Why Your Prospects Think You’re Full of It

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They don’t believe you.

There are a lot of reasons that sales copy fails to convert prospects into customers. However, that one up there in boldface often flies under the radar.

I see it a lot when I review sales pages for clients.

Even the ones who are pretty good at copywriting.

They can write a great headline.

They speak to their target customer.

They know to sell the benefits, not the features.

Yet this problem, the problem of not being believable, happens even to clients who know a thing or two about good sales copy.

The right elements are there, but it just isn’t believable.

And while I specialize in copywriting for health companies, this is a big problem in ANY market.

Because when your prospects don’t believe what you’re saying, they don’t buy. And that’s true for any product or service, in any market.

The ‘Yeah, Right’ Test

To show you what I mean, take a look at these three sentences:

“I learned from the best. I tested my process. It works.”

That copy is from an actual sales page I reviewed, written for a weight loss program for busy women over age 35.

And it’s a perfect example of copy that is not believable.

If I’m the prospect, I think, “How do I know if any of that is true?”

There’s no proof that the founder learned from the best. That she tested her process. That it actually works.

Now, had those three sentences appeared at the end, AFTER providing proof, they’d be powerful statements. However, in this case, they were just hanging out there on their own, raising all kinds of red flags.

So your prospect reads that and thinks, “Yeah, right. Why should I believe you, Internet scammer person?”

It didn’t pass the ‘Yeah, Right’ Test.

And so the prospect definitely won’t click to ‘buy now’.

Even worse, they’re feeling distrustful now. So they probably won’t buy, ever.

Show and Don’t Tell

So what’s the solution to copy that isn’t believable?

Replace those lofty claims with actual proof.

Let’s look at that same example again:

“I learned from the best. I tested my process. It works.”

So the first part of this is about the founder: “I learned from the best.”

How does she prove that she learned from the best? By saying who she learned from.

Turns out it was Four-Hour Body creator Tim Ferriss and celebrity fitness and nutrition expert JJ Virgin, to name a couple. Not to mention that she herself has a molecular biology degree from UC Berkeley. That’s some major cred.

Okay, great. Now the next part says, “I tested my process. It works.”

But how has she tested it? What were the results? And most importantly, will this work for me?

So to provide proof, she can talk about her story. How she, a woman in her mid-30s with a demanding career and two kids, lost 40 pounds and got in the best shape of her life.

She can also talk about how she’s privately coached dozens of women who’ve gotten similar results. For instance, one woman, a bank president in her late 30s and a mother of two, said, “I hated clothes shopping, and I was out of breath walking up the subway stairs on the way to work each day. With [this] program, I’ve gained a positive relationship with food. I lost 15 pounds in 12 weeks!”

Look more closely at the last two paragraphs. We proved that it worked for the founder, using her personal story. Then we proved that it worked for her private clients, using her testimonials.

So now, let’s put it all together.

Imagine that YOU are a mom in her 30s.

You have a high-power job as a CEO or a CFO or something that starts with a C. You desperately want to lose 20 pounds, however, you don’t have time for special diets and trainers.

You do a Google search, you see two weight loss programs that look promising. You check out the two sales pages, feeling optimistic for once. And all you really want to know is “will this program really work for ME?”

This is where showing-not-telling will make or break a sale. Here’s what you see:

Weight loss program #1:

I learned from the best. I tested my process. It works.

Weight loss program #2:

I was a CFO and a 38-year-old mom of two. When I couldn’t lose weight, I decided to put my molecular biology degree to use and figure out why.

I spent long hours researching medical studies. I also learned directly from celebrity fitness and nutrition experts like JJ Virgin and Tim Ferriss. As a result of what I learned, I dropped 40 pounds. And then I had to spread the word. Today, I’ve coached dozens of private clients, who’ve also transformed their bodies and their lives.

Clients like Sara, 39, a bank president and mom of two. Sara says:

“I hated clothes shopping, and I was out of breath walking up the subway stairs on the way to work each day. With [this] program, I’ve gained a positive relationship with food. I lost 15 pounds in 12 weeks!”

Now, ask yourself this:

Which of those two programs do YOU believe can solve your problem? Which one would you buy?

3 Ways to Remove Doubt & Insert Proof

So, let’s talk takeaways. How can you erase doubt and put more proof into your own sales copy?

Here are three simple ways to do a quick “Yeah, Right” check:

  1. Be specific. Instead of saying, “You’re going to experience an amazing transformation beyond your wildest dreams,” simply state the facts. What exactly is the transformation you’re promising? How many people just like me have you helped? Hint: Anything you can attach a number to will be more believable.
  2. Let your testimonials and case studies do the talking for you. Instead of saying “it works,” let your happy customers prove it. A powerful testimonial formula is: specific benefit customer got (lost 15 pounds) + period of time (12 weeks) + feeling (love clothes shopping, feel positive) + relevant stats (38 years old, mom, bank president) + their name (Yo Mama). Add photos for killer visual proof.
  3. Read your sales copy from your prospect’s perspective. As you do that, after each paragraph, ask yourself, “How do I know any of that is true?” If there’s not enough proof, add facts, numbers, data, media mentions, studies, testimonials, case studies, endorsements, and/or visuals that prove what you’re saying.

Alright, guys. Try this out, then leave a comment below and let me know how it goes!


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April Dykman
April Dykman
April Dykman helps health entrepreneurs grow their businesses with customer-focused sales copy. She writes at CopySprout.com.
Showing 15 comments
  • John Belkewitch

    Solid advice, April! This stuff is so easily overlooked or lost in the shuffle, especially when marketers are laser focused on big ideas and big hooks. Proving elements and rooting down claims gets lost. Lots of empty promises dressed up as hype as a consequence. Especially love your third tip: “Read your sales copy from your prospect’s perspective.” … absolutely critical.

    • Reply

      Thanks, John! And I think you’re onto something. It’s easy to get excited about your Big Idea and forget that presenting that idea isn’t enough. It has to be backed up with proof.

  • Reply

    Nice one, April. It had me running to my notes a few times, jotting new ideas inspired by this piece. I’ll definitely come back to this one often.

    And bonus points, it got me thinking in a new way. Especially this part: “Imagine that YOU are a mom in her 30s.”

    • Reply

      Thank you, Kev. Glad this was helpful.

      I’ve also heard about an idea of not only creating a profile of your target customer, but even assigning that target customer a name, a backstory (job, family, etc.), and a photo. Then you keep that photo on your desk and write to that person. I haven’t tried it yet, but it seems like it’d be pretty powerful.

  • Reply

    A very short story: Today I interviewed a new coach. During our Discovery Call, she asked me: “How will you know you’ve succeeded? What is your evidence?” Essentially, she had me future pacing my own outcome to prove to myself that her system worked. It was brilliant. I hired her on the spot.

    Take-away: “Proof” works in sales letters because it gives the buyer evidence of their future outcome. A shiny new future… wearing much smaller jeans and feeling like a million bucks. 🙂

    • Reply

      That coach should write copy. 😉 And you’re right…once you’ve pointed out the pain points they’re experiencing, proof shows them that there’s a proven solution (*your solution*).

  • Gerald McDonald

    It’s so true that people are waiting to say “Yeah, right” and a great way to stop them in their tracks and get them to pay attention and desire what you’re selling is to tell a story about how it came to be. Anything less and you’re missing out on the opportunity to build the value of your offer… and that’s a cryin’ shame. Can’t wait to read your next article, April 🙂

    • Reply

      Thanks, Gerald. I think proof is becoming even more important in online marketing because we’re bombarded by sales pitches everywhere we go–inbox, pop-ups, banners, retargeting. I know it’s made *me* much more skeptical.

      And if an offer doesn’t have proof, it feels like a scam to me. The sad thing is, maybe it’s NOT a scam at all. Maybe they just didn’t put any proof in their copy.

  • Reply

    Hey April – great post with a timeless message (and everyone needs a reminder!)

    It’s so easy to overlook the ‘show’ in favour of the ‘tell’ and the importance of being believable and credible in your claims. I’ve seen this so much in sales copy where the company is effectively asking the reader to take a leap of faith. It’s probably the biggest barrier to the sale, yet so little attention is paid to taking a step back, looking at it from the reader’s perspective and doing all the hard work to answer every objection they have in their head.

    Great work, April – look forward to your next post.

  • Reply

    Thanks, Jody. And that’s such a good point re: expecting prospects to take a leap of faith.

    One of the things I try to keep in mind is to never assume anything at all…

    They didn’t read your last email. They read it but forgot what you said. They still don’t understand even though you explained it twice already. They don’t trust you yet.

  • Ralf Stofer

    Hmm.. You critic the head line and you don’t solve the problem. Instate you compare the failing headline with a full long article. And then you ask which is better or more believable.

    Sorry, but you claim to know how to solve the problem is not believable. This Article for me fails exact over the problem it should solve.

    How do you make a better Headline as the mentioned one where the reader would say “Yeah right!”. This is the question you raise and is not answered.

    I don’t like to be mean or discurage anybody. It is just my honest perception of your article.

    • Reply

      Hi Ralf. If I’m understanding you correctly, you thought that the original version was a headline. But it’s not a headline, it was a sentence in the body of a sales letter. The problem was that there wasn’t any proof in the rest of the letter to back the claims in that sentence.

      The rewrite shows you how to substantiate each of the claims in that sentence.

      Hope that helps clarify!

  • Ralf Stofer

    Ahh! Now I understand it better. Thank you very much!!!
    I thought you like to explain how this one sentence have to be replaced to better comunicate. And I was very interested to learn how I can get far more message a cross with about the same amount of words.
    Caused through my upset (caused by my missunderstood) I solved the problem in my headline task I’m working on. So finaly reading your article helped 🙂 even if not in the supposed way.

  • Reply

    Love the 1,2,3 at the end.

    Right on point!

    Rather than making claims, get specific and lay out the facts. Then let people arrive at their own conclusion.

    And of course, let other people do your bragging for you!

    So many copywriters and business owners just babble on about the product and why it works, instead of doing exactly what you said: showing the reality behind it.

    Love it and would love to see some detailed breakdowns of companies that do this really well 🙂

  • Reply

    Hey April Dykman fans,

    I made it onto her site this evening — http://www.copysprout.com — and was reading her post “Made You Click! Subject Lines Worth Swiping” when I read the best headline I have ever seen. Sooo good in fact that I actually gasped when I read it.

    I don’t remember ever gasping before when I read ANYTHING, let alone a swiped headline.

    Well, turns out it wasn’t swiped. This one is her creation.

    If you haven’t read that article, head on over there to see if it makes you gasp too.

    Maybe it won’t grab everyone like it did me. But I bet every businessman who has watched a competitor gobble up their clients will not only gasp, but feel a sharp stab to the heart when they see it.

    I wanna be like April when I grow up!

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