Photo:Lenore M. Edman
It’s a particularly noticeable behaviour among public-sector and not-for-profit organizations: too often when ramping up marketing efforts, people shy away from the word “selling.”
It’s understandable why they don’t want to see it spelled out overtly in their copy (more about that in a moment), but even at a deeper, strategic level, many organizations treat the word as if it’s kryptonite. They figure that since they are not in the sales business, they don’t want to it to seem like they are selling to people.
The sentiment is well placed, but it’s rooted in false assumptions.
The truth about selling is that it’s something we all do. We’re all hardwired to persuade and to be persuaded. What turns people off, however, is empty rhetoric. When something sounds salesy, it’s a sign that an element is missing from your message.
Selling is not a dirty word. It’s just not always done as well as it could be.
To better understand this, let’s make a distinction between the act and the art of selling.
At its simplest level, the act of selling is the act of exchanging one thing for another. It does not have to be about money or goods. But what must always be present is an idea and the attention you ask of your audience to focus on that idea.
The art of selling, on the other hand, is a more subtle undertaking. As jazz legend Duke Ellington once said: “You’ve got to find some way of saying it without saying it.” Therein lies the challenge for copywriters and marketers of all kinds.
Selling—when it’s done right—should never feel like selling at all. Let’s face it: no one likes to feel like they’re being pitched to. We like it even less when someone resorts to age-old sales tactics. That’s artless selling.
The buying experience is transformed when selling is about more than meeting someone’s quota or target. People like it when someone communicates through words and actions an understanding of the problems they face, and makes the effort to be genuinely helpful in offering solutions to those problems. That power comes from packing your message with empathy and emotion.
Whether you message is about a product, service, idea or a vision, you engage in an act of selling to reach and persuade your audience. How skillful you are in the art of selling is what will determine in large part how successful you will be in those efforts.