4 practical ways to sell without writing a sales pitch

October 13, 2011 by Dean Rieck
Filed under: Copywriting Tips 

selling without sellingIt was a busy Thursday morning. I had just finished answering about 50 emails when one more message landed in my inbox.

It was a from Donnie Bryant, who said he has just finished reading The Art of Zen Copywirting and offered me another take on the subject.

I liked it. And I think you will too.


Supercharged salespeople and marketers love to make reference to the movie Boiler Room.

You may have heard them use this quote from the film: “A sale is made on every call you make. Either you sell the client some stock or he sells you a reason he can’t. Either way a sale is made, the only question is who is gonna close?”

It sounds good. It’s motivational. And it’s false.

A customer doesn’t have to “close” a salesperson. He doesn’t have to “sell you a reason he can’t” or won’t buy from you. All he has to do is hang up the phone. Leave the store. Click away from the website (even while the autoplay video is still running).

The truth is, you can’t sell anything without selling. But that doesn’t change the fact that people hate to be sold. Copywriters have to be able to take a different approach. How can we sell without appearing to sell? Here are 4 practical ideas.


There is quite a bit of literature available on why telling stories is such a powerful vehicle for communication and influence. I probably don’t have to tell you how effective they can be in selling situations.

Without a doubt, the two copy projects which produced the most startling results for me were pure narrative.

Stories get past all the barriers that listeners and readers erect as soon as they hear a sales pitch coming in their direction. The oft-mentioned truth is that the human brain is hardwired for stories. In a presentation at a TED event this April, Amanda D’Annucci talked about how stories affect us psychologically and neurologically.

“Story,” she says ”is an influential tool which can mold the most obstinate of minds by means of appealing to an individual’s pathos (emotion) … We dream in narrative. Daydream in narrative.”

You can use storytelling in both your online and offline marketing materials. Rather than stating feature after feature, or even benefit after benefit, craft a story. How were those features invented? How have those benefits changed lives? What will your business look like after you use this service?

When done properly, stories allow the audience to draw their own conclusions, which is a far more persuasive than telling them what to think. Good stories get the listener involved, invested in the outcome, and even participating in the plot in their own mind.

Think of some ways you can add narrative elements into your marketing copy. As I noted above, I’m sure you’ve heard this stuff before. But have you acted on what you’ve learned? Do it today. The results could startle you, as they did me.


Customer testimonials are related to storytelling. But testimonials have an added dimension of realness.

It’s always better to have someone else shouting your praises than tooting your own horn. Other people who have been enthusiastically satisfied with your product are doing the selling for you. See the difference?

They’re the ones offering proof that your product is worth what it costs.

They’re the ones who ease the fear that new customers may have of getting burned.

They have no incentive to lie. They’re not getting a commission check. But they’re smiling anyway, talking about how their lives are better because of the product.

I spoke with a colleague last week about the subconscious effect of testimonials. He was testing up an email sign-up page where he replaced long salesy copy (with all the reasons you need to sign up NOW) with nearly 400 positive comments he’d received from his current subscribers.

No one is likely to read all 400 comments, but the fact that so many people have taken the time to tell this guy how great his content is powerful.

A trend that’s becoming increasingly popular is video testimonials. Video adds another level of credibility to testimonials. These are real people (a little harder to fake than written ones). The emotion is more visible, and it’s easier to imagine that the person raving about the product is just like you (which makes it all the more seductive).


I’ve had some interesting conversations over the past few weeks about the topic of teaching. Is teaching selling?

In my opinion, education is among the most powerful selling tools in any arsenal. Not all teaching is selling. But done properly, there is no better selling technique than education.

At its core, real teaching is the selling of ideas. Great teachers obtain the exact response they’re trying to elicit: improved lives and altered courses of action.

By creating awareness of a problem and showing us how to fix it, teachers really can change the world. Learning a life-altering lesson creates more internal tension than any other kind of sales pitch. It must be acted on.

Purposeful teaching is selling at its best.


Giving stuff away doesn’t feel like selling to the recipient. But samples and free trials can be perfect bait to get people to try what you have to offer. After all, what do they have to lose?

When there’s no risk, potential customers can take a sneak peak at your product or service without fear. If you provide an amazing experience, there’s a very good likelihood that they will continue to hire you or buy from you.

A personal example: Gillette sent me a Mach 3 razor for my 18th birthday. It probably cost them less than $5, including shipping. I loved it, and now I’ve been buying replacement blades for over a decade. Sounds like a smart investment. Spending five bucks gained a lifetime customer. I’m sure there are thousands of others who responded the same way.

I didn’t feel “sold” or pressured. In fact, I remember saying that the razor was my favorite gift that year. There was no resistance on my part. There’s still not. I’m not out shopping for new shaving utensils. I know what I’m buying when I go to the store.

How can you use this same principle? Make sure to offer a product or service that people will find value in. If you disappoint them with your free trial, you will not get them to pay for the full service.

Donnie Bryant is a direct response copywriter, author, and speaker. Visit his website at donnie-bryant.com.

Related posts:

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  2. Hard sell vs soft sell: What’s the difference?
  3. Sell anything with this universal copywriting formula
  4. 7 surprisingly easy ways to fight burnout and recharge your writing batteries
  5. How to sell by not selling: the secret of the cedar plank

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Smart Comments

2 Comments on 4 practical ways to sell without writing a sales pitch

  1. Judith on Oct 26th, 2011 1:15 am
  2. These really are powerful methods. I think one of the things that bind them is that they get past the initial resistance. That’s why it works, because it sneaks up on you. It doesn’t really feel like you’re being sold to at all.

  3. Donnie Bryant on Oct 28th, 2011 7:31 pm
  4. Thanks for the comment, Judith!

    You’re absolutely right. No one likes the feeling of “being sold.” In order to persuade, selling and marketing has to get past that initial resistance.

    We can learn a lot from the battle of Troy. The city wasn’t overthrown during a head-on attack. The Trojan horse snuck past the defenses and led to victory.

    Of course, we’re not fighting a war or trying to do any harm to our customers. But we have to be smart about how we present our offer, otherwise they may never experience the wonderful benefits we have to offer.