Every business is in sales.

But not everyone feels comfortable selling.

As someone who writes sales copy for a living, that’s worked out great for me. I get hired to craft the persuasive sales pieces that even crack entrepreneurs are sometimes afraid to touch.

But what do you do when you don’t have the luxury of getting someone else to put together your all-important sales messages?

And what about working with copywriters? Even a seasoned pro will do a better job selling your product when you’ve already worked out some of the details yourself.

Whichever situation you’re in, I have a focusing exercise that can help you generate one solid selling idea after another, even if you’ve never done it before.

In my years of writing copy for information products, I’ve never seen this method fail. And I’m certain it can work for all kinds of products in all kinds of markets, and targeting all kinds of customers.

It might look a little complicated. But it gets easier as you go along. And even more effective each time you repeat the process.

You start with five sheets of paper spread out on a table.

Write the following, one item per sheet:

1. The Target

2. The Product

3. Credibility

4. The Facts

5. The Offer

Now, start building piles on top of those sheets of paper …

1. The Target

Pile up a customer profile. Warm up with the general, aim for the specific. Use demographics and mailing lists. Surveys and focus groups. Attend a conference, sit in the back and write down phrases that make heads nod. Eavesdrop on after-talk conversations with speakers. Talk to customer service. Visit related chat rooms and ask questions. Pick a friend most like your customer and hand-write a personality profile for him that would make the FBI proud. Then move on to building the next pile.

2. The Product

Start this pile with a sample of the product you’re selling. If it’s a newsletter, start with a year’s worth of issues. On a piece of paper, list features. Print out e-mails to customers. Tally up track records. Interview the editor or owner about product history. Take it apart like a watch and make notes. Limit this pile to notes and clippings directly from the core product. Next pile.

3. Credibility

Start with testimonial letters. Then read surveys. Look for customers to contact and interview. Especially those with a detailed success story. Pile up clippings about the editor or the product. You’re looking for things that would make it into the foreword of a biography or the liner notes of a book. Interview editors over the phone. Jot down notes on their school and career experience. But get personal too. In this pile, third-party validation, personal stories, and track record are what count.

4. The Facts

Photocopy information-based products for charts, tables, and statistics. Scan the editorial for recommended reading … then look for supporting logic in those recommended texts. Collect copies of sourced articles. Surf the Web using keywords creatively. Google.com is the search engine to use. Don’t bookmark. Print out articles instead. Eight to 10 relevant articles should be good enough. Facts validate emotional sales pitches. Gather to over-prove. You’ll cut the excess during revision.

5. The Offer

Save this last pile for premiums, past guarantees, and specs on price, delivery, and extras (like websites, telephone hotlines, customer service numbers, address, and reply instructions). Question the history and logic of product price. How does it compare with similar services? Set a deadline on orders that makes sense. These details are essential. Knowing the offer beforehand will give you focus.

If you’ve done this right, your table should be sagging.

Now, you’ll knock out each pile, one by one, converting research into marketable ideas.

Take a stack of 3 x 5 index cards. Start with the first pile. Piece by piece, take notes. One sales point per card. If you can, write your notes as copy. When you come across a feature, write it on the card as a benefit. Turn hot stories into headlines. Resist the temptation to fill both sides of a card.

At this stage, don’t try to edit your ideas. Just open the floodgates and let them flow.

When you’ve gone through all the piles, you’ll have more knowledge about your product than you ever had before. And many more ideas on how it could be sold.

You can put your scraps of information, your article clippings, and everything else aside. Because now everything you’ll need is on the index cards.

At this point, I recommend you take a break. An hour. An afternoon. Even overnight. Then come back to the cards with fresh eyes, so you can strip out distracting points, redundancies, and things that just don’t feel like they belong.

Once again, we’re refining. Polishing.

When that’s done, you’re going to do some sorting according to the sales-pitch structure you’ve decided to use. The model you’ve seen recommended most in ETR is PPPP — Promise, Picture, Proof, Push. So let’s work with that one.

The Promise pile gets all the cards that best describe product benefits …

The Picture pile gets the descriptive cards that make the benefits or the emotional context of the pitch feel vivid.

In the Proof pile, place any cards with strong statistics, facts, figures, and testimonials …

Finally, in the Push pile, put any cards that seem most related to describing the offer.

With this technique, creativity is almost automatic … simply a sorting exercise. If you’ve done your work right, you can almost pick up each pile of cards in the proper PPPP order and start typing.

If you still feel overwhelmed, reorganize your ideas within each of the four piles. (The more experienced you become, the less necessary this will be.)

Give it a try. There is no better way to train your mind to spot selling ideas within a pile of untamed information.

I’m sure you’ll be impressed with the results.

P.S. For more tips on developing your sales message … and turning ideas into promotions that can drive your business … check out the world’s premier copywriting program from American Writers & Artists Inc. In their Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting, you’ll discover the secrets behind one of the biggest, most lucrative, and least well-known industries in the world.

And be sure to sign up for my weekly “Copywriter’s Roundtable” e-letter. It’s one of the longest running letters for marketers and copywriters online (since 2001) … one of the best, according to top copywriter Bob Bly … and free. You can sign up here, where you’ll also get a free report: http://copywritersroundtable.com.


John Forde's 15-year career as a top copywriter started as an understudy of Bill Bonner and Michael Masterson. Since then, John has written countless winning controls, has generated well over $30 million in sales, and has successfully launched dozens of products. He's also worked three years as a financial journalist and has written books on wealth building and health, as well as more than 250 articles on copywriting for his popular ezine, The Copywriter's Roundtable. John has taught copywriting in private seminars and conferences in Paris, London, Bonn, Chicago, Buenos Aires, Baltimore, and Warsaw. He currently lives and works from Paris, France.

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