Will Your Reader Doubt You?

Famed attorney Vincent Bugliosi is probably best known for prosecuting Charles Manson and writing the book Helter Skelter about his experience on that case.

But he also wrote a book about the O.J. Simpson trial called Outrage.

In it, he slays prosecuting attorneys Marcia Clark and Christopher Darden for the many mistakes they made in prosecuting the case.

Today I'm going to talk about one of those mistakes – and what we as copywriters can learn from it.

It was made by Christopher Darden in his closing summation.

Before I tell you what it is, it's important to set the stage a little.

Bugliosi writes in Outrage that …

" … a lawyer cannot expect a jury to buy his cause if they detect that he does not believe in it completely himself."

While Bugliosi says that there is no question in his mind that both Clark and Darden believed in their case, the problem he says is that they didn't clearly show it to the jury.

In his closing summation, Darden says that in deciding whether Simpson was guilty or not, "whatever you do, the decision is yours, and I'm glad that it is not mine."

Bugliosi points out that Darden is basically telling the jury that it is reasonable for them to have doubts about Simpson's guilt.

Bugliosi says emphatically that a prosecutor "should always convey to the jurors just the opposite, that the evidence of guilt is so clear, obvious, and overwhelming that they shouldn't have any trouble at all reaching a guilty verdict."

(Note that to compound his mistake just prior to his "I'm glad that it is not mine" statement, Darden told the jury that "Nobody wants to do anything to this man." He essentially suggested to the members of the jury that if they decided to let Simpson go free, it would be okay because people "would be relieved, even happy.")

Bugliosi, of course, was right on the money.

What he says is true whether you're a prosecuting attorney trying to convince a jury to buy your closing argument or a copywriter or a salesman trying to convince someone to buy your product.

Imagine you're at Home Depot. You're there to buy a washer/dryer unit. You're looking at a specific model.

The Home Depot representative approaches you and tells you that if he was buying a washer/dryer, it's probably not the one he'd buy and he's glad that it's your decision and not his.

Obviously, your confidence in the unit would plummet and you'd most likely end up buying something else.

So I tend to cringe a little when I see copywriters making a similar mistake to the one above.

Near the end of their letter they write something like …

Still not convinced? Here's another bonus …

By doing this, the writer opens up the door to the possibility that his reader should not be convinced by what he's written so far.

Plus questioning whether the reader is convinced is really an admission by the writer that he hasn't done a very good job writing the sales letter.

Instead of questioning how convinced the reader is, use the introduction of a new bonus as another opportunity to restate a benefit …

In addition to having everything you need to set up your own tax business and start making money immediately, you'll also receive a very special bonus.

See the difference?

Keep this in mind whenever you’re writing copy – whether it’s a sales letter, an email, a landing page, or even a letter to a company about a job you want. Believe in the product or service you’re selling (even if that product is you!), and don’t give your reader a reason to doubt if what you're promoting is right for them.

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Published: April 4, 2011

19 Responses to “Will Your Reader Doubt You?”

  1. I agree with you. "Still not convinced" is too negative. When I write a sales letter, I pile on the benefits and the credibility out the whazoo - with the hopes of bringing the prospect to the place where they can't get their wallets out fast enough. I never want to cast even a shadow of doubt on their purchase decision.

    Guest (Deanna)

  2. Keep this (IN) mind whenever you’re

    At the risk (OF) opening myself ..

    Both from your email - not on the blog.

    Point is good...of course...but these sorts of mistakes are distracting...

    Guest (pete)

  3. "Still not convinced" always leaves a bad taste in my mind. You make a very good argument for watching every word that you write. Always check your copy for subtle triggers that turn the reader off while looking for more powerful language that will increase their connection with the product copy.

    Great article.

    Dave J

  4. Wholeheartedly agree that it’s counterintuitive to use “still not convinced” in sales copy. As a sales writer with 27 years experience and millions in sales to my credit the written word quite powerfully “creates.” In a static piece establishing any doubt whatsoever - when you’re not in front of the prospect to overcome objections –kills the sale. When you command the prospects focus – it must always be in the direction of what is wanted.

    Guest (Paula P)

  5. An excellent point! And you do see "Still not convinced?" a lot. Thanks for making this point.


  6. Thanks for sharing your point so clearly, John. Leaving any opening for doubt in the mind of the juror (or the prospect or the buyer) is self-defeating. What is the prosecuting attorney there for? Gaining a conviction. What am I here for? Getting the prospect or buyer to click that link.

    It's an insidious thing and sometimes hard to spot, but I know from now on I am going to check my copy twice. No doubt allowed :)

    Sandra K

  7. Dear John Hi, this is the first time to write anything to AWAI. Even though I have often thought of responding however it is money that stops me. I mean at the moment I don't have the money to take any of the courses. Hopefully I will soon. However I want to start a copy writing business. But I only partially understand what it is. I do know that as a writer I do believe in what I write with no farther explanations. Unless I have something else to offer. I do want to to this in the short future.

    Guest (Mark Anderson)

  8. Hi John, Great post, spot on the money. If you don't portray your own belief, how can you expect others to believe you.
    When seeing "Still not convinced" on a sales page is a sign to move on to another site.

    Guest (Peter Safe)

  9. I don't like the "still not convenced" It implies I didn't do a very good sales job. "Truth is not what is, truth is one's perception of what is." I have to sell to his/her perception and sell the benefits of my product.I must sell to his/her truth.

    Guest (marilyn)

  10. You're right on, John. Very good point. I'll remember what you said when I write copy.

    Guest (Clara Mae)

  11. I am convinced. You presented your case well, the lawyer did not. Too often we say things that do not convey our point in a clear and persuasive manner. That is why I enjoy writing more than speaking, Being able to take my words back and re-phrase a poorly expressed thought is a definite bonus for someone who speaks first and thinks later.

    Steve L

  12. John:
    I am just launchingmy copywriting career but I have been in sales for a lifetime (insurance and securities). The phrase"if you are stillnot convinced) does not belong within 100 niles of your article,which was well written, BTW.

    Summating your presentation be it lawyer, salesman or whatever, needs to be confidentialy strong and (without doubt) in the mind of the pfedsenter. If not then don't write the article or make the presentation in the first place.


  13. Hi John,

    I get the post and agree with you. It's one sure to make you think what's going on when the writer/presenter keeps making you focus on doubt and so little on conviction.

    The other thing that always makes me wonder is seeing freebies up the wazoo that accompany a sale. Hmm, you have it on sale, you're giving away a lot of free stuff you say is worth all this money, why don't I believe you?

    Do you think I'm that stupid I can't see through that?


  14. I think the 5 most powerful words in sales are: "90 day money back guarantee". What does it mean? It means, not only do we, the sellers, believe in our product, we DARE you to find a reason NOT to finalize your purchase, by using the item for 3 full months. And, whether it's a television, a lawnmower, a washing machine, or a car being sold, that kind of faith in the product you are representing, the company standing behind their merchandise like that, that will sell a product all by itself. Adding positive testimonials from real-live customers/purchasers wouldn't hurt, either. Along with that, mention the Consumer Reports review of your product(s).

    I think brevity is also important. The harder people are trying to make a sale, the more suspicious/bored the prospective customer is going to be. If it appears that a product is over 75% sales pitch by volume, well, customers aren't idiots either, and if they want quality, they'll likely go with a trusted brand name with a goo

    Guest (Bert)

  15. I agree with you John--although I have to admit it is you who pointed out the problem with my using this phrase in the first place. It is the distinctive tips like this that continue to make my writing stronger. Thanks!

    Guest (Cindy Cyr)

  16. Great article, John! Thank you!

    And the reference to the Simpson Trial was a good analogy. "Still not convinced?" never made sense to me because it lacks confidence in what's been written.


  17. John, you make a good case and so do the people who responded. Here's a bonus on top of the great benefits we already have!
    We don't want to think that we only succumbed to a sales pitch because we were offered a gimmicky extra. We want to think that we could see the value all the way through. So the sense that we can't make good purchasing decisions without a final bonus may increase our resistance to the pitch, rather than tipping the scales towards sales.


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