That means that to become known for what you do, you have to tell people what you do.
So a lot of times you’ll hear me talking about the Field of Dreams and Field of Dreams analogies, like the movie Field of Dreams, if you’re not aware of it, is this guy in Iowa who builds this baseball field and he’s been told if you build it, they will come.
And sure enough, there’s a baseball game. It’s a famous baseball game with famous players, many of whom may not be alive anymore. This isn’t the field of dreams. The business world, especially in the online business realm, is not the field of dreams. Just because you build it does not mean they will come. We’re not all Ryan Reynolds with our aviation gin who we can just mention a product and people flock to it.
For most of us, we have to do some work to build the audience, to build awareness of who we are and what we do. So let’s look at this in a couple of other ways. And I want to tell you, we all do this by the way, everyone in business, especially if we’re in startup mode. It’s like, man, I just don’t want to come across as overly salesy. Even me. Even me who has these conversations with my clients.
When I launched my last course, I was like, oh, I have a resistance to some of this language. It feels too salesy. And my friend Veronica was like, Erin, I want you to sell to me. I have a problem, and this is the solution. I want to know about it. So instead of thinking about it from I don’t want to be salesy. Try to flip that conversation.
Try to say something along the lines of, if people were obsessing over what I am telling them, how would they want to be sold? What kind of message will make them want to be sold to? And I think if you’re able to flip that script, you’re able to move out of a place to I don’t want to be salesy to I want to be authentic when I’m selling, which means finding some of those. Pieces, so that they can feel authentic, so that it doesn’t feel slimy, so it doesn’t feel like a door to door salesman.
So it doesn’t feel like the guy who calls and you cannot get him off the phone. Sort of like handing the phone to your two year old or hanging up. I have incidentally handed the phone to my two year old before, and it’s fun, but it gets the point across. Like, I don’t want to have this conversation anymore. But again, it’s not about being overly salesy.
It is about finding the right message so that the sales part feels authentic and it mirrors whatever that conversation would look like. If you have questions on this, I would absolutely love to chat with you about the different stages, the different messages people need at different stages, whether they’re a skeptic, whether they’re a prospect, whether they’re marketing qualified, whether they’re hot to trot, and whether they’re ready to become a new customer. So if we want to talk about that, more than happy to do so.
Some of the messaging and some of the ways people will need to show up. With all that said, though, you’re not being salesy. If you’re selling to people, you are giving them the message that they need to be successful and realistically. That’s service. It’s not sales.