Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Writing Does More Than Make You a Better Writer

I have worked in sales of one form or another for over twelve years. My experience runs the gamut from part-time retail, commission-based sales, leasing, door-to-door, you name it. What I have found is no matter the position of sales, the central challenge is communicating effectively.

Much of my time as a salesperson overlapped with my education as an English major.  During this time, as my skills in communication improved, I discovered the importance and the difficulties of communication in the sales process. 

From the salesperson’s perspective, I am often amazed at the limited ability customers seem to have with communicating their needs. On the other hand, I am also amazed at the lack of inquiry and details my coworkers provided to customers. Often times I come to the rescue of my coworkers when I overheard a potentially disastrous conversation. 

The communication breakdown almost always occurs when the customer and the salesperson fail to see things from the other’s perspective. The customer assumes the salesperson is already aware for what is being asked, and the salesperson assumes that a wealth of product knowledge is shared with the customer. The result is almost always frustration and failure. However, on the rare occasion when the two parties assume nothing and see things from the other’s perspective, the result is almost always a success.

The difficulty of communication between the customer and salesperson is similar between writer and reader. When composing a paper, a writer cannot make the same assumptions similar to that of the frustrated customer and salesperson. Unless the intended audience is informed, the writer must avoid speculating that the reader is already aware of the subject and that the reader possesses any subject knowledge. In short, the writer must deeply consider the reader’s perspective and play an active role in considering his or her audience. 

Consider my latest endeavor as a salesperson of raw building materials to contractors and do-it-yourselfers. If I were to write an informative pamphlet for contractors on necessary information when requesting a quote on a roof truss systems, then I could assume some general information is shared. However, if I were to write a pamphlet on the same topic for the do-it-yourselfer, then I would assume no shared information. 

However, writing from a reader’s perspective involves more than a consideration of an audience. Detailed and exact language is also necessary. It is important that a writer develops concise and informative prose. This is important for many types of writing, be it descriptive or informative essays, resumes, or lab reports. 

As one becomes more successful with this style of writing, which comes almost entirely from practice and education, the skill of communicating effectively can be applied to any form of communication.

As we learn to consider our audience through writing, we learn the skill to communicate effectively, and skillful communication is a huge part of any success.              


  1. You make a strong case for the idea that communication is education.

  2. I make my kids "talk it out" in class when they are formulating their paper/argument ideas. At first I had them do it in pairs, but now that they aren't scared of each other anymore....the whole class does it. To me, writing is communicating is talking. And sometimes in order to produce good writing, we have to ramble about it for a bit...find those spoken words.
    I'm sure my kids are surprised that I require them to talk and "present" so much in a class that is not a speech class, but I have really noticed that teaching them this way has helped their papers from being excessively wordy, more focused and also longer (probably because they get a lot of feedback from their classmates regarding their ideas...feedback they wouldn't have had before if they hadn't "talked it out". :)