Can't Write? Can't Sell!

Tony Hughes


The risk of harming your brand reputation with sloppy writing in social selling is very real. But here's a big secret! Your greatest sellers are already your best writers. This makes one of the current debates raging in social media right now regarding whether salespeople should write, for all intents and purposes... moot.

Syntax? Grammar? Spelling? Is anybody paying attention? Do you know how much sloppy writing distracts and even distances your customer from the message that you're trying to give them?

Clarity? Simplicity? Ingenuity? Must-haves if you want to get a compelling business insight across to your dream customer. Let's talk about 'writing'... a word almost as dirty as 'attrition' in the salesperson's lexicon.

If you really think that your salespeople are not writing when they are selling to your most important clients, what do you think they're doing? They have a keyboard in front of them. They're answering texts. They're shooting emails and most importantly, they're devising the concepts contained in them - hopefully 'strategically' - in their minds. Let's not let them sabotage their own best ideas with stupid errors or confused expression.

Do you want to improve your sales cycle both in time and substance? Do you want to raise the closing percentage of your soon to be world class sales organization? Make sure that each element of your sales team has the tools to communicate as clearly, succinctly and as effectively as possible. That means knowing how to write forcefully and clearly.

There has been some confusion on this subject due to the concern of executives that sales team members should be working on selling and don't necessarily have to know about copywriting. But since the line of communication between your company and its customers is mostly maintained through the writing of its salespeople during the sales cycle, what better investment than to improve the writing skills of those who are actually the interface between you and your customers.

My theory is the following. After having invested a very small amount of training into basic syntax, grammar and spelling, the sales team should have at its disposal what I call The 'Manager Editor' who not only reviews what goes out from the sales team to the blogosphere, not only encourages clarity and brevity, but now has a much more hands-on knowledge of what actually is occurring between his sales team and customer base.

This is, in itself, a characteristic of inbound marketing which should shorten the sales cycle, give sales people a greater sense of control, and provide management with a simple set of data points that they can use to evaluate the quality of the sales cycle and the quality of the salesperson.

Some have argued that giving salespeople this kind of freer rein may have the potential to erode the standardization of sales processes. However, there is a greater liability in sending every customer generic content when we know that the personalized, individualized, insight-driven communication is more likely to keep the customer engaged, so the cycle can come to a successful conclusion.

As confidence grows in the individual sales person's own ability to find their voice and be on the fast track toward more masterful writing, they will simultaneously fast track their ability to close sales. The power of you company's communication - verbally and in writing - is commensurate with your power to close business.

My experience shows that most salespeople have blocks when it comes to communicating in writing to their customers. Uncertainties about the right word, the right phrase, etc., abound, and cause delays in their efficiency. Thus, I see that a minimum of training about writing - helps them to clear up their own misgivings and concerns, which will ultimately be an investment that will pay back in spades with more time available for selling.

For any major executive who becomes white knuckled thinking about this concept, think of empowering your sales managers as editors, and you will find that conditions will improve immediately. By the way, believe it or not, many of these sales managers are already doing this... and it's working! The better you coach your writers, the more likely you could end up with a pool of quality public speakers for your next customer-centred event!

As executives, we have all experienced embarrassment at improper or weak outbound messaging from our staff. The 'Manager Editor' will shore up the levies that will ensure that garbage doesn't overflow toward a customer.

Sales and marketing must reach a detente. One of the greatest risks to a consistent corporate message is weak or incorrect verbiage. An executive, in a customer's firm, who receives sloppy writing will often dismiss the entire message, even a deal, even the entire company on the basis of that one fatal mistake. Am I overexaggerating? Not a bit. After all, there are a dozen competitors in every deal, so you can distinguish yourself on a positive basis or be cut out completely on the basis of something as simple as misspelling the executive's first name!

The editing function will dovetail perfectly with social media governance. This way, you allow for the greatest amount of creativity but still ensure the message is consistent, much like the traditional journalistic editor whose power to create clear content is legendary.

How are the largest and most successful companies solving this important problem now? They are NOT!...because they're overlooking the leverage they would gain in sales if they would just improve the quality of the output.

Clients ask, "What about the phone, Tony?" The answer is obvious. The better, the clearer, the more solid the writing, the more likely that every phone call will be more valuable. Engaging content that is not peppered with silly spelling, platitudes or grammatical errors will have the most dramatic effect on creating more face to face interviews and more efficient and qualified phone interaction. This will have a more dramatic impact on your pipeline than banal phone scripts and high pressure closing tactics that are relics from a bygone era.

The face of your brand includes the everyday content delivered by your brightest salespeople and unfortunately, the most lackadaisical. Are you reading it? I would argue that if you're generals are not reading it, editing it and injecting insight into it, you are leaving millions of dollars on the table. Incisive writing, coupled with editorial control, are the table stakes of the sales leaders of the next two decades. CEOs - your future and that of your salespeople depends on it! The extinction of the field sales function is not inevitable. Create indispensability. Create better writers.

There is a battlefield of wounded, highly qualified, editorial and copy experts who would rise from the dead for the opportunity to be hired to help achieve these goals. Just as we have sales engineers, why not deploy a phalanx of 'sales editors' as a consultants to your organization? Thus, hundreds of years of experience in getting a clear message out in the print media can now be used as a weapon for your sales team. Arm them!


Tony Hughes is ranked as the #1 influencer on professional selling in Asia-Pacific and is a keynote speaker and best selling author. This article was originally published in LinkedIn where you can also follow Tony's award winning blog. Also visit Tony's keynote speaker website at or his sales methodology website at

Main image photo by Flickr: John O'Nolan


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