Growth Marketing

Conversion Rate Optimization: 4 Essential Ways to Be a Better Salesperson Online

Salesmanship and CROHere’s what we’ve all allowed ourselves to believe: selling is tacky.

If you have brains and a great product or service, you really shouldn’t have to ask people to buy your stuff, should you? Great products sell themselves!

And, hell, you didn’t go to college just to end up hocking your wares like some sad-sack modern take on Willy Loman! Right??

Marketing and advertising are sexy. CRO is smart.

Your mom doesn’t scowl over those jobs.

But selling? Ugh.

As far as you’re concerned, the only way YOU’RE going to venture into the dirty, skeazy world of sales is if you do so from an academic perspective: you’ll subtly persuade your visitors by using their decision-making behaviors to your advantage. You’ll check out a few blogs that regurgitate other people’s studies and land on a sales strategy: you will use “loss aversion” and “reciprocity” when selling on your site. Sure, that should help you increase your conversion rate. Sure.

…….And then your startup fails.

Why? Because you let your mama’s voice and your mothereffing pride get in the way of moving units.

You thought selling was tacky. Turns out it’s the only way to make money.

Today – right now – this is your chance to get real about selling on your website so you actually stay in business, grow and feel awesome. Throw out all that BS about the psychology of button colors. Close your copy of Cialdini’s “Influence”. Fuck persuasion! (At least until you get the basics down.) Just sit there, shut the hell up and open your mind to selling some freakin’ products – like the salesperson you need to be.

In this post, I’ll show you how to be a better salesperson online using these 4 essential tactics:

  1. Focus on getting the sale
  2. Feed your prospects’ words back to them
  3. Make it insanely easy to buy
  4. Never apologize for selling

WARNING: Bad language ahead. This topic always gets me worked up.

1. Focus on Getting the Sale

Sales people like credit cards. They like POs. They like relationships only insofar as they can nurture them into a new sale or a repeat sale. But they won’t waste time on a dead lead. There are other sales to be made out there.

You only have so much time and energy.

If you spend all of your time and energy trying to doing anything but move units with your web copy, you’d better be damn sure that what you’re doing is going to have greater ROI than writing copy that sells would.

Copy that sells:

  • Doesn’t piss away mental energy on trying to be cute or clever
  • Doesn’t hem and haw about who the product is right for
  • Doesn’t self-edit or try to squeeze its key messages into tiny spaces
  • Speaks in the language of the prospect
  • Only says things that truly matter to the prospect
  • Doesn’t delay the purchase
  • Doesn’t let a lead get away without at least capturing their contact info
  • Connects all the dots, so every feature has clearly spelled out and meaningful benefits
  • Knows when to shut the hell up

Get over the fear of losing people or turning people off by selling to them.

Your greatest fear as a business owner should be NOT making money.

Sales people are rich. There is no shame in selling. Rather, if you have a great product or service to sell but you’re too chicken-shit to sell it, you should be ashamed of yourself.

2. Feed Their Words Back to Them

Sales people have the advantage of speaking one-on-one, in person to a prospect. They take exactly what a person says and repeat it back to them, using the same words or variations on those words. Half the battle in real-time sales is won simply by listening.

On your site, the only time you have such an advantage is when you have chat enabled.

So, when it’s time to write your site’s copy, how do you “say their words back to them” even though they’re not sitting across from you, telling you what they think and feel?

Let me tell you…

…This, my friends, is the #1 secret you need to know about writing high-converting copy: it NEVER comes from you. It’s not living inside your head. High-converting copy comes from the stand-out things you hear or read:

  • In customer surveys
  • In pop-up surveys on your site (e.g., 4Q, Qualaroo)
  • In other site surveys (e.g.,
  • In user reviews (e.g.,
  • In telephone or in-person interviews

You take the exact phrasing that your visitors, customers and users use… and feed it back to them in your headlines, body copy and click-triggers. You should check out my Unbounce post to see exactly how to do this

Okay, so, if this is all it takes – if it’s just a matter of feeding your prospect’s words back to her – then why aren’t more sites converting above 2%?

Honest t’goodness truth: people are too damn LAZY! It takes a lot of upfront work to get “voice of customer data” that you can work with. And if you haven’t done it before, then you may question whether it’s a necessary step.

We rarely question whether we have the right answer for our own business… so we end up writing the same egocentric bullshit on our sites. What you should do is stop believing you know what to say – because you don’t – and start swiping your customers’ language, just as salespeople have done for 100s of years.

3. Make It Easy to Buy

OMG, if I say “make it easy to buy” one more time, Lance is going to lose his mind and leave me.

I am like a broken record on this one. It’s my mantra (right after “get their credit cards”): make it easy to buy.

Here’s the minimum that you have to do to make it easy for your site visitors to buy:

  • In buttons and calls to action, avoid “friction words”, like I show here
  • In forms, only ask for as much info as you need
  • In forms, auto-fill or pre-fill as much as you can (e.g., ask for their zip and use it to fill in the city and state fields)
  • Offer multiple ways to pay*
  • Break down large one-time payments into smaller subscriptions
  • Don’t make them create an account – remember “a bird in the hand is worth 2 in the bush”
  • Don’t interrupt them in the cart at all – not with upsells, cross-sells, bonuses or the like
  • Surround payment forms and calls to action with assurances, like money-back guarantees, positive delivery messaging and support messaging

I’m sure there is some persuasion tactic floating around that holds that putting people through a bit of pain makes them appreciate a positive end result more… but I wouldn’t bet my startup on it.

Let your prospect keep their brain turned off as long as possible.

Making purchasing or subscribing easy – including requiring less work and finishing tasks faster – can help with that.

* We’ve seen at least double the number of purchases daily since adding the ability to accept VISA, Mastercard and AMEX on (versus just PayPal). Next, we’re thinking about for online bank transfers.

4. Never, Ever Apologize for Selling

I worked with a very sweet interaction designer a few years ago. She was super-nice and super-smart. …But I got the feeling she didn’t like selling very much. She, like so many of us, didn’t grow up dreaming of selling.

I recently worked with a startup that, to my great dismay, wrote this in a sales email:

Selling and conversion rate optimization

If you want to turn your business into a success, you NEED to force yourself to get cool with selling.

You may not like how you feel when you first start putting some effort into selling and when you first start thinking of yourself as a salesperson. You’re going to feel uncomfortable. You’re going to second-guess yourself and this post and my cred and the 3 points above.

That’s okay. Feel uncomfortable. As my therapist says, sit with the bad feelings.

…Because you’re going to feel like a freakin’ KING once you start making more money.

And, suddenly, things will start clicking. You’ll move from an appreciation of the soft skill of marketing to the heroine-running-through-your-veins rush of actually selling.

I used to have people on my mailing list who would bitch and moan whenever I sent out an email with a sales pitch at the end. I manually unsubscribed them.

Because I am in business. I give away content, and sometimes it makes great sense to try to sell an advanced version of my free content at the end of a post or email. Guess what! That’s my job.

I’m in sales.

So are you.

Don’t apologize for selling!

Ask for the sale.

Offer paid upgrades before heading into the cart.

Once someone buys, go back and offer more to them later, with more attempts to close.

The only time you should be afraid of selling or – worse – ashamed of selling is if you have a crap product. And no copywriter on earth can help you if that’s the case. Or, at least, I don’t want to help you if that’s the case.


One, stop acting like selling is dirty and salespeople are scuzzy. Get over that. The only prize for being the nice guy who steered clear of any risk of being pushy is a one-bedroom rental filled with eternal loneliness. 😉

Two, do at least one (1) thing to make it easier for your visitors to sign up or buy from you. I recommend you strategically place assurances – like your guarantees and support policies – on the first page of your checkout, in a sidebar.


PS: Yes, persuasion is still good, and there are great tactics that go far beyond these. But you need to do the basics first. That’s the point.



About the author

Joanna Wiebe

Joanna Wiebe - Copywriter and author of "Copyhackers"

  • Omg! This post is a gold mine for me!

  • blogging

    When someone writes an paragraph he/she keeps the
    image of a user in his/her mind that how a user can know it.
    So that’s why this paragraph is great. Thanks!

  • I LOVE this post! I guess it helps to have started as a salesman before becoming a marketer/entrepreneur…..

    • Joanna

      Is there ever a time when sales experience WON’T help you in business… or in life?

  • Hi Joanna, you speak in volumes…thanks for sharing, you’re much appreciated. I respect the way you help readers to simplify the complexities, Almost every topic or subject you cover uses a practical strategy, which is reliable and proven with your experience. More people should take notes as to why it’s critical to connect marketing and sales…because your website competes for the audience’s most precious commodity…time.

  • Billy Gene

    Hot Fire!

  • Greg

    Hey Joanna,
    Great post! I was just discussing this very point with Ahava the other day.

    She had made the comment that “Marketing is Manipulation.”

    Which lead into a rather heated discussion about WHAT exactly was she trying to accomplish with her business and ultimately her LIFE.

    We are back on track now, but we have decided to revisit our WHY and are heading towards “resetting” our Long Term Vision.

    Time to write some new “copy” for our lives. Tell a new Story, create a New result!


    • Joanna

      Interesting. I have a Humanities / Arts background, and most of my uni friends were staunchly against advertising — going so far as to protest the ads that were placed on the back of bathroom stall doors. So I can understand the deeper, more philosophical reasons for shying away from marketing and sales… except when people who are actually in business start shying away from it. Successful businesses REQUIRE sales and marketing. So positioning oneself above it feels like shooting yourself in the foot, right? I’m glad the two of you ended up at a good point, though. 🙂 Now go sell some tiny houses!! 🙂

  • Thank you Joanna. You are my hero. I have been selling since 1984, and love the role. Most of my clients run their own businesses and have sales skills of a tree trunk. Engineers are more than happy to make stuff, and fix it, but the concept of actually selling it is not real work to them. It is slimy, smacks of selling snake oil. I loved your article. I plan to share!

    • Joanna

      Thanks, Peter! It’s totally sad how this societal / cultural distaste for “the salesman” holds back so many businesses from the growth they could realize. Here’s to chipping away at that bit by bit and making it cool — even downright sexy — ‘cos money is power and power is sexy — to sell. 🙂

Copyhackers Tutorial Tuesdays training calendar

Copywriting tutorials

How to use surveys to write LFSP
SEO copywriting
Why good copy performs badly
Conversion copywriting defined
How to use VoC to create outlines
How to validate your copy
How to make your writing sound good
Getting creative with conversion copy
How to write headlines
How to be specific in your copy
How to write great bullet lists
How to write a long-form sales page
How to write compelling “agitation” copy
How to write holiday copy
3 essential copy techniques to use daily
How to write a sales page
How to optimize crossheads/subheads

How to optimize Facebook ad copy
How to write an Adwords ad
How to write Facebook-compliant ads

How to evergreen your course sales
How to use SEO landing page
How to get more subscribers
How to script the first sales video
How to script the second sales video
How to script the third sales video

How to use conditional messaging
How to write welcome emails
How to write a launch-day sales email
How to write a last-day launch email
How to write a cold email
How to write cold emails for services
How to write a trial-ending SaaS email
How to write a post-welcome SaaS email
How to write TOFU emails


What to ask your clients
How to shift the way you think about money
Think you’re not ready for a VA?
How to get paid to write proposals
Creating and selling packages
How to write a project proposal
How to present your copy to clients
How to get more proposals approved
How to wireframe your landing pages
The art & science of pestering
How to pitch your copywriting services
How to create a biz-worthy home office
How to handle awkward client convos
How to master customer interviews
How to keep your copy reviews on track

How to write a long-form sales page using survey data
A super-speedy formula to find VoC
How to Marie Kondo your VoC data
Optimize your email sequence with Trello
How to research a blog post
How to plan a SaaS onboarding funnel
How to use Amazon review mining
How to do a content audit
How to know what your visitor’s thinking
Creating a launch command center
A 3-part copywriting process for newbies

Likes to leads
SEO copywriting
How to optimize a headline
How to optimize a SaaS sequence
How to optimize content for SEO
How to validate your copy
How to optimize Facebook ad copy

Breakthrough blog post topics
How to write an epic blog post
How to write a mass-appeal blog post
How to write funny content
How to keep readers reading
Blog post formula for authority building
How to write an ultimate guide

Sweep 1: The Clarity Sweep
Sweep 2: The Voice + Tone Sweep
Sweeps 3 & 4: The Believability Sweeps
Sweep 5: The Specificity Sweep
Sweep 6: The Heightened Emotion Sweep
Sweep 7: The Zero Risk Sweep