The 'write' way to sell

... the principles of writing to persuade others of your point of view.

The art of persuasion

We are all involved every day in persuading others to our point of view. This may involve something simple - what colour to choose for the new office design - or the more challenging prospect of persuading new prospects to buy our products or services. Since writing is also something we commonly do, it might seem writing persuasively should be a straightforward task. So often however we agonise over the right word or phrase, layout and structure, only to find the reader remains unconvinced. The real art of writing persuasively lies not so much in the actual writing, but in the preparation and planning. All too often these vital steps are missing or incorrectly focused.

Targeting your reader's needs

The main purpose of the preparation stage is to define the objectives of your writing - what outcome do you wish to achieve? It may be to make a sale, or simply to arrange a meeting. If you are not clear what you are trying to achieve, your writing will be 'fogged'. At the planning stage identify the key individuals you need to persuade. Remember there may be hidden 'influencers' you need to find - if it is your boss you are targeting, their PA may be this hidden influence. The most vital step in persuasive writing comes next - spell out the target individuals' needs and where possible get them agreed. It is these needs that will form the basis of your persuasive writing.

Match needs with benefits

Now write your proposal. Start with an overview of how the product or service will work, and how it will meet every one of your target's identified needs. Then cover the details, identifying clearly the benefits to your target. Again each one of your target's needs should have at least one associated benefit in your proposal. Ensure it is benefits and not just features of the product or service you are selling. Ask "So what?" of every benefit, until you are happy you have clearly identified the benefit from your reader's point of view. Finally ask for the specific course of action you would like your target to take, and spell out the timescale. For example, "Order our new software system by Monday 23rd and we can have it up and running within a month."

The most persuasive words

A Yale study found the 11 most persuasive words in the English language to be: you, save, guarantee, new, proven, results, discover, ease, money, health and love. Better still, choose the words your target will recognise and identify with. These may be the words they have used in a written explanation of their needs in a formal tender process, or the words you have agreed represent their needs in discussions at the planning stage. It is this focus on what is important to your reader that will transform your persuasive writing skills overnight.

choose the words your target
will recognise and
identify with

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