Most Underrated Sales Skill

This is the difference between good and great.

Let me start by asking you a question.

What are the top 3 skills needed by a salesperson to thrive in today’s world?

I got a variety of responses when I asked these questions to my friends and family. The common ones being

  • Persistence (The most common)
  • Resilience & Grit
  • Listening (Active Listening)
  • Social & Sociable
  • Empathy
  • Research

There were a few more, but we can club most of them into these categories.

In my experience, these skills are definitely crucial and go a long way in determining one’s sales success.

However, there is one skill that is quickly becoming one of the most critical determinants of an individual’s sales success- Copywriting (and Writing in general).

A great copy propels the reader towards a decision. Copywriting was once thought to be limited to B2C parlance and something that only marketers and advertisers needed to master. That wasn’t true then and definitely not now.

We can group Sales activities into two major buckets: ‘Opportunity Creation’ and ‘Opportunity Advancement’. Having excellent writing skills helps with both. Let’s see how.

Opportunity Creation

Emails have become the mainstay of outbound prospecting. Along with Cold Calling and LinkedIn, Emails are a great way to connect with decision-makers and persuade them to have the first discussion. However, an average person receives upwards of 120 business emails every day. A decision-maker probably receives much more.

It is very easy for your prospecting emails to be lost in this email land. That is where having excellent copywriting skills differentiate you. A good copy is the difference between a brilliant email that gets opened and responded to and a crappy email that gets deleted right away.

Your emails need to focus on the customer, their problems, and how you can solve them. Period. While it sounds easy, trust me, it is not. Good emails don’t just happen. They need hours of practice and work. Just like you can’t outsource your physical exercises to someone else; similarly, you can’t outsource your writing to others. You can get help in the form of templates and scripts, but the onus of creating that stellar email lies on you.

Opportunity Advancement

This includes activities like presentations, follow-ups, proposal, and closure. Your writing can completely change the game here. Let’s focus on proposals, to begin with. Many opportunities that you mature end up with clients sending out RFPs (Request For Proposal). This is especially true for large & complex deals involving multiple decision-makers. Your relationship with the client is important, but your proposal plays a huge role in deciding whether you get the deal or not.

Proposal writing can be daunting and is a separate topic in itself. There are teams dedicated to proposal writing and responding to bids. However, the ownership of the response and what the customer receives lies with the salesperson.

You can either fill the proposal with jargon, fluff, and gobbledygook. Or, be concise and address customer’s pain points compellingly and persuasively. And if you think that achieving that is easy, think twice. It is easy to write dense content and to include all kinds of self ego-boosting statements in a proposal but very difficult to cut to the chase, address the key points, and keep it short, compact and powerful. That stuff requires serious writing prowess.

In addition to writing and modifying proposals, you’ll also have to compose compelling follow-up emails and create sharp presentations to move the customers to the next level of discussions and the opportunity forward.

So what now?

Like any other skill, writing improves with practice. The more you write, the better you get at it. Whether you are someone just starting out in sales or a seasoned player trying to improve yourself, investment in your writing skills will give you an unparalleled return in your sales career.

Below are some of the strategies and resources that should help you along the way

  1. Books: On Writing Well (William Zinsser), On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (Stephen King), Persuasive Business Proposals (Tom Sant), The Ultimate Sales Letter (Dan Kennedy)
  2. Tools: Grammarly to help with your grammar and usage & to help simplify your language and make it engaging
  3. Practice: None of the above works without applying what you learn. Write as much as you can. Write blogs, articles, emails, proposals. One of the best strategies to improve your writing is summarizing long articles and documents. Try to capture the essence and share it with others (people will thank you for that). It will help you burn your language flab and make your writing tight and compelling.

Great writing can change the trajectory of your sales career. Do not underestimate its power. It’s never too late to work on it.

Musings About Sales, Productivity & Behavioral Science

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