A Copywriter is a Salesperson Behind a Typewriter

February 11th, 2010 by | Print


The title to this post is a quote from Judith Charles, founder and president of Judith K. Charles Creative Communication, a retail advertising agency.

I agree with Judith’s quote about the role of a copywriter. It does lead me to ask, if a copywriter doesn’t have a sales background, can they be effective at writing copy? Conversely, do talented salespeople make good copywriters?

My quick answer to both questions is – maybe.

Let me give you a little backgrounder on me in case you missed it on my About page. I was in sales and sales management in the retail, computer hardware and the housing industries. Additionally, I’ve written copy as a freelancer and as an employee for roughly 15 years. I’ve experienced this question from both sides of the equation.

Let’s start with copywriters. Do all copywriters need a background in sales? No. Some writers are natural born sales people. Here are the necessary skills that top copywriters share with Grade A sales talent.

Asking Appropriate Questions

If you hire on a copywriter and they don’t ask you questions about your business, your vision, your goals, your target market, your products and services, your competition, previous copy samples, your differentiation factor and your expected results from hiring them (just for starters), you’ve found the wrong person. An effective interview is the foundation for formulating effective copy, just as it is in presenting a compelling sales proposal.

Performing the Necessary Research

In addition to interviewing you about your business, your target market and your goals for your current campaign, the talented copywriter will perform their own research. It is possible that they will find flaws in some of your assertions and assumptions about your target market and how they perceive your business. How can they know if they don’t research and test your assumptions?

Creating a Compelling and Convincing Proposal

Asking appropriate questions and performing research independently lead to creating a compelling and convincing proposal. Successful salespeople don’t just pitch a product or service, they provide a solution that their target market can’t refuse. Yes, some salespeople make money that aren’t strong salespeople. They’re order takers whose paycheck generally fluctuates with the strength of the market and the popularity of their employer. Order takers don’t make good copywriters because they will give you what you want, but it may not be what you need.

Speaking in Multiple Dialects

Even though your upcoming campaign may not require translation into a foreign language, a copywriter must be able to alter their copy to manage the attention and actions of the target audience. Age, race, religion, region, and frames of references are just some of the factors that will alter the appropriate language for compelling copy. Talented salespeople are chameleons, altering their word choices to match their customers’; copywriters must do the same.

Now on to salespeople as copywriters. Do all talented salespeople with the above skills have the ability to transition into being effective copywriters? The answer to this question is, no, too. What’s the difference?

Speaking versus Writing

While many gifted salespeople may make talented copywriters, they still need the ability to transition from the gift of gab to creating copy that sells. Case in point, when I was in sales management, I was fortunate to work with some of the industry’s best sales talent. However, while all of these people could create a compelling verbal case, many struggled to draft emails better than a 5th grader.

Talented salespeople can transition their energy level and language to match that of their customer when they are speaking with them, but if you take away that verbal dialogue, some become stuck writing what they want to say. People digest what they hear differently from what they read. If you record what you say and write it verbatim, it doesn’t always make for the best copy. Conversely, a talented copywriter may not make the best public speaker.

So the next time you’re in need of a copywriter or if you have questions about a copywriter you’re currently working with, see if they have the above skills. These skills separate the talented copywriters from paid typists. And don’t leave the task up to your sales team either. If you’re in doubt, give me a buzz:

Phone: (928) 273-5069
Skype: Douglas David Dolan (the.solo.guide)

All the Best,

Doug Dolan
The Solopreneur’s Guide


One Response to “A Copywriter is a Salesperson Behind a Typewriter”

  1. Judy Levi Says:

    Excellent post. As always I enjoy reading your posts…

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