Join the Madness

Friday, January 28, 2011

Write Like a Sales Man

I talk to a lot of salesmen every day.  Every fund company, every insurance company, and even referral service companies have representatives calling the office looking to woo business out of us. 

Not all salesmen are created equal, though.

I had one recently that was brand-spanking new.  Nice guy, but he hemmed and hawed and just didn't have a handle on the facts yet. 

I  also had a pro call in.  And he was smoooooth I tell you.  I pride myself on being able to weed out the sales guys, from the people we want to talk to.  It's like filtering through the slush, just on a smaller scale.  A lot of the things that will get you noticed in the slush pile will also get you noticed as a salesman...and it's not always in a good way.

Here's Vicki Rocho's Guide to Writing Like a Salesman

The number one thing that tips me off that I've got a telemarketer on the line is all the noise in the background.  You can hear a hundred other people yapping away in the background.  

This is an awful lot like the unfocused MS, don't you think?  Too many unnecessary characters doing boring/useless things, endless descriptions, or pointless dialogue going on in your story.

Another thing that tips me off is (duh) the info dump.  Rookie salesmen will tell me their name, where they're calling from, and why they're calling.  I appreciate their honesty and cooperation because it makes it so much easier to hang up on them.  

Readers will do the same thing with your story.  Give them too much information up front and they have no reason to read on. Less is more!

Real salesmen only give enough information to keep you on the phone. The pro I had?  His voice was strong, confident.  He told me his name (first only) and asked for my boss by his first name, as if they were buddies.  

If this were your MS -- you'd be starting strong, and leaving questions unanswered.

I asked if I could take a message.  He said he'd try back later.  Real Salesmen never leave a message.  They want to maintain control.  

Your readers are going to have questions, but you want to leave some of them unanswered or you run the risk of losing them.

My new sales guy this week? The umms and aahhs ratted him out.  He's full of enthusiasm, but needs more training and experience to get the job done.

This is the equivalent of a newbie writer (or the first draft).  Full of big ideas and enthusiasm, but the writer hasn't learned the ropes yet (or alternatively, the MS hasn't been edited).  Lots of potential, just needs more work.

And there you have it...if you want to be picked out of the slush pile, you have to write like a salesman!


Jolene Perry said...

Well done Vicki.
My uncle has been a salesman his whole life and you'd never know it. All you know is he makes you laugh and makes you want whatever he's got going on because it's sure to be the greatest thing EVER.

Jules said...

I'm so glad you explained this because I'm on a "Do not call list." :) I'll be honing my salesman skills.
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Karen Walker said...

This analogy works for me, Vicki. All these points are so valid.

Paul C said...

You deconstruct well what goes into great salesmanship.

Carolyn V. said...

Ooooo, like the smooth talking salesman!

Love the analogy! You made me laugh in a few places. So great! Have a great weekend Vicki!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Great analogy! I'm a bare bones writer, so don't think I'm guilty of the first one. And like your line about how it makes it easier to hang up on them!

Angela Felsted said...

So how do you know when you're giving too much information up front?

The Good Wifehold said...

Interesting analogy!
It's all a balance though... and there's never one formula.
In my experience I can't stand a salesman - the work speaks for itself.