Sales 101 for Writers: How to Hook Your Readers
How to Hook Your Readers
Post By Guest Contributor Courtney Frey
Some daughter’s get a pep talk. Some daughter’s watch their father’s work hard and diligently and learn from their example’s. I learned all I needed to know by being my daddy’s “hooker.”
“How would you like to make some money?” Dad asked one evening as he slammed a double hitter, one in the corner pocket and the other into the side. Lifting his hand crafted pool stick to tilt victorious against his side, he leaned up against our nine foot pool table, which sat so suiting, in the middle of our living room.I laughed, more nervous to hit my simple straight shot than to respond, “Yeah? Thinking we might take some poor sap up at the pool hall for a little cash again?” At sixteen years old I wasn’t a great pool player, but I’d learned a few tricks and could hit easy shots.
My father had spent a few hours, or more, teaching me the tricks of the game but the real money was in our “act” as father and daughter when we hussled. I missed, “Dangit,” he nodded his head but didn’t pay much attention. “No,” he spoke in the direction of the last of only two solids on the felt, “ I’ve got a trade show coming up and I thought I’d hire you to help me out if you’re interested.”I couldn’t pretend to know exactly what my dad really did for a living, other than he traveled a lot, was in sales, and made very good money. I figured it was an easy few bucks, “Yeah, sure.”
A few days later he had me dressed to the nine’s in a black business skirt suit, black high heels, and told me I looked great as we made our way to the event center. Once there I met two other women, both in there mid 30′s who, my father mentioned, worked with him from time to time. Over the course of the next hour I took instructions on setting up our booth, watched my father prep the seminar room which was a semi-large room directly behind our booth cornered in by glass walls. A banner went up above the booth, “Equity Link Financial,” and the table filled with seminar registrations as well as pamphlets and a few free walkman’s to give-away.
My father had said very little and I felt far older than my age and quite beautiful to boot so shut my mouth and just did what was asked. I figured my job that day would be to hand out pamphlets or help register attendee’s for his seminar, but I also figured dad would tell me what to do when the time came.Suddenly a woman’s voice came over the loud-speaker in the enormous event center, “Five minutes to doors open, five minute call!” The other hundreds of people working booths began to make mad dashes for last minute preparations and I thought it was odd that so many people were so worked up over strangers browsing their services for a few hours. Then, my father appeared at my side and said, “Ok, so your job for the next six hours is to “hook” for me.” I screwed up my face and bobbled my head. He pointed to a little strip of blue tape which ran straight across the front of our booth, “See that tape?” I nodded. “Can’t cross it.”
If the words “hook for me,” didn’t put me into a hissy fit the sudden strange pressure of having to do a job that would make me want to cross the forbidden line made me shudder with fear. Dad said with a deep, calm, intimidating voice, “In about four minutes about five hundred people are going to come through those doors and your job is to get as many of them to stop here at this booth and register for my seminars. They last fifteen minutes and they run at the top of the hour for six hours.”
Still, couldn’t speak. He continued, “You’re going to get paid for every registration you get. Now, I’m going to walk about fifty yards towards the front doors, turn, and head your way. Stop me if you can and convince me to register.”
I opened my mouth finally, “Dad, I have no idea what Equity Link Financial is! What are the seminar’s for?” He grinned, “You’ll figure it out. I know you can do this.”
And he took several serious strides out of my reach, his back to me acknowledgement and even permission for me to completely freak out when he wasn’t looking – and the fifty yards .. enough time to pull my panic together.
This is how my father managed me. How he taught, and from whence the lessons came. I never had the sit down lectures or the jolly inspiring talks like most daughters. My life, growing up fell in line with the anonymous quote, “Experience is a hard teacher … she gives the test first and the lesson afterwards.” What my father also knew .. was me. Even at a young age I’d become a passionate aspiring writer, and after his writing advice, “A good writer leads his reader to the mountain top. A great writer allows the reader the view for themselves,” I had been struggling to understand his wisdom. So, he was trying to teach me through sales. Know your audience, and know how to hook them in. Without knowing your audience, without the ability to read them and connect with them, to give them something they can relate to themselves, you will never get them to your work. Or, in this case, our booth.
He came towards me with a grimace that would make most teen girls run to their own dad’s crying. His eyes avoided me but screamed, “Don’t even think of messing with my line of sight.” His posture said, “I’m far too wealthy and far too good to be here.” I was scared.
Closer, closer .. and almost to me. Now or never Courtney … now or never .. and I forced myself with a tremendous inner push to lean over the blue tape, “Excuse me, sir?” He turned his head slightly, hands still in his pockets, acknowledging me but no reward of speech. I leaned harder, “Have you ever heard of Equity Link Financial?” I asked him. He looked up at the banner, back down at me, completely indifferent, “Nope.” I smiled.
“Sir, the truth is, neither have I until today. But if you’ll look back into that room, you’ll see a very handsome gentleman who makes more money that I can conceive of, and he’s giving seminar’s once an hour. If I don’t get you to register and attend one, I don’t eat. You see, that man is my father. Please, find it within yourself to discover a huge opportunity in today’s financial market and if you walk away with nothing else, you will have peace of mind that a young girl ate today.”
My father grinned. He patted my shoulder and said, “You’re gonna do just fine.” And that was the last I heard from him the entire day.
Six hours later as we gathered the registrations, each initialed by the “hooker” that had gotten it, I – nor my father – was shocked to see that I’d out-hooked them all.
By the first hour I’d learned that Equity Link Financial was a brokerage franchise. By the second hour I’d learned how to read people. By the third hour I’d learned to face fear and beat the hell out of it in order to push harder than it could suffocate. That day, at sixteen, I learned how to sell. From then on, each time I sat to write, I remembered the strange faces of potential buyers and how I had to quickly figure out a way to connect with them. I embraced knowing my audience and the lesson that comes with writing for something and writing because of something. Sales had taught me how to “hook” my readers into the seminar of my words.
The next time you write a story, or an article, imagine for one moment that you are standing behind a blue line at the booth of your internal prose, and for every person that meanders by, read your first few lines a-loud. Listen to what they may sound like to the business man who is weary, to the mother who is overwhelmed, to the friend who is lonely, and to the stranger who is hungry for inspiration. If you can’t hook them in with your first few lines, you won’t get them into the whole story.
Throw your cast wide and far in the right direction for you … you never know what you’ll catch when you pay attention.
Published By Cyril P Abraham