I’ve been writing for most of my life. I debuted at around 5 years old with a taut potboiler about a magical cloud that transformed into—hold onto your hats—a monster truck. So I’ve always been fascinated by the power of the written word. Of course, I’m immediately humbled when I think about the wealth of talented writers out there writing breathtaking stories, some of which aren’t even about monster trucks.
But I’m constantly looking for ways to become a better writer. Fortunately, over the last several months, I’ve had the opportunity to analyze my writing through another lens: sales. I’ve developed a few new writing priorities as I’ve worked on developing sales proposals, and I know they’ll help me be a better writer, both personally and professionally. Here are three of the most important ways that working in sales has changed what I focus on when I write.
Get to the Point
People are busy. People are really, really busy. Given how quickly things move in the modern world, it’s not even a given that people will always open your emails. So if you’ve gotten someone to actually use their eyeballs and their precious brainwaves to literally look at something you’ve written, you should seize the opportunity and make your point concisely.
This is acutely true in sales, but it applies everywhere. We learn atrocious behaviors in school as we struggle to reach the required (and seemingly insurmountable) word count. First, you would pad your margins, bump your font size up, and increase your spacing to something worse than double. Then, with a document that was already mostly white space, you’d start throwing in entirely pointless paragraphs: an intro paragraph to tell you what the next paragraph will say, a paragraph after that paragraph to recap the previous paragraph and transition to the following paragraph, then maybe a section-summarizing paragraph to re-contextualize each paragraph as part of some kind of larger meta-paragraph. Do this long enough, and you end up with a model plane that’s all glue and no wood.