Last Updated on 1 year by Greg Noland

The harder you push, the more some customers resist. I’m talking about the inverse effect of hype when it comes to closing a sale.

So how do you sell WITHOUT selling?

This week, I’m still on a semi-vacation, so I’ve dug up another classic, this time from an old friend of the CR, frequent guest expert, author, speaker, and copywriter Donnie Bryant.

Donnie, take it away…

Defensive Salesmanship: Selling Without Selling by Donnie Bryant

In the town I grew up in, anyone who wanted to get a driver’s license was required to take a defensive driving class. 

More than anything else, defensive driving is a mindset you adopt before you hit the asphalt. The purpose of the class is to teach you how to stay safe while travelling from Point A to Point B. There are plenty of crazies to watch out for.

Let’s compare driving to selling for a moment. Traditional sales training dictates an aggressor mentality – a take-charge, “never settle for no” attitude. This kind of salesperson is very similar to a driver suffering from road rage, when you think about it. Driving like an out-of-control maniac is not wise. Neither is trying to sell with an aggressive frame of mind.

In Scientific Advertising, Claude Hopkins says that “anyattempt to sell, creates sales resistance.” This is as true for anyone involved in any selling, from copywriters to door-to-door salespeople. If you’ve tried to persuade someone to buy your product or service, you already know how real that sales resistance is. 

You have a choice: you can try to drive through the barrier like a car charging through a closed gate, or you can go around it. 

Most salespeople choose the former.  That’s how they were taught to sell. Arguing. Filling inboxes with spam. Trash-talking the competition.

Hopkins would suggest that you circumvent the mental friction entirely. To get around this resistance, take a different approach. Applying the defensive driving perspective makes sense.

Here are seven defensive concepts that will help overcome obstacles to closing deals. They may even prevent those hurdles from popping up your readers’ minds.

1) Express genuine interest in and empathy for your prospects’ desires/needs.

This can be challenging, especially in print. You may have to edit until you get the tone and language just right. Do the research. Talk to your target audience. Find out what’s important to them. If you listen carefully, they’ll tell you how they want to be sold.

This goes a long way to removing the resistance. Your reader feels valued and appreciated. He’ll feel like you’re treating him like a person, not a customer. That can make all the difference in the world.

2) Avoid hype.

Your audience gets enough of that already. So be careful with the caps lock key and exclamation points. Phony deadlines and other scarcity tactics, and overt pressure, in general, are counter-productive more often than not. Be creative and produce real urgency.

Bold promises (you should make the biggest claims you can honestly make), require big proof. Don’t make any claims without explicitly backing them up. Otherwise, you sound like another huckster.

3) Show Dont Tell

Show your reader you provide something valuable to them. Give them a peek at some of the substance within the copy itself. Or use video, audio, pictures to show the product or service. 

A free trial of your product or service is a great way to give your prospects a small taste of the benefits they’ll reap by hiring you. Your initial investment nearly always pays off in a significant way.

4) Tell a story.

Good stories naturally break down barriers, arouse curiosity and form a personal connection to the product, service, and the storyteller. All are good for your conversion rate. 

5) Make the best offer and guarantee possible.

Make it known as early as possible. Your readers get more risk-averse by the day. Assure them that you’re not going to take their money and run.

6) Build credibility.  

Use testimonials, endorsements, customer satisfaction award, and other facts about the company that show you’re trustworthy, worthy of being the obvious choice for the prospect. 

Terminix ran a direct mail campaign that emphasized quotes and statistics from the Center for Disease Control. Talk about an authoritative, albeit implied, endorsement. That’s just one example

Make it clear that your goal is to improve the lives of people you serve, not just get sales.

7) Make multiple contacts your target audience.

The more they hear from you, the more they’ll trust you. Get their permission to contact them. Gain “invited guest” status by continually providing real value.

Your prospects get dozens (or more) of emails and envelopes every day. Breakthrough the clutter by approaching them differently than anyone else.

Everyone is driven by his or her motivators. Your motivations as a copywriter or salesperson must not collide with the motivations of your potential customers. Use your defensive driving skills to prevent these kinds of accidents.

Great stuff, Donnie Bryant… thanks for filling in! As for the rest of you, make sure you visit Donnie’s website – click here.

For now,


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