Why salespeople freeze when they write

February 04, 2010 | Verbal communication, Writing

I’ve worked with lots of salespeople. Most of them have the gift of gab. Salespeople have to be talkers because the sales process involves a lot of dialogue.

But all the talk invariably concludes with a written document, a sales proposal of some type. That is when salespeople go wading into the less comfortable environment of the written word.

I have seen many of them freeze when it was time to write. First, they procrastinate. Then, they sit tentatively in front of an open word processing file, their shoulders rising up with tension. The words that normally rolled so melodiously off their tongues were squeezed out in tortured drips and drabs when the communication needed to be delivered in writing.

It was painful to watch. And the resulting document was usually as tortured as the writing process.

So why the deviation between spoken and written word?

Common wisdom says that conversation is casual and writing formal. Right there is a big part of the problem.

Given that salespeople treat the written sales proposal as a formal discourse, they suddenly take on what I call the “cloak of erudition.” In other words, they feel that because they are writing the language must become formal and sophisticated. So they roll out the big, fancy words and the profound phrasings.

Instead what they get is tortured prose; language that doesn’t communicate well.

The easiest way to get around this mental divide is to think of writing as talking on paper. In fact, if you’re a salesperson that’s exactly what you should do. Get alone in a room, turn on a recorder, imagine the buyer sitting across the table from you and start talking. No doubt, too many colloquialisms will come out. That’s okay because they’re easy to clean up later.

Just talk the first draft and then revise into a final draft.

Now you’re putting your gift of gab to work for yourself in a different medium. Allow your talent for speaking to cross over to your writing. Then your writing will actually sound like YOU and the previous conversations with your prospect.

The last thing you want is your sales proposal to sound like it came from a different person, or that it’s some vapid off-the-shelf template. The last thing you want is for your prospect to think or say, “This doesn’t sound like what we talked about.”

That kind of dissonance can prompt misgivings from the buyer. It could delay or even cost you the sale.

So here’s the upshot: Stop thinking of writing as formal. Think of it instead as conversational. Talk on paper.

When your writing becomes more conversational it becomes more readable. Formal writing tends to be stilted. It’s less interesting, more difficult to read and lacking in personality. The less personality in our writing the less chance of people being drawn to it and feeling an emotional connection.

You’ve already worked hard to create a personal connection with your client. Don’t up-end that hard work by hitting your buyer with a sales proposal that reads like a distant and unrecognizable voice from the wilderness.