How to Turn Words into Sales

Salesmanship shouldn’t be such a dirty word. Unfortunately, when we hear it, we still conjure up brash infomercials with pitchmen hawking their wares. But good salesmanship is more subtle and more personal. An informative salesperson at a store for running shoes or a helpful hotel concierge are masters at salesmanship and highly appreciated.

Being a good salesperson doesn’t mean selling someone something they don’t need. It doesn’t mean being intrusive or pushy. The core of sales centers around three things:

  1. Building a connection with a customer  
  2. Being a good listener
  3. Understanding a customer’s needs and offering a thoughtful solution

But how do you build a connection and listen when your first point of contact with your prospects is through a website or via online or print ads?

The answer lies in the ability to effectively communicate the “what’s in it for me” benefits your prospects gain from your product or service.

This has, and always will be, the core of good advertising. And advertising, as the famous ad man John E. Kennedy wrote in 1905, is nothing more than  “salesmanship in print.” Although things have changed quite a bit in the last century and print is now one of many advertising options, the fundamental message is still applicable. Advertising sells and in order for advertising to sell well, whether it’s on the web, over the airwaves or in print, it needs to connect with your target audience.

And the best way to do that is to write persuasive copy that communicates clearly and honestly with your prospects and customers.

Think of it as making a personal connection with words, just like an effective salesperson. To get started, keep the following in mind:


Businesses often lose sight of the goal of connecting with customers clearly when they put pen to paper. We’ve all seen it happen. It’s when, ”We’ll get back to you in two weeks with a solution that will solve your problem,” becomes “Let’s talk about circling back to discuss how our team will be leaning in to curate out-of-the-box solutions.” Say what?

There are some cases where industry jargon can be appropriate, but always assess your audience. If you’re writing for a trade publication or speaking at a trade conference, your audience will understand technical terminology and understand and even appreciate the industry speak.

But the best rule of thumb is, if you’re trying to communicate the benefits to consumers, be as clear and compelling as possible.


Despite what some ads propose, an app won’t increase your productivity by 500%, and that workout bench won’t give you a six pack in a week. Businesses shouldn’t play down their strengths, but they should also avoid sounding too good to be true. Hyperbole can be counterproductive and sow doubt instead of inspiring trust. We experienced this from our “best president ever” who was the healthiest and best and most loved by everybody. For his brand adherents, this confirmed what they already knew, while to others, the exaggeration rang false and sowed doubt and distrust.

A better bet–in advertising and in life–is under promising and over delivering. It’s a simple rule, but a powerful one. After all, who doesn’t appreciate the mechanic who tells you your car will be ready in five days and then has it done in three?


Finally, it’s OK to get emotional. Really. Advertising and sales must address both the features of a product and the benefits. The features of a mattress could be the quality of the springs and coils and a plush pillow top. But it’s the benefits that really address the emotion of a new bed. If you’re a tired new parent, maybe the benefit you want to hear about is that with this mattress you’ll sleep the entire night and not turn you into a monster the next day. 😉

Getting to the core emotions behind people’s purchases is important in both personal selling and copywriting because emotions are what drive purchases and sell products and services.