Today I’m going to share an important lesson about using empathy to relate to your prospect in a sales letter.

This is an issue I’ve concentrated on a lot for two reasons…

1. There’s a lot of misinformation about the meaning of empathy in copy.

2. How you use empathy changes drastically based on the author/reader relationship.

As a noob copywriter I thought that you “can’t go wrong” using empathy in your sales copy. However, on a private phone call years back, my friend and mentor, John Carlton, set me straight.

Truth is… you can go wrong using empathy especially as an opener to your sales letter – rather quickly, in fact. That’s because empathy is often NOT what the prospect wants from their expert.

For instance, if you’re selling a series of video lessons created for the internet marketing niche, empathy works fine. It’s important for the IM crowd to know that you’ve struggled to make it work just like they have. That way they know you are qualified to propose a proven solution. Pretty basic stuff.

But as you creep lower down Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and the product you’re promoting addresses a more urgent need, empathy is not necessarily what your prospect is craving.

There are times when your prospect simply wants to know you are the expert who can provide the solution that works fast to relieve pain and make his trouble go away.

As John told me on the call (I’m paraphrasing): In this situation, this guy (the author) is like an ER doctor. He doesn’t say, “I know what it’s like to have your finger cut off by a buzz saw…” because he’s standing there with all his fingers.

And that’s not what the guy standing there bleeding wants to hear anyway. He’s not looking for someone to share his pain – he’s looking for someone to solve his problem. So the doctor’s job is to assure him he knows exactly how to stop the pain and heal the wound. Simple as that.

It’s a good reminder that methods that work wonders in certain sales situations can quickly become a detriment in another. The lesson is to make sure you have a deep understanding of your prospect’s mindset as he enters the letter.

What is his pain level?

How urgent is his need for a cure?

Where does his problem rate on Maslow’s scale?

This lesson is also a good reminder that the very basics of good salemanship are where most promotions either win big or lose bad. Maybe hearing it again can help you out today the way it did me.

Happy selling…

Kevin

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