How Being a Good Listener Can Help You Write Effective Sales Copy 

Today, I want to talk about writing great sales copy. Whether that would be blog post, sales emails, creating a sales pages, or even selling on social media.

A lot has been written about the topic particularly focusing upon techniques to use in headlines or titles, keywords, power words, and getting the call to action right.

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One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever had when it comes to writing sales copy is something that doesn’t really involve writing at all. It doesn’t even involve saying anything or communicating anything.

I want to talk about that today. What I want to talk about is to shut up and to listen.

In Today’s Episode How to Write Effective Sales Copy

Listen to this episode in the player above or subscribe and listen in iTunes here to get it delivered to your phone.

The advice I’m giving today is to shut up and listen. It may come across a little bit blunt, and I hope I don’t offend anyone. I was given this advice many years ago.

I came across a post written by Robert Bruce on CopyBlogger that really sums this up. The post says that before we do anything, we should take the time to listen to what our readers want and what we should focus on.

The post is fairly short, but it sums up three different areas where we should listen before we write that blog post.

  • Listen to whoever created the product you are selling.
    • Ask why the product was created
    • Who it is for
    • What are the benefits of the product
    • How does the product work
    • What problem will it solve
    • What are the limitations
    • How can it be misunderstood
  • Listen to your audience
    • What are they telling you directly or indirectly
    • Understand your audience
    • Their needs, challenges, and words
    • Who is the audience
    • What are their pains and challenges
    • What gains are they hoping for
    • What dreams do they want to come true
    • What are their fears, questions, and objections
  • Listen to your competitors
    • Have a view of the entire battlefield
    • Competitors can also be collaborators

Further Resources on How to Write Effective Sales Copy

Full Transcript Expand to view full transcript Compress to smaller transcript view

Hi there, it’s Darren from ProBlogger here. Welcome to Episode 146 of the ProBlogger podcast where today I want to talk a little bit about writing great sales copy, whether that would be blog post, sales emails, creating sales pages, or even selling on social media.

A lot has been written about the topic particularly focusing upon techniques to use in headlines or titles, how to use particular keywords or power words, how to get your call to action right, how to use video or change the color of your buttons or split test your pages. All of this advice is great and I really do encourage you to do a lot of reading and research on that.

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever had when it comes to writing sales copy is something that doesn’t really involve writing at all. It doesn’t even involve saying anything or communicating anything. I want to talk about that today. What I want to talk about is to shut up and to listen.

The advice I want to give you today is to shut up and listen. It’s a little bit blunt and I hope I don’t offend anyone by saying it. The advice I was given many, many years ago from numerous people and today came across an old post over at Copy Blogger which really summed up this lesson really well. It’s a post that Robert Bruce wrote three or four years ago now called The Best Damn Copywriting Advice I’ve Found. It really is a great post, it’s only a few hundred words long, it’s quite short.

Really in this particular post, Robert Bruce says the same thing. You really need in your copywriting before you start copyrighting, before you start writing your sales page, before you start writing that blog post that sells something, before you start putting together tweets and social media updates to sell something, you really do need to shut up and listen. He suggests three different areas that you can listen.

I want to read you just a paragraph on each of these three areas that Robert wrote and then I’ll elaborate on that a little bit more and give you some examples of how we’ve been listening to our audience particularly over at Digital Photography School to create our sales copy.

The first thing that Robert talked about in his excellent post is to listen to whoever created the product that you’re selling. If you are a business person, you might have one of your team who has created a product or a service that your business is selling. If you’re a blogger and you are selling an ebook, maybe that product creator is you or maybe it’s someone else that you’re working with. On Digital Photography School, all of the ebooks and courses that we’ve created in the last few years have been created in partnership with someone else.

Whether it is you or someone else, listen to the creator of the product. This is probably something that you’ve done to some extent but I think it’s really important to set aside some time to work with whoever has created your product.

Robert writes this. He says, “Listen to the creator of the product. Let her talk (for hours if necessary) about what makes it work, why she built it, what she hopes it will do for her customers. This practice alone might give you the bulk of the copy you’ll end up using.”

This has certainly been true for us on Digital Photography School. We try to involve the authors of our ebooks, the creators of our courses, of the software that we sell, very much from the very beginning of talking to them even before they create the product. We try to talk to them as much as possible to understand how we could market the product.

Even before they’ve created it, we’re always thinking about how will we sell this product because how we sell the product will also shape the product itself in many cases. We’re asking the writers of our ebooks, the creators of our courses, things like why do you want to create this product, who is it for, or who have you created it with them in your mind? What are the benefits of the product in their mind? This is something to listen to, what words do they repeatedly use to describe it? The things that they constantly refer to the product as will help you a lot.

How does the product actually work? How do you use it? What makes the product work? What’s the secret source in the product? What problem will the product solve? What doubts and worries do they have about how their product might be perceived? That can be really useful information to know what the limitations of the product are, how could the product even be misunderstood. What other products do they know of that their product is similar to but what are the differences? Understanding from the product creators, in their words or how they describe the product in these sorts of ways, can really give you a real understanding about how to sell that product.

What we do at Digital Photography School is ask a lot of these questions even before they created the product, they create an outline, they create a description of the product, they tell us who the product is for. This helps us to work out whether we want to create that product in partnership with them and also helps us to shape that product a little bit because we know our audience and we know whether that will fit with our audience. But two, it does help us as we begin to plan about how we’re going to market that product.

Once they finish the product, we also get them to do the same exercise. Sometimes, what they set out to create ends up being a little bit different to what they actually create. Get them to write a few paragraphs particularly about how they would sell the product. We talk to them in numerous conversations about what the product is like, asking some of those types of questions.

I’ll give you a really practical example. We’ve just in the last few weeks launched a course over on Digital Photography School about how to use Adobe Lightroom. When we were talking to the creator of that course, Mike Newton, we kept hearing him use the words mastering Lightroom as a description of what the course set out to do. He wanted to help people master Lightroom. This mastering Lightroom was a word that he used quite a bit.

We decided to pick up on that. We liked the idea of that mastering word. We actually decided to call the course Lightroom Mastery. We used the word mastering quite a bit in the sales copy. That’s just one quick example of how our author’s language actually shaped some of our sales copy. There’s many other examples that I can give you about that as well.

The key here is to really work with the person who’s created that product. That, as I said before, maybe you. It might be useful to get someone else to interview you about your product, to see what words you naturally come up with in conversation and to get them to reflect back to you what you keep saying about that particular product.

This also works if you are doing an affiliate promotion. If you are promoting someone else’s product as an affiliate, sometimes it can be good to jump on the phone with them and find out a little bit more about the product and why they created it. Just those sorts of conversations often get a lot of ideas for you as well.

If you don’t have the opportunity to get on the phone with them, look at the sales copy that they use to describe their product as well. Look at the blog post that they wrote about their product, look at other interviews that they may have done on other people’s sites. These types of things will help you understand where they’re coming from with a product and often that’s a great place to start.

The second type of listening that Robert Bruce talks about in his particular blog post is listening to your audience. This is what he writes, “Listen to your audience. What are they telling you — directly or indirectly — about what they really want and need? If social media has given us anything, it’s an unprecedented ability to hear the demands and desires of real people, in real time.”

I love this idea from Robert of listening to your audience when it comes to sales copy. This for me is probably the most powerful thing that he writes in this post. A lot of what I do when I’m writing sales copy today really comes down to understanding my audience.

This is something you don’t want to just do in the lead up to selling something to your audience. Obviously, the more you know about your audience the better when it comes to blogging, creating blog content, engaging with them but also selling to them as well. You want to be listening to your audience even before you start creating products as well because what you hear from your audience and their needs and challenges, the language that they use, these types of things will help you come up with ideas for products as well.

When you do come to writing sales copy, ask yourself some of these types of questions. Who is the audience? Who is going to buy this product? What are their pains? What are their challenges? What are their problems? As they pertain to the solution that your product offers. Actually, understanding how they express those pains is really useful as well. What language do they use to express that pain that they have, all the challenge that they have. On the flip side, what are the gains that they are hoping for. What are the dreams that they’re hoping to come true as a result of using your product or a product like yours?

Again, what language do they use to describe those games that they’re hoping for? Their language is really important. You may even want to do a little focus group with a few of your readers and get them to describe and sell the product in their own words. Some of the words that they use will be very important.

What are their fears? It might be something else, what do they worry about as they look at your product? What are the questions that they have about it and what are the objections that they raise to the product as well? This is the type of data and feedback that you might get once your product is launched. This is really important I think, a lot of people write their sales copy and then they just release their product and then they never change their sales page.

I actually think what you hear back from your audience in the hours after you launch either in emails that you might get or comments or things that you might hear in social media, the objections that people have, the questions that they ask about your product, they should be changing your sales page. You really should be in the hours after you release a product be tweaking your sales copy based upon those things. What we’ve done on a number of our sales pages is added a section on our sales page, frequently asked questions. This is simply to answer the questions that we hear that our readers are asking.

For example in the early days when we first started to launch ebooks, we used to get a lot of questions about how can I read it, is this a hard copy thing or is it something I can download on my iPhone, what do I read it on, what devices is it compatible with? These types of questions were very frequent. We noticed every time someone asked them, they’re less likely to buy the product. They then have to wait for us to reply to them. We built a frequently asked question section in our sales pages now that answers all those questions so that as they’re reading our sales pages, they have those objections being removed from them. Really, it’s important to understand your reader’s objections in that type of way.

Another example of how we try and hear from our readers as we’re formulating sales copy recently with this Lightroom course that we just released, I put a number of messages up on social media that were really just about probing our readers, asking them questions to find out how they used Lightroom and to understand the frustrations and challenges that they had with Lightroom. Obviously, the course creator had a bit of an understanding of some of those challenges, he based a lot of what he put together in the course based upon what he’d seen.

I wanted to find out from our readers what language they use to describe those frustrations. A couple of themes came back. I very explicitly put out a question on our Facebook page, what are your frustrations and challenges with Lightroom? The two things that came back were people felt overwhelmed by the software, they would buy it but they didn’t even have any understanding on how to use and just felt completely overwhelmed by it and they’re not using it at all. Very common thing that came back.

The other one was people had so many photos that they didn’t have time to process them. Not having enough time was another thing. We began to weave those two themes into our sales copy. If you were on the receiving end of some of the emails that we sent, you will have seen those themes.

I think the tagline on our sales page is Master Lightroom: Tips and Tools that will Bring Your Photos to Life and Save You Tons of Time. Saving time is something that was repeated on the sales page a number of times. On our social media posts about this course, quite often I started those posts with the words, “Overwhelmed by Lightroom?” That really worked very well. Again, save time was something that we used again and again in our sales emails but also on social media.

The other thing that we’ve used in some of our communications of sales on this particular course is we’ve really emphasized that the courses are step by step guide. Really, it’s about hand holding. This was something we’ve noticed has worked well. Our readers really want that. Some of them explicitly ask for a step by step guide. Again, that’s their language. We use their language to sell it to them.

Understand what your reader’s challenges, pains, things that they want to achieve and the language that they used. In the post that I’m talking about, Robert writes this. He says, “Humble yourself and truly serve your audience, listen to their needs and desires, listen to the language they use. If you listen carefully, your audience can eventually give you everything you need, including much of your copy. Get out of their way…”

I love that idea and this has certainly been true for me. Every time I come to sell something to our audience, I really try and get in their heads and understand the language that they’re using as much as possible.

The third area that Robert talks about in his blog post is one that I think is brilliant as well. He says, “Listen to your competitors. It’s wise to have a view of the entire battlefield. What’s working in your market, what’s not? What can you learn from other’s success and failure (and the language that got them there)?”

This is great advice as well. I would say particularly in the blogging space, you can learn a lot from your competitors. A lot of the time, your competitors will actually be collaborators as well. This has certainly been the case for us on Digital Photography School. Many of the products that we’ve created, we’ve actually created with competitors.

The Lightroom course that I’ve referred to a number of times in this podcast today was created by Mike Newton who many people might say is a competitor of ours. He has a site which sells similar types of products to us. He came onto our radar a number of years ago when we were looking for other people’s products to promote as an affiliate. We learned a lot by looking at the way that he was selling his products which were competing products in some ways to ours. We loved what he was doing so much that we reached out to him to promote his product but also to collaborate with him on our product.

Whilst Robert does talk here about competitors, I would say learn and listen from your collaborators as well. Knowing what other people are selling, how they sell it can really shape what you do.  

Don’t just go out and steal what other people are doing and replicate exactly what they’re doing. Certainly, learn from what they’re doing as well. We constantly watch what other photography sites are doing. As I mentioned before, we actively promote their products as affiliates probably to make money but also it’s a great way of researching and again listening to shape what we then create as well. By promoting other people’s products as an affiliate, we see if our audience has an appetite for that type of product, that format of product, that priced product.

We also get to test our own marketing, sales copy, and get responses from our audience on that. We also learn a lot by watching how our affiliate partners promote what they do as well. We analyze their sales pages, their sales email, their social media as well. Listen to your competitors, see if you can make them collaborators because a lot of learning will come out of that process as well.

I really encourage you, if you are selling something at the moment, to do the exercise. Listen to whoever created the product whether that’s you or someone else. Listen to your audience, understand the language that they use, that’s really got to be the basis for the sales copy that you write. And then listen to your competitors and your collaborators as well.

I hope you found this useful, I’ll chat with you in a couple of day’s time in Episode 147 of this ProBlogger podcast.

Before you go, I want to call your attention to the virtual ticket that we just released for the ProBlogger event this year. Our event is on the 9th and 10th of September here in Australia but we understand many of you cannot get to Australia for the live version of the event. We’ve put together a great little virtual ticket for you over at

When you go over there, you’re going to see what I think is a really great offer. We survey our readers every year to find out what they want at our event and we came up this year with what I think is probably one of our best schedules ever. We’ve got 50 sessions. There are six keynotes, there’s a number of workshops, there’s breakout sessions, a wide variety of topics from creating content for your blog and social media to different aspects of social media. We’ve got a session on growing your effectiveness of using Facebook both with organic Facebook use and also paid Facebook use. We’ve got sessions on INstagram, using email to sell, creating a great sales funnel.

We’ve put together a whole schedule which is purely based upon what our readers express to us as their pains, the challenges that they have and their dreams as well. We’ve brought in speakers from around the world to help with that.

We’ve also got some sessions on some of the newer forms of social media. We brought in Brian Fanzo from the US who’s going to talk about live streaming and influence. We’re doing some new stuff but also some of that tried and true stuff as well. I’m doing three sessions this year at the opening Keynote but also doing a session on monetizing blogs as well. Really introductory type stuff on this particular session. There’s a great variety of things that we’ve put together in this year’s event.

We’re also adding in as a bonus for people that want to pick up that virtual ticket all the sessions from last year’s event as well. There’s 23 different sessions that we put together there. Again, I put together a few of those sessions but we’ve got other people as well who did fantastic keynotes. There’s a whole variety of sessions that you get between the two years, over 73 sessions. Most of those sessions go for 45 or so minutes, there’s a heap of content there for you to access both immediately and once our even happens in September.

Of course, the other extra part of the virtual ticket is a private, exclusive accountability and networking group on Facebook where you’ll have the opportunity to ask questions, get to know other bloggers within your niche, and we’ll also be starting some discussions around your goal setting and try to keep you accountable to the things that you learn in the event as well. That’s completely exclusive to those attending via virtual ticket or live at the event as well. That’s another great way to learn and keep yourself on track.

Before I go, I want to give a big shout out and say thank you to Craig Hewitt and the team at Podcast Motor who’ve been editing all of our podcasts for some time now. Podcast Motor has a great range of services for Podcasters at all levels. They can help you to set up your podcast but also offer a couple of excellent services to help you to edit your shows and get them up with great show notes. Check them out at

How did you go with today’s episode?

As usual, I would love to know what you do to listen to your readers, content creators, and competitors. Do you shut up and listen? If so, how has it benefited your blogging?

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