Meek, Mild-Mannered Clark Kent?

Katie Yeakle recently forwarded me a copy of an e-mail from Melanie Rembrandt, who had been on the first tele-seminar provided for early registrants of my Business Of Copywriting Academy. Melanie reported using some of my advice to prepare pitches to two different clients. One signed a several month retainer contract. The other is set with a follow-up meeting and looks promising.

Melanie thanked Katie for “bringing Dan Kennedy’s wisdom and experience” to AWAI. I’m always glad to hear good news. (Congratulations, Melanie.) As to wisdom, well, probably not. But experience, yes. This is my 35th year in the advice business, encompassing consulting and, as deliverable, copywriting. However, her message got me to thinking … if not wisdom, at least what kinds of intelligence has proven most important in those 35 years?

I would rank ‘sales intelligence’ at the top of the list. I came to all this from sales, so I did not have hang-ups or negative attitudes about it, and I had foundational knowledge of the elements of a sale and process of selling, from day one. This, necessary on two fronts: dealing with clients and putting out good work for clients, because good copy is salesmanship in print. Many top copywriters have direct sales experience. Most who struggle, don’t. Kind of a half-secret.

But it’s not just what you know about selling that matters, it’s how you feel about it.

For nine years, I spoke 25 to 27 times a year at huge, public seminar events with a collection of business, sales, motivation speakers, famous entrepreneurs, sports and Hollywood stars, and other celebrities.

The two speakers at every event were me and Zig Ziglar. Zig is a legend in the sales world and in pro speaking, and if you’re not familiar with Zig, you should be. (Tip: his book, Secrets of Closing The Sale, gives you a catalog of closes very useful when writing copy.)

In his later years, Zig preferred status as sage philosopher rather than hard core sales trainer, but he came up from selling pots ‘n pans door to door, and training legions of salespeople. One of his stump speeches to these groups was titled ‘Selling: The Proud Profession.’ It didn’t teach technique; it focused on attitudes and feelings about being in sales. How you feel about this matters a lot.

Even if you don’t study comic book heroes and their folklore (which every copywriter should), everybody’s familiar with Superman, and you probably know his origin story: the last survivor of the distant planet Krypton, shoved into a space capsule and sent here by his parents, landed in Smallville, Kansas, raised by the Kents, gradually getting a grip on his powers, and settling upon his role as protector of truth, justice and the American Way. Imagine how differently things would have turned out if the man called Superman had been ashamed of being an alien from another planet, embarrassed by his freakish powers?

Success with clients, the size of fees and other compensation commanded, the bank account balance, it all tends to reflect one’s feelings about who they are and what they do.

The ability to organize words that motivate people to buy is a super-power. By percentage of population, so very few possess it, we might as well be aliens from a faraway galaxy.

It took a certain attitude to shed the innocuous suit, strap on the blue leotards and red cape, and step into the spotlight. It takes a certain attitude to feel right about taking control of the client, deliberately manipulating his thinking with psychological techniques to gain his confidence, trust, even dependency; motivate his investment; insure his co-operation and compliance.

It takes a certain attitude to feel right about using manipulative psychological techniques in copy to move prospects from various starting points including absence of need or disinterest to buying. Zig famously says “Timid salesman have skinny kids.” Doubly true for timid copywriters.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

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Published: February 17, 2010

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