Copywriting is selling and 4 ways to get better at it

selling is the key I’m a Creative Conversion Specialist (a title I’m testing out to replace the well-worn and over-used “freelance copywriter” or “freelance writer”).

I help clients convert viewers to leads, and leads to sales. And that’s the key.

Copywriting is really all about selling.

Now, in addition to writing conversion copy for clients and for my own business, I also hire copywriters regularly. In spite of having easy access to 1,200 copywriters in my Copywriter Café group on Facebook, I’ve actually struggled sometimes with finding a good writer for my projects.

Hard to believe, right?

Well, I think I’ve figured out why. A lot of writers fancy themselves wordsmiths, but they don’t really understand the art and science of selling.

You can get by for quite a while without understanding selling, especially if you’re a content writer or content marketer. In that case, it’s not of prime importance to know how to sell.

But if your goal is to make good money as a copywriter, either writing for clients or for your own business, you have to fully grasp that copywriting is essentially selling in print (or online, of course).

Want to get on my go-to list of copywriters I hire when I have overflow work or I’m too busy with personal projects? Or for that matter, do you want to become known as a copywriter who “gets” selling?

If you and I are talking about a potential project, be prepared to answer these three questions (suggested by a wise mentor of mine):

  1. What do you like about sales?
  2. Why do you think you’re good at it (in writing, in person, or best – both)?
  3. What proof can you show me that you are?

That’s it.

Don’t worry if you don’t have great answers right now. Just like copywriting, selling is a learned skill. And you’ll use it in some way almost every day as a Creative Conversion Specialist (or whatever title you give yourself).

Here are a few ideas to help:

1. Learn how to ask good questions.

Contrary to common opinion, effective selling is more about listening than talking.

The better your questions and listening skills, the better you’ll be at selling. Whether you’re talking to potential clients on the phone, interviewing your clients’ customers, or writing your own self-promotional marketing materials, knowing what what questions to ask, and then listening, will improve your chances of success.

2. Write out scripts ahead of time.

Just like writing a good sales letter or landing page requires certain elements in a certain order, so does any sales script. Best not to wing it if the conversation could lead to a copywriting  project for you. Write out what you’re going to say, including questions you’re going to ask. Then practice.

3. Watch master sales people in action.

How do you do this? You could take mental notes when you’re sitting down with a good salesperson. For example, if you have a financial advisor, insurance agent, or attorney, pay close attention the next time you’re in a meeting with them. If you’re going to buy something, like an appliance, a suit, or a car, observe the sales person in action, and again, take mental notes.

Even better, ask an A-level copywriter how they handle sales conversations. I’m not an A-level copywriter, but I have been in direct sales since 1986, and it’s the only reason I’ve made it this far as a copywriter. I’ll be coming out with short YouTube videos, some ebooks, and a program on Selling for Copywriters soon. In the meantime, watch for more blog posts.

4. Read good books on selling.

We always talk about reading classic copywriting books, but I don’t see many people suggesting reading books on selling. Some of my favorites are How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling by Frank Bettger, Dale Carnegie’s classic How to Win Friends and Influence People, and Jeffrey Gitomer’s Little Red Book of Selling.

More than anything, as an aspiring copywriting rock star – writing for clients or yourself – understand that copywriting is selling, plain and simple.

You can listen to people talk all day about how “the content marketer is king” and “the content writer runs the show,” but in the end, it’s the copywriter who makes the sale and makes the big money.

Or should I say, the Creative Conversion Specialist.

Your thoughts on selling? I’d love to hear. Leave me a short comment here.

Steve Roller

Author Steve Roller

I'm a business coach, author, copywriter, world traveler (32 countries on five continents so far), and professional speaker. In addition to helping companies get more customers and make more money, I help other writers turn Big Ideas into profitable businesses. I offer one-on-one coaching, professional copy critiques, and three-day business-building immersion retreats. When I'm not writing, coaching, or speaking, I enjoy nothing more than hanging out with my wife and four kids and planning my next adventure.

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Join the discussion 8 Comments

  • Ed Estlow says:

    I agree 100% that a huge chunk of selling is asking questions and listening to the answers. To that end, I’d also recommend Harry Browne’s book, “The Secret of Selling ~ Anything.”

    And Bettger’s book is timeless – just like selling itself.

  • Alan Steacy says:

    Certainly to fulfill it’s intention, all marketing copy must move the prospect forward along the path to purchase. Our ability to listen deeply to and respond to the prospect’s expressed desires, needs and wants are critical to creating…whether in conversation or in copy…that primrose path to action.

    All good and timely points Steve. And two more books to place on my must read list!

    • Steve Roller says:

      Thanks, Alan. These three things – marketing, copywriting, and selling – are all interwoven. You don’t even have to master all three. Get pretty good at each one and you’ll become unstoppable.

      • Alan Steacy says:

        Presently reading “The Art of Manipulation” by R.B. Sparkman all about persuasion and selling. Out of print book, but there is a PDF version on the web.

        • Elvire Smith says:

          Great article, thanks Steve. Ordered the book How I raised myself … , already own How to win Friends, read it a couple of times, and can’t read it enough, Will order that Little Red book as well. All good stuff. Also downloaded that Art of Manipulation. So much to read, so little time!! (LOL). Thanks,

        • Steve Roller says:

          I’ll check it out, Alan. Thanks.

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