Free Tips for Successful Copywriting

Monday, February 25, 2008

How to Structure A Winning Sales Argument!

Last time we talked about the importance of the “lead” or opening few paragraphs of your copy and its primary job: To open the mind of your prospect to giving your sales argument a fair hearing.

This time, I want to talk about the argument itself: The reasons you put forward that prove: a) that buying your product will change your prospects life for the better… and b) that NOT buying it right now would have to be about the dumbest thing he could possibly do.

An argument is by definition, evidence and reasoning. As a persuader, you offer facts (evidence), and you show what they mean (reasoning).

By applying sound reasoning to agreed evidence you have the power to take your prospect’s thinking to a new vantage point, from which a new path becomes visible.
And when the appeal of that new path is demonstrated, you have taken your prospect to the threshold of action.

What a sales argument is, and what it isn’t …

An effective sales argument is not a confrontation, as the word “argument” infers. It is in fact just the opposite.

To create genuine conviction, you must gradually transfer ownership of the persuasion process to the prospect. Little by little you hand it over to him, as he digests the facts, and assents to the reasoning you’re feeding him.

He sees the merit of your argument, he associates himself with it, and his ego is affirmed by it. In saluting the validity of the facts you lay before him, and embracing your reasoning as his own, his wisdom is confirmed. He likes what he is doing.

Frequently, my clients ask me to “critique” their online sales pieces, and often, the sales arguments that are put forward are weak. I read meaty, bold headlines that shock and excite, only to find hamburger helper in the body copy. There’s not nearly enough substance to substantiate the initial premise put forward in the headline. The writer failed to connect the dots.

Let me reiterate the point I made earlier because it is important to understand: A sales argument is not a debate. We are not talking about two sides, vehemently opposed to each other’s point of view attempting to “win” the argument, but you must prove your case. You must walk your prospect through a sound chain of logic.

If you’re targeting your prospects properly, most of them should already be biased toward embracing the conclusions that you need them to accept. Your sales argument’s job is to validate those conclusions to such a degree that your prospect feels imminently confident, and is therefore empowered to act.

Your sales argument is the vehicle that dispels doubt, and solidifies his inclinations.

An effective sales argument is charged,like an electrical circuit…

Here stands an electrode. On its own, it seems to be dead. But bring another seemingly lifeless electrode close enough and we sense that something is going to happen. Suddenly a crackling flash joins the two. A spark leaps the gap. The circuit is completed, and energy is released.

This is exactly how our minds work. One fact alone appears inert, mere information. But couple it with another and show what they mean, and “zap”, you have created a spark of reasoning that jumps the gap, completing the circuit. A conclusion is reached.

Naturally any argument is built upon a number of subordinate conclusions, each one becoming a new fact on which to build the next conclusion, until the end game is reached …

Gradually your prospect’s casual bias toward solutions like yours is transformed into rabid conviction that YOURS is for him, and he acts!

So we have established the context of the sales argument, and its purpose, but how do you entice your prospect to consume it? How do you tie it effectively to your headline and your lead?

Reverse the polarity …

While the object of your sales argument is to inspire conviction and belief, it is just the opposite sentiment “doubt” that will drive your prospect to consume it. Doubt is a magnetic force that draws him in… Why?

Because doubt is an uneasy and dissatisfied state, while belief is a calm and satisfied one. Therefore doubt compels the mind to inquire, and continue doing so until doubt is dispelled, and resolved into belief.

So one of the best ways to draw your target prospects into your sales argument is by articulating their common doubts and uncertainties about the subject matter at hand, and promising to dispel them. It’s a proven way to tie your headline and your lead to your sales argument.

Here are a few headline examples that articulate doubt and uncertainty to set up the sales argument, and lure the reader into the body copy …

Is Your Home Safe From Burglary? Take This Test to Find Out!

Had a Hunch Vending Was Lucrative? You’re Right!

A surprising new discovery for those who’ve always suspected they had the “right stuff” to succeed in their own businesses… but who haven’t yet quite got going!

Do You Make These Mistakes in English?

Right and Wrong Farming Methods — And Little Pointers That Will Increase Your Profits!

What Everybody Ought to Know… About This Stock and Bond Business!

This FREE Sample Lesson Will Prove That You Can Become An Expert Accountant

Gee… I’d Like To Have He Man Muscles! So Would I, But It Takes A Long While. “Bunk!” Says Charles Atlas, “I’ll Prove in the First 7 Days You Can Have a Body Like Mine!”

Do you see the connection? Each one of these headlines targets a doubt that is:

a) preventing the prospect from taking action, or

b) causing him to worry about some lack or problem in his life.

Now let’s take a look at how a skillful sales argument is built and presented...

Here’s some copy from one of Clayton’s promotions for SAFE MONEY REPORT.

The central selling argument is this: Tech stocks are about to crash. If you own them, now is the time to take immediate action to safeguard your wealth by reallocating your portfolio to investments the editor believes will rise in value as techs wreck.

The headline reads …

Shameless Two-Faced S.O.B.s!

While urging you to buy their shares, top executives at MICROSOFT… CISCO… GENZYME… SYMANTEC… SIEBEL SYSTEMS… RED HAT… YAHOO… and many other high-tech companies …

… are quietly dumping BILLIONS of dollars worth of their companies’ stock!

What’s important to understand about this promotion is that the people who received it are by nature distrustful of the establishment. They have no problem buying into allegations of corporate and government misdoings, and at the time they received this promotion, many were no doubt already looking for reasons to dump their tech stocks.

They were in that uneasy and dissatisfied state known as doubt, and longing to get re-acquainted with the calm satisfaction of belief.

As it’s primary evidence, the central argument points to tech insiders selling their own stock. The first order of business however, is to establish a minor supporting sub-premise: That insider trading is commonplace.

This subordinate argument cements a belief the target market already suspects to be true.

Let’s take a look at the interplay of fact and reasoning that comprises this masterful sales argument …

Anyone watching this year’s Martha Stewart debacle might mistakenly assume that insiders are forbidden to use their intimate knowledge of the company to buy or sell their own company’s stock.

Nothing could be farther from the truth!

FACT: Corporate insiders — who generally know their company’s better than anybody — are certainly allowed to own their company’s stock.

REASONING: So it would be idiotic to assume that they ignore everything they know about their companies when deciding whether to dump their company’s stock or to buy more!

And right now…

Now the central selling argument is introduced …

FACT: While top corporate insiders are talking UP their company’s stock — urging you to buy every share you can …

… Those same insiders are DUMPING their OWN shares in private… like there’s no tomorrow!

It’s a fact: The Securities and Exchange commission reports the purchases and sales by company insiders of their own company’s stock on the second business day following the transactions.

And according to these reports, we are now witnessing one of the greatest insider STAMPEDES out of their own company’s stocks — EVER — especially in the tech sector.

Clayton goes on to provide a mountain of evidence of insider selling far outweighing insider buying (not just in tech, but in other sectors as well), including specific company examples… and then brings in the second electrode (reasoning) to complete the circuit, beginning with this sub-head…

What do these insiders see
that you don’t?

REASONING: (Note the sub-head is phrased as a question, involving the prospect in the reasoning process, and beginning to hand over ownership of the conclusion…) First they see interest rates turning up, threatening to end one of the greatest consumer borrowing sprees of all time. So they’re starting to dump their own shares in companies that have profited the most from consumer lending and spending: companies that make things like cell phones and personal computers, mortgage lenders, sub-prime lenders, home building companies, real estate investment trusts, and more.

That’s why shares in these companies tumbled dramatically in April. And that’s why bankers and others are exiting their shares.

FACT: Second, many tech company executives were seeing their profit margins crashing even BEFORE interest rates began to turn higher.

To entice their buyers, they’ve had to slash prices to the bone. The utterly predictable result: Profit margins have plunged.

In fact, during 2003 and early 2004, many tech companies used every gimmick in the book to artificially goose up sales: Massive discounting, zero percent financing, giant rebates, dealer credits and more. All while manufacturing costs climbed!

Clayton goes on to provide further evidence of declining financial results with company specific examples … and then hands the argument completely over to the prospect later on in the copy at this sub-head …

The AVERAGE Nasdaq stock is
ONCE AGAIN selling for
more than 100 time earnings!

REASONING: Let me ask you this: If YOU were a Sony insider and owned several millions dollars worth of the company’s stock … and you saw earnings vanishing before your very eyes… what would you do?

Wait – let me add one more piece to the puzzle before you answer: Despite the massive decline in earnings, your Sony stock is still selling at a mind boggling 458 times earnings. Now…what would YOU do?

Do you see the awesome power of summing up your sales argument with a question like this? A wise man once said, “the only conclusions any of us truly accept, are our own”. He was right!

Right: Any exec with an IQ greater than his shoe size would dump every share he could get his hands on!

The simple truth is, insiders are dumping their stocks because they know how wildly overvalued they really are relative to earnings!

Heck, even in the best of times paying such exorbitant prices for stocks would be like BEGGING to get skinned alive. But doing so now — as profit margins plummet and in today’s increasingly hazardous economic environment — Is downright masochistic.

Think of it: At current earnings rates, you’d have to wait at least a CENTURY—100 l-o-n-g years — before the average Nasdaq company could accumulate profits equal to the amount you invested! Again, by prefacing this statement with the words “Think of it”, Clayton invites the prospect to participate in the reasoning and take ownership of the conclusion.

That was pure brilliance, don’t you agree? If you’d like to get a full color pdf copy of the entire promotion, click here.

Now, allow me to point out a few more things …

Note this is not a bulletproof argument. It is not flawless Aristotelian logic. It doesn’t have to be. That’s not what this is about.

The argument is rational, it is convincing, it is electric in its simplicity, but it is not intended to convince a died-in-the-wool tech bull. Its goal is to strengthen the conviction of those who are already leaning toward the same conclusions.

In a lot of ways it is a veiled emotional appeal that radiates the conviction of the ersatz author. He is so emphatic in his expression of the argument that he literally infects the prospect with a similar strength of conviction. Therein lies its true power …

The secret sauce!

We humans are a sympathetic lot. When we see someone smile, we smile back. We laugh at dead duck jokes on sitcoms when the laugh track plays. When someone beams with excitement as they tell us a story, we can’t help but be all ears and get excited too.

When two people talk, their speech rate and timbre gradually harmonize. Even the volume and pitch of their voices fall into balance. So does their latency, the time between when one person stops talking and the other starts.

And so it is with the written word. One of the things that Clayton has obviously discovered is that the conviction of the ersatz author can literally jump off the page and infect the prospect with a similar belief. And that strength of belief is exactly what’s needed for the prospect to give in to the impulse to buy now!

Go back and read Clayton’s copy again with this in mind, and you’ll see exactly what I mean. Pay attention to the exact phrases that make the ersatz author seem so utterly and totally convinced that what he is saying is that absolute, god honest truth.

If you want to create powerful conviction in your prospect that sets his heart on fire with confidence… don’t dance around your conclusion as though you’re committed to demonstrating how fair and objective your sales argument is… as so many do.

Instead, light your ersatz author’s hair on fire. Spike your sales argument with emphatic evangelical fervor. And watch your conversion rates soar! Until next time, Good Selling!

Daniel Levis is a top marketing consultant & direct response copywriter based in Toronto, Canada and publisher of the world famous copywriting anthology “Masters of Copywriting” featuring the marketing wisdom of 44 of the world’s greatest copywriters, including Clayton Makepeace, Joe Sugarman, Joe Vitale, Bob Bly and dozens more! For a FREE excerpt visit the link

Be sure to sign up for THE TOTAL PACKAGE, and receive Daniel's excellent weekly ezine "Web Marketing Advisor" absolutely FREE!

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