Don’t you type at me in that tone of voice | the art of writing for sales.

Sir Terry Leahy knew it. He knew how important clear communication is. After all, Sir Terry was and still is, one of the most respected catalysts in the retail world. Knighted in 2002, he started his career stacking the shelves at Tesco, gradually working his way up to his post as CEO.

Sir Terry was an exceptional salesperson, and I suspect the reason for this talent was his ability to listen and observe. And then communicate.

"The best place to find the truth is to listen to your customer. They'll tell you what's good about your business and what's wrong. And if you keep listening, they'll give you a strategy."

And in the week where I am writing my own website copy, my need to communicate effectively is brought sharply into focus.  The ability to write persuasively is one of the key skills my clients ask for help with. And it goes far beyond ‘features and benefits’ (although that’s another blog in itself!).  The ability to write, creatively, whilst being true to your brand values, and selling at the same time is a tough ask for anyone!

And there is so much ‘free advice’ out there; how to, 5 easy steps, do it like this, just use this, do it like that…the offerings are endless. And yet business owners still ask me time and again for help and practical steps to create strong sales copy. Not all of us are born communicators, and yet if we don’t crack this particular nut, we are increasing the chances that our business will fail.

It might be web copy to ensure a website ‘sells’, rather than just tells. It might be a sales email or maybe a newsletter. We’ve all got to get writing. Why?

Well, communication has never been so overwhelmingly complex for small business and entrepreneurs. Back in the day, there was just ONE interface with the customer, which was quite literally a shop window – and maybe a billboard on the outskirts of town if the retailer had spare marketing budget to go multi-channel!

Today, that same retailer has, well, I won’t go there. According to one commentator, there are 120+ content delivery and marketing channels that marketers need to manage today (*smart insights) online and offline.

If you really want to mess with your head, take a look at the Google view on this mind-blowing truth of our times! Google Marketing Channel Database

So, there we have it – absolute proof that you’re going to need to communicate. And if you can’t communicate effectively – using the channels that your customer prefers – the end appears to be nigh. I’m sorry.

I’m lucky. I love writing. It’s one of my favorite past-times as well as being a key business tool. My love of words and writing goes back to my earliest years and has flourished throughout my career as I developed my copywriting skills for sales. I never stop learning, though.

So, what do you do if you don’t have the skills to write (yet!)? Your options are to hire a big fancy agency or a freelance copywriter to do the job for you. Or you can learn the craft of copywriting yourself. 

I would absolutely recommend the latter. Learning to communicate through the written word has been one of the most profitable and beneficial tools I now have in my sales kitbag. And the skills can be learned, trust me.

To overcome this obstacle in his day, Sir Terry insisted that his teams spent time with journalists. To help improve internal communication, Tesco employees were exposed to the newspaper industry to learn how to better communicate with more clarity and using fewer words.

And I would recommend your do the same – listen and observe. Get enlisted on a good sales copywriting course, watch the news and observe how you are fed the headlines, the sub-head, and the body copy. Search our delicious internet for tips on the craft of journalism and how these talented wordsmiths boil a story down to its pithy elements to create clear, concise and effective communication in column inches, where every word is precious and has a job to do.

Read advertising copy like it is going out of fashion – observe others copy, read all your competitor's sales material. Even better – don’t bother with your competitors, but instead, go to a sector, or brand that really inspires you and figure out why, by reading their copy.

Become a student of brand ‘tone of voice’ – how does one brand speak, versus another? What do you respond to and why? 

Get up from behind your desk, laptop or palm-whatsit and go out into the world and observe. Listen. Learn.

You – and your business bank account - will reap the rewards I promise.