How you can sell more by speaking human

Recently, I sat with a new client, learning everything I could about his service. He was so animated the whole time, you can tell he was in love.

He was in love with his services, his industry, and his customers.

He knew which features made his customers doggedly loyal, and all of the important ways (important because they mattered to his customers, not just him) he was better than his biggest competitors.

Although he was just answering my questions, I got so amped up listening to him, I was on the verge of shouting, “sign me up, I want to be a customer too!”

But when I read his Web site copy, it sounded like aliens sucked out his soul, then replaced it with a drab, well-programmed drone. UGH!

I see this problem in nearly every Web site I visit: The copy’s written like a company talking at a faceless mass. Instead, the copy should read like a human speaking with another human.

Because that’s what creates the connection with the reader and engages them.

And that’s what helps build the trust that motivates them to contact you for more information or to place an order.

Speaking human

How do you speak human? It’s how you sound when talking with a customer staring at you eyeball to eyeball.

When you speak human, you automatically use helpful words, a sincere tone, more detailed and relevant descriptions and explanations.

You aren’t a machine spouting out data. You’re also not spewing pithy statements that sound clever but mean nothing.

But most of us forget that as soon as we write our brochure, Web site, or e-mail copy. We start sounding like we’re writing a school paper or we’re a sassy ad agency sounding smart. We stop sounding like a real person.

This creates a towering wall between your company and the reader.

And if that’s your first interaction with the reader, this wall can hurt your chances of a sale. Because the reader’s still human with the same concerns and emotions whether you talk to them in person or in writing.

So if the person’s still the same, why would you speak to them differently just because you’re talking through a Web site or brochure?

That’s like accidentally knocking hot coffee on a customer’s lap, then matter-of-factly saying, “I’m sorry for the inconvenience this may have caused.”

You wouldn’t really talk like that. But most copy does.

Try this speak-human litmus test

If you want a quick litmus test on how well your copy connects and engages customers, look at your Web site’s FAQ page. How do you phrase the questions?

Are they written the way your customer would ask the question?

And do your answers sound like something you’d say if you were answering a friendly neighbor next door?

For a super clear example of speaking human, check out

They do a fantastic job saying things the way their customers talk in their heads. Their copy is simple, to the point, and answers all of the pertinent questions to get you feeling super cozy about their service.

And their casual tone doesn’t make you second guess their credibility.

Because they fill their home page with credibility elements like testimonials and comments from major newspapers and magazine reviews. And it states upfront over 1 million people used GrubHub so far (that’s one of their USPs, by the way).

Back to our litmus test…

GrubHub helps you find the closest takeout restaurants to you and order online for free. Now take a look at their FAQ page. One question is simply, “Where’s my food?”

It’s phrased exactly the way their customers think when their order hasn’t arrived and their belly’s grumbling.

Notice how it doesn’t say, “What happens when my food doesn’t arrive at the time the restaurant stated?” That’s not speaking human. That’s a company speaking company.

So take a quick gander at your FAQs, then ask yourself:

Are they real questions my customers ask or are they what I think they want to know?

Are they phrased the way my customers ask them?

Do my answers sound like something I’d say to them if they were standing in front of me?

Use your ears

Here’s another way to gauge if you’re speaking human enough. Read your copy out loud.

Do you feel the copy is talking with you, or at you?

One way to speak human is use more “we” and “you” in the copy. Of course, you want more you’s so you don’t come off narcissistic. That alienates the reader.

You may not be able to sound as casual as GrubHub, but you can sound more formal and still sound human.

To see what I mean, let’s take a look at a sample from a children’s cancer center…

I won’t give their name, but they do a few things right. We can guess their customers are highly stressed, extremely worried, emotionally taxed parents. And based on the friendly program name and cheerful kid art type graphics in bright colors, they’re trying to show the hospital isn’t some cold building full of fast-moving, white lab coats. They really care about the patient’s emotions. That’s great.

But they contradict what they’re trying to convey with robotic copy that creates distance between the hospital and the reader. Here’s an excerpt:

“A true patient-physician partnership is evidenced by our providing as much treatment as possible in our beautifully appointed, child-friendly outpatient Center, which makes life easier for patients and families.”

Do you feel they’re talking with you or at you?

Do you feel the writer’s just reporting facts or reaching out a caring hand?

Here’s how that same paragraph can sound more human:

“We do everything to help your child feel as secure and nurtured as possible while they’re with us. Their room is decorated with inspiring colors, plush furniture, and friendly characters to help your child feel happy, comforted, and safe.

To further minimize their stress and anxiety, we provide as much treatment in their rooms as possible. This lets your child stay in a familiar and comforting setting, while you stand lovingly at their side.”

See? No hype – just human.

Remember, people don’t buy from companies. People buy from people.

Get your copy from the customer’s mouth

If you’re not sure how to phrase something, eavesdrop on a customer call.

Many times, I ride along with a company’s top sales people to hear how they speak with customers. I hear how customers phrase their objections. And how the salesperson overcomes them.

If you’re stuck on what to say, listen to a few phone calls between your sales people and your customers. Ride along on sales calls. Talk to customers yourself.

Hear their words.

That’s how your prospects and customers are phrasing questions in their mind as they breeze through your site or flip through your brochure.

When you phrase your answers to match how they think, you connect and engage.

When you sound salesy, fluffy, or stiff, you lose them.

Your turn

Listen to how you or your staff sound on the phone. Do they give standard issue answers that sound akin to, “I apologize for the inconvenience this may have caused”?

Do your e-mails (even the form letters), Web site copy, brochures, and sales pieces sound like a corporate-y drone hijacked your keyboard?

If so, picture a real person you know who you care about. Then edit the copy as if you’re speaking with that person only. That will help you speak human.

Brenda Do of Reno is a freelance, direct-response copywriter, and president of BL Copywriting LLC. Contact her at or 775-223-3637.


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