Email writing

Writing to Sell

Here’s a quick quiz on writing to sell.

Question 1: True or false, “longer sales messages work better than shorter sales messages”.

Question 2: True or false, “People don’t want to read what you write.”

Question 3: True or false, “email is still the best marketing channel not social media.”

Question 4: True or false, “copywriting, not content makes sales”

If you answered “true” to at least 2 of these questions, give yourself a pat on the back – you know quite a bit about selling online. However, if you got even one wrong, then there’s still more for you to learn.

Fortunately, you’re about to discover everything you need to know about writing to sell inside this blog post.

So, roll up your sleeves, make yourself a drink, and let’s delve into the world of influencing people to buy…

But first a word of introduction.

The accidental copywriter.

Five long months of struggling to make a decent sale and now it’s come to this.

“Give me one last chance.” I asked.

“Why should we?”

“Because there’s a seminar in London with a marketing guy from America. And they are the best in the world at selling.

You hired me because you saw first-hand, I was selling over 20 burglar alarms a week.

All I need is some guidance on writing to sell.”

“Okay, one last chance, if you fail, you’re out.”

Writing to sell is the hardest task I’ve ever set myself.

If I knew what I know now I doubt I would have ever become a copywriter.


It’s almost the opposite to selling in person.

When you’re with someone who is thinking of buying what you sell you have immediate feedback on what you’ve just said.

Their body language.

Their excitement levels.

And their tone of voice.

When you’re writing to sell, you have none of these.

But you do have one advantage.

And it’s the best one of all.

As you might guess it’s research.

If you’re writing to sell, always use this approach.

Writing to sell
When Writing to Sell

First Your Reader.

Second Your Product

Third Your Offer.

Think of it as a ‘Writing to sell Triangle Treasure Map.’

Here’s why – here’s how.

First Your Reader.

Your reader has a set of emotions around their desire for your product.

Whenever I’m writing to sell, the first thing I do is go to my library and pull out the book, “Emotionomics” by Dan Hill.

To me I think of his explanations on feeling as an artist’s palette of emotions.

The primary colours are…

Emotions count when writing to sell

Happiness. Surprise. Anger. Disgust. Sadness. Fear.

They are the primary emotions in that they are the most intense.

You have two positive and four negative emotions.

Let’s start with the four negative emotions. Anger. Disgust. Sadness. Fear.

Get this:

Anger and fear are great motivators.

Anger when directed at a common enemy can be powerful at connecting deeply with your reader so she feels you get her.

When you can ‘point a finger’ at something your reader hates, she is with you all the way.

Anger is a powerful, motivating force to bring out in your reader every time you’re writing to sell.

You could point out how inflation is causing hardship to millions of people.

Disgust is similar in that you can be disgusted at the way a common enemy (like the government) is raising taxes.

Sadness can be used to demonstrate how awful it is when a hard working business owner faces losing everything because of the economy since the covid pandemic.

And fear is an obvious (and overused) scare tactic.

You’re aiming to find a dominant emotion and a few of its closest allies that have hijacked your reader’s mind and wrap your message around them.

Next you need to know if your reader has a problem that needs fixing or a desire they want to attain.

Why is this important?

Because when you’re writing to sell you cater to someone who is either moving towards a goal of moving away from a problem.

Towards words:

– Attain

– Achieve

– Goals

– Accomplish

Away from words:

– Avoid

– Get away from

– Evade

– Escape

– Exclude

As you can clearly see, someone with a desire has a different set of needs than someone with a problem.

Just let this sink in for a moment because you write to the ‘towards’ motivation differently than the ‘away’ motivation.

For example, if you’re writing to sell on Facebook focus on the positive, towards motivation.

If you choose Google ads, or You Tube focus on solving problems and ‘away from’ motivation.

Whenever I go on Facebook I see images, photos and videos on the brighter side of life.

However, when I search on Google or YouTube it’s because I’m trying to find an answer to a pressing problem.

Or as Ben Feldman says, “problems have price tags.”

Think of Facebook like going to a party and Google is like the Yellow Pages.

One thing I want to stress.

Don’t overthink the research on your reader.

And always remember, keep in mind, and etch in stone that when you’re writing to sell everybody is pretty much the same.

Everyone is the same when writing to sell
Everyone is the same when writing to sell

Everybody’s most intimate thoughts are essentially EVERYBODY’S most intimate thoughts.

What you were thinking before you found a solution to a problem is what almost everyone else is thinking right now who have that same problem.

Everyone feels stuck and uncertain how to get unstuck.

That means you are selling certainty EVERY time you’re writing to sell.

Everybody is sceptical and untrusting.

Which means you must supply a ‘preponderance of proof.’

Skip this and you may as well not write anything.

Something else I want to say…

Your reader is asking you these questions:

“Can I trust you?

“Do you really have my best interests in mind or are you just here to make a sale?”

“What is this, what’s in it for me and can you prove it?”

“Will it really give me what I want and need?”

“Do I really need it now?”

Make sure you answer all these questions before you start writing to sell.

Everybody BLAMES a group or ideology for their circumstances.

Or as I’m often quoted as saying, “life is not the same without someone else to blame.”

We touched on this earlier with the ‘common enemy’ theme.

Everybody thinks the grass is always greener on the other side.

Surprisingly enough, one of my favourite strategies whenever I’m writing to sell is to have my reader imagine a new life without this problem solved or living in a world where they’ve surpassed their dreams.

If you sell improvement forget it, it’s like trying to put a saddle on a cow.

The cow doesn’t want it, and you look like an idiot for trying.

When you try to sell improvement, your reader must admit to themselves that they’ve failed at something.

That’s not a good look. ☹

Make no mistake, readers like the ‘new.’

That’s why it’s better to sell them a NEW way of being, or a NEW life where they get to leave the past behind them forever.

Everyone thinks “gatekeepers” hold them down.

By gatekeepers I mean outside forces, or circumstances beyond their control, or even an unhappy childhood.

Tell them why it’s not their fault and you move the “YES” decision another step closer.

Eliminate what they hate.

That reminds me something Stuart Francis once said. “I hate scrabble so much I can’t put it into words. Hate is a strong word, hated is even stronger!”

When writing to sell remember your readers have a list of tasks in their mind that they hate.

The great news is if you know what they are ahead of time, you can eliminate them one by one.

More about that later, for now let’s take direct response copywriting and look at it from the business owner’s perspective.

Q. What do they hate?

A. Trying to sell their product or service using sleazy sales methods.

Q. What things do they not want to do?

A. Sit and write for hours.

Think up ways to get people to buy.

Spend money trying to learn copywriting.

Q. What results do they want without doing those things?

A. Increased sales. New customers coming on their email list. More repeat purchases from existing customers.

Q, Why have they not done this on their own.

A. Don’t like the idea of being a pushy salesperson.

Can’t find a good copywriter.

These are just examples to give you some ideas.

The next section of the writing to sell triangle treasure map is…

Second. Your Product.

Before we go any further, I want to set something straight.

Not many know it, but every product has a personality.

When you think of a Ferrari, what comes to mind?

How about a Volvo?

Now picture a Rolls Royce.

Can you see how they all have different personalities?

So, you’ll be glad to know your product also has a personality.

Another way to think of product or services is as “concepts.”

That means you forget about what you sell and think in terms of what your reader wants to buy.

And your reader wants to buy a concept.

The concept around a Rolls Royce is luxury.

Think of it like this:

Without a concept your sales will be about as predictable as an ape with a hockey stick.

Liquid Health.

Many years ago, I came across a controversial health product called, “Aerobic Oxygen.”

At that time, it was selling in over 30 countries around the world. But for some unknown reason it hadn’t taken off in the UK.

When I sat down with the idea of writing to sell, I came up with the concept of “Liquid Health” in order to create demand.

The result?

Over the next couple of years, I sold over 500,000 bottles of Aerobic Oxygen and when people called my company to order it, they asked for “Liquid Health and not Aerobic Oxygen.

This example is going to surprise you.

Another controversial product I had was detox foot patches. At the time people thought they were fake, but now you see them in places like Boots the Chemist.

The idea behind the product is you put these patches on the soles of your feet and overnight they draw out any toxins you may have in your body.

So, with my writing to sell hat on I came up with the headline, “Is your body a toxic waste dump.”

Clearly the concept is a body as a toxic waste dump and no mention of the product.

Truth be told, you should NEVER mention your product when you are writing to sell.

Because nobody wants to buy your product.

They only want what the product or service can do for them.

I recently read a brilliant book by Steven Pressfield called, “No one wants to read your S**T.

And he’s right, it’s the same with your product or service.

No one wakes up first thing in the morning and says to themselves, where can I find an insurance salesperson?

As you already know people buy solutions to their problems or resources that help them achieve their goals.

And your product or service is secondary to that.

When writing to sell the first thing you must think of is creating concepts because it is something that makes your product or service more desirable.

And that’s where we’re headed next…

When Joe Sugarman sold his blue blockers sunglasses, he sold the concept of a ‘vision breakthrough.’

Inside every word is a story.

Writing to sell with story

When you look again at those two words ‘Vision Breakthrough’ you see a story within them.

And that sparks your curiosity.

That’s the same as the two words ‘liquid health.’

The words convey a story.

As do each of these words.

Soviet spy. Farmer. Incompetent Lawyer. Rapist. Wealthy entrepreneur. Overweight chef. Stressed housekeeper.

Or how about these words.









Lean and mean.






Cutting edge.


Permanently damaged.

Accumulate wealth.

Arouse suspicion.

I imagine as you read those words you felt certain emotions, right?

The next time you’re writing to sell remember this.

It’s emotions that make your readers buy.

Stated a little differently, without emotion in your sales copy it will be about as welcoming as an incontinent frog in a punch bowl.

Oddly enough there’s a story I read of a man who had the emotional centre of his brain removed and he could no longer make decisions.

When you talk about your product or service, you’re using logic.

And logic doesn’t persuade, all it does is gives someone an ‘intellectual alibi’ for the emotional choice they made when they bought something expensive that they truly desired.

Stated more simply, logic gives your buyer justification for what they just bought from you.

It’s easy to say to someone who is writing to sell to create a concept that describes what your product or service does.

But it’s not so easy to say choose your words with care and precision.


The right words are hard to find.

Years ago, I remember an advert that said, “say it with flowers.”

To a seasoned direct response copywriter that’s like mistaking the wrapping for the present.

The Name Game.

When I first started out in January 1990 as a copywriter, I had no idea what I was doing.

I was offered a position as the head of marketing at a toxic waste disposal company.

I had never heard of the idea of writing to sell.

The only credentials I had for the job was that I was excellent at selling face to face. Every other person I met bought from me.

Keep in mind when I met my prospects, I was a total stranger to them. And I was selling the most expensive home improvement products in the UK at that time.

After reading the book, “Positioning – the battle for your mind” by Al Reis and Jack Trout, the first thing I did as a newly formed wastes disposal company was change the name.

The fact is, Bennet & King Partners wasn’t a sexy name, and it didn’t explain what we did.

I knew the competition was fierce and one of our main rivals had a great name – Cleanaway.

I knew I had to come up with something better.

The name I thought of and the one we used to launch our new business was ‘ChemClear.’

And it worked.

We were able to get some of the largest, most prestigious companies to work with us, mostly because the name stood out as a brilliant concept.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out (with tongue firmly in cheek) my latest unique concept around direct response copywriter that I call “Influence Intelligence.”

And that leads us to the final part of our writing to sell triangle treasure map.

Third. Your offer.

In the fabulous book, “Overdeliver” the author Brian Kurtz has his own unique take on the triangle treasure map.

He claims (and he has plenty of experience and evidence to back it up) the following.

The list (Your reader) counts for 41% of the success of any promotion.

The offer counts for 39% of you campaign success.

And only 20% (your concept and your choice of words) make up the last part of the persuasion puzzle.

As hard as you try, and knowing Brian’s outstanding history, neither you nor I could disagree with his numbers.

That said, lets talk about the offer.

This is really cool.

Matrix Madness.

When you look at any of the eye-popping videos on you come across the ‘offer matrix.’

Hang on while I explain…

Imagine a quadrant. In the top left are the words “Dream Outcome.”

The top right has the words “Perceived likelihood of achievement.”

Before I tell you what the bottom two are – and they are far more important than the top two – it’s only fair to point out that almost every marketing professional only talk about the top two.

And they use hype to increase your desire for their product. And they overcome every possible objection to make you feel you are likely to achieve your desire or overcome your problem.

When you look at the myriad of messages that try to sell you something you’ll see words that describe the life you want followed swiftly by the word “without.”

Like this, “write high-converting sales copy without ever spending a minute to learn the craft of copywriting.”

Okay, that’s an obvious use of hype, but it does explain my point.

The simple truth is you’re living in the enchanted forest of stupidity if you believe you can write sales copy that converts without studying what makes people buy, the nature of a product, and making the right offer.

And that means you either spend blood, sweat and years learning to write copy or hire a copywriter you can trust.

What makes an offer irresistible?

Now we’re getting down to the nitty gritty.

The bottom left are the words “Time Delay.”

This and the bottom right will make every offer you make from now on almost impossible to resist.

In fact, my book, “Influence Intelligence” refers to this point in its subtitle, “why people resist you and what to do about it.”

Let’s talk about time delay before we explore the last section in the four quadrants of the irresistible offer.

Your reader has a dream outcome, and they want to know from you what their perceived likelihood of achievement is.

More importantly, they want to know how soon they can get what they want.

I want it now.

Think fast food.

Or even the best weight loss product concept ever – “slimfast.”

The problem with most products or services is the time delay from buying to achieving.

The reality most people hate to admit is, there is no simple solution to a complex problem.

However, when you’re writing to sell your job is to convince your reader you have a simple solution to their complex problem.

I know that’s like trying to straighten out a bowl of spaghetti, but it can be done.

Here’s how.

Fast Wins.

When you’re writing to sell think “how can I give my reader a quick result?”

You may be selling a long-term solution, but when you fix a small problem fast, they will stay for the long-haul.

So, instead of wishful thinking use the top two quadrants increase the desire for the dream outcome and the perceived likelihood of achievement,

Then use the bottom two quadrants decrease the time delay and the most important factor which we’ll get to after we finish with the time delay.

Compressing Time.

Time goes fast when writing to sell

Believe it or not, you can make time speed up.

Einstein proved that time was relevant.

I take advantage of the (suggested) fact that time speeds up as you age.

When I’m on my long, arduous, challenging hilly cross-country excursions I tell myself pain is only temporary and that this too shall soon pass.

And lo and behold it does.

Trying to understand time is like wrestling with the tail of an excitable crocodile.

All you need to know is how to compress or speed up time.

Make your reader feel that she is getting the results she wants right now.

The quickest, easiest way to do that is o give her a reason to buy today, right now, this very second.

The best part is that when someone buys, they automatically feel like they have reached their dream outcome or have solve their pressing problem.

What this means is the minute someone buys from you they believe their problem is solved or they have reached their goal.

Please understand, you’re not tricking anyone, it’s just the way the mind works.

Okay, you might be asking, what’s the last section in the offer matrix?

It’s effort and sacrifice.

Most people are lazy.

They don’t want to put any more effort in than they need to.

On the first two quadrants you as the person who is writing to sell increase their desire for their dream outcome and their perceived likelihood of achievement.

While decreasing the time to get what they want and decreasing any effort or sacrifice.

One of the most successful ads of all time was, “The lazy man’s way to riches.”

It worked because it implies no effort.

There’s a story of how one marketer writing to sell came up with a headline “Put music into your life.” He sent his letter to a printer to have a few thousand copies printed.

This wasn’t the first time he sent out that letter, but after getting it printed and sent out, he got a 300% increase in response.

When he investigated the reason, he found the printer had added one extra letter to the headline and that had made all the difference.

That letter was ‘s’, and it was added to the word ‘put.’

The new headline read, “Put’s music into your life.”

The word ‘put’ implies effort, while the word ‘puts’ doesn’t

Pluralising the verb.     

When writing to sell see if you can add a letter to the end of a word to remove any required effort on the part of your reader.

We call this pluralising the verb.

Take a look…

Strip 10lbs of fat in 3 days.

Strips 10lbs of fat in 3 days.

Build 7lb of muscle in 4 weeks.

Builds 7lb of muscle in 4 weeks.

Generate an extra £10,000 this month.

Generates an extra £10,000 this month.

When you’re writing to sell change words that imply effort like “learn” to “discover.”

(Just like I did at the start of this post.)

People are almost always open to discover new ideas, but they don’t like to learn.

Maybe because it reminds them of school or college.

Here’s something else…

Done for you.

If you offer a service can you make it a done for you service?

If your reader doesn’t have to lift a finger to make more money, they are more likely to buy.

Dan Kennedy once said that the ideal weight loss product is one where you take two pills last thing at night and wake up skinny.


If you ask your reader to sacrifice time and or effort when writing to sell, your writing is as useful as a bucket without a bottom.

NEVER imply your product or service will cause your reader to sacrifice time or effort.

AND if you forget to build value into your product or service then your reader will not want to sacrifice their hard earned money buying from you.

Tony Robbins created a “buying scale.” On one side he has…

The Buying Scale
  • ERBN Emotional Reasons to Buy Now
  • And LRBN Logical Reasons to Buy Now

On the other side he has…

  • DRAB Dominant Reasons to Avoid Buying.

Every time you’re writing to sell stack more reasons on the left hand side of the scale to overwhelm the right hand side.

There are no simple answers to a complex problem, however when writing to sell you must give your reader the illusion you have a simple answer to their problem.

The axiom is…

Sell them what they want, then give them what they need.

In my experience since you’ve read this far it can only mean one thing.

You’re interested in making more sales because you have a valuable product or service you ant more people to have.

And I’d love to help you reach more readers and help them overcome their problems.

With Influence Intelligence I can do both for you.

Click this link to arrange a call with me.

Clive Cable

During the call after asking you four questions I’ll be able to give you your next steps to achieve your business goals.

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