If you're in sales, you're probably writing sales copy.
That could be in the form of emails, messages, call scripts, and any other form of persuasive communication.
Here are 10 ways you can improve your copywriting. And while this list is aimed at your writing, it'll carry over to improving all of your sales conversations on any channel.
#1: Expect “failure”.
Not every email/message you write is going to be a banger. Not everything is going to work. Even the pieces that do work right now might stop working down the road.
Sales is a skill-based profession, like sports and music.
Think about the great skill-based performers of all time. People like Michael Jordan or bands like the Beatles.
Sure, they had plenty of great performances and #1 hits…but they also had many more “misses” that nobody thinks about.
In fact, they probably couldn’t have created the hits without all the other reps they put in.
Writing is the same way.
You’ve got to show up, “perform”, and detach yourself from the outcome.
Let’s be clear - I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t work hard, follow best practices, and try your best. Many people get so hung up on trying to create a perfect email that they’ll spend hours agonizing over what to write.
The real path to development is practice (with purpose).
What to do: Approach your writing like a professional athlete playing a sport or a professional musician playing an instrument.
Don’t get too up about a win or too down about a negative reaction. As long as you’re playing your game the right way, with the right tactics, while being ethical - you’ll win in the long run.
#2: Don’t copy/paste.
Google will give you pre-written templates for almost anything - call scripts, emails, DMsm etc - in less than a second.
A) Do you really need 925 million email templates? It’ll take forever to find good ones.
B) …and even the good templates probably won’t work for you.
That’s because sales copy is heavily dependent on the audience and their context. What might work for messaging a restaurant owner about their POS system probably won’t translate to communicating with a CISO about cybersecurity software.
What to do: Think in terms of frameworks, not templates. A framework is a general structure that you can adapt and apply anywhere, like the AIDA copywriting formula.
It’s even more powerful if you start to build your own frameworks and templates. Take real examples of copy that has driven responses from your audience and break it down into a framework.
#3: Keep a swipe file
You want to know the real secret behind professional copywriters’ writing abilities?
It’s their research.
And the most effective way to build your research “muscle” is to start a swipe file.
A swipe file is a simple device - it’s just a digital folder where you save things that stand out to you.
Once you start actively saving great emails, messages, scripts, and other copy, you’ll build an asset that’s uniquely yours.
No more writer’s block.
No more lack of inspiration.
No more excuses!
Here’s what mine looks like (I use Google Drive):
What to do: Simple! You can copy my subfolders in the image above or you can create one of your own.
#4: Stay on top of industry news
All sales conversations depend on prep, strong scripts/frameworks, and the ability to think on your feet.
That last bit is key.
When you’re in a live conversation - on any channel - you’re going to have to react intelligently to questions, challenges, and new information.
So how can you do that? How do you stay on top of what’s happening in your industry?
I like using RSS feeds to give me a summary of the latest articles on a focused topic. I use Feedly, but NewsBlur and Inoreader are also good options.
It’s sort of like building your own version of Morning Brew that’s ultra-focused on your industry.
Here’s what one of my broad tags looks like in Feedly:
What to do: Pick the topics you want to track. If you’re in a particularly intense space, you can even track your competitors’ news by including their company names in your tags.
These RSS feed tools have a bunch of fancy things they can do to organize your research….but frankly, I just like seeing a quick list of articles in my inbox that I can digest quickly.
#5: Follow the right people on the right channel
Another way to install the right information in your brain is to follow strong voices in your industry on social media.
This is especially powerful as a way to stay on top of trends, conversations, and how people feel about what’s happening right now.
The key is to pick the channel where your prospects hang out online.
For most of us in the B2B world, LinkedIn is probably the best platform to focus on.
But, your audience might be on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, or elsewhere.
Once you know which channel to choose, you can hone in on a few of the big names in your space. If you interact with their posts, the platform’s algorithm will learn to feed you more of their content.
The closer you follow their conversations, the more plugged in you’ll be.
What to do: LinkedIn and the other big platforms allow you to set alerts whenever a person posts. Here’s where you can turn alerts on:
If you create a daily or weekly schedule to interact with their content consistently, you’ll be in great shape.
Here’s a quick list of the people I’m paying extra attention to these days in my corner of the world right now (your list will look different!):
- Joe Petruzzi, Co-Founder & CEO at Novah
- Will Allred, Co-Founder at Lavender
- Devin Reed, Head of Content @ Clari
- May Habib, Founder at Writer
- Eddie Shleyner, Founder of VeryGoodCopy.com
- Kevin Moenne-Loccoz, Head of Growth at lempire
- Zoe Hartsfield, Head of Marketing & RevOps Evangelism at Swantide
- Julia Carter, AE at Marpipe
- Tyler Suomala, Business Development at Monograph
- Katherine Caldwell, Founding Coach at Katch Consulting
#6: Practice with Purpose
Have you ever heard the term “deliberate practice”?
It’s the idea behind Malcolm Gladwell’s “it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill”.
When most people picture “practice”, they think of going through the motions of some mindless routine.
Deliberate practice, on the other hand, is all about creating systematic reviews you can implement consistently, with focus.
So how can you do that in your writing?
It’s pretty simple:
- Create time on your calendar for a consistent writing session. This could be daily, weekly, or even monthly.
- Before each session, pick a specific element of your copy that you want to focus on.
- During the session, practice that element (hooks, subject lines, CTAs, images, etc).
What to do: Take the 3 steps above and try one focused 25-minute practice session this week. You can use your swipe file (from #3 earlier in this article) for inspiration. Then, write multiple versions of the copy element you’re practicing.
If it’s a subject line, try writing out 25 ideas.
If it’s a hook, try writing out 5 different angles.
If it’s a CTA, try writing out a soft ask and a hard ask.
#7: Constrain Yourself
One of the best ways to improve your writing is to embrace constraints. Problems like writer’s block happen because a blank page represents too many options - it can be overwhelming!
Should you write something long, medium, or short?
Should you write something quick and punchy? Or something long and formal?
Should you cover all selling points or just dive into one benefit?
Things get a lot easier once you put some limitations on your writing.
These could include:
- Limits on your time.
- Limits on your breadth.
- Limits on your word count.
Here’s a free browser-based Pomodoro timer you can use to get started:
What to do: Next time you feel stuck, pick one topic, set a timer for 10 minutes, and write a tweet or a short email.
#9: Separate your writing from your editing
Here’s how many people approach writing:
Write → Check for typos → Submit.
The result is a piece that never got properly edited.
Instead, try adopting a 2-session approach to your writing process:
- Session 1: Write. Aim for quantity and speed….and don’t worry about being messy!
- Session 2: Edit. Aim for quality and focus on clarity, structure, and flow.
You’ll notice your writing speed up.
You’ll start to see patterns in your writing.
You’ll create stronger emails, messages, and scripts.
What to do: Schedule two 30-minute sessions on your calendar this week, writing and editing.
In the writing session, act quickly and write freely. Then, take a break (anything from an hour to a few days), then come back and edit.
#10: Read it out loud.
Ever send someone a text that gets misinterpreted?
Maybe it was a joke that someone took too seriously or an innocent comment that got blown out of proportion.
This happens because people read “out loud” (even if it’s in their head). As you’re reading this sentence, you’re likely “hearing” it and attaching a tone to this text.
One way to make sure that your readers are interpreting your words the right way is to read your copy out loud as you write and edit.
What to do: Read out loud as you write and edit. Some questions to ask yourself as you do so:
- Am I being clear?
- Am I sticking to the point?
- Is this coming off with the right emotion? Does it *sound* right?