How The Curse of Knowledge is Probably (Definitely) Killing Your Sales Calls


Let me ask you a question: 

Do you ever find that on sales calls and free consults... you find yourself spending a lot of time explaining why your service or offering makes sense for your potential clients?

All in one call, you're trying to justify... explain... educate... provide value... and, oh yeah... actually make a sale. 

Are you exhausted? I'm exhausted. 

Here's the good news: your copy and content can help you carry the load of selling. In fact, your copy and content should be educating and pre-selling your clients on why they need what you've got. Which means... those sales calls just got a whoooole lot easier (thank me later).

In today's article, I'm going to explain:

  • The number one thing that makes your content plans and copy fall flat - and its making you work twice as hard for every sale. (It's called The Curse of Knowledge, and it's one of the reasons why you're still #hustlin' 24/7.)

  • I'll also show you how to plan content and write copy that moves your readers closer to the sale while providing incredible, non-sleazy value every step of the way. 

Deal? Deal. Let's jump in. 

Put Simply, Your Smarts Are Hurting Your Sales. Here's What I Mean By That... 

Nearly every one of my clients has fallen victim to The Curse of Knowledge, and it’ll stop your conversions and sales dead in their tracks. What is it, you ask? Well... 

“The curse of knowledge is a cognitive bias that occurs when an individual, communicating with other individuals, unknowingly assumes that others have the background to understand them.”

(Thanks for the handy definition, Wikipedia.)

So here’s the thing: you don’t need to be a rocket scientist or hold a PhD on the post-Victorian gender norms of the 19th Century (is that a thing!?) to unwitting succumb to The Curse of Knowledge.

You just need to be good at what you do.

It's cool to be smart (and personally I think nerds are hot), but let's consider how your expertise might be hurting your marketing efforts... 


The brilliant professor who can’t connect with his class because he no longer remembers what it’s like to struggle as a newbie.

The course creator who put together a program that flopped because she based the curriculum on what made sense to her, not what had been verified with her students.

The talented and highly-experienced business owner who is struggling to get her audience's attention because she doesn't know how to speak the beginner's language.

These examples have the The Curse of Knowledge written all over them.

Why does this matter? Well... 

Smarty-Pants Copy and Communication Confuses People. (And Confused People Don't Buy.)

By the time people book in for an initial consultation (or sales call) with you, they will have explored your website and read an article or two, at least. So it makes sense that copy on your site and every blog you write is an opportunity to begin pre-selling and educating your ideal clients about their problem, and why what you've got makes the most sense for them. 

The problem is that most people aren't doing this very well. Instead, they're speaking to their peers, who are light-years ahead of their clients in terms of knowledge, awareness and understanding. This is bad. 

Because when it comes to copy, your readers are going to one of two things: decide that you have the solution to their problem or bounce. 

So when you talk and write copy over your audience’s heads, they’re likely to assume that you don’t get them, that you can’t help them, and that they shouldn’t buy from you.

So today, I want to show you how I help my clients cure The Curse of Knowledge, get on the same page as their audience, and communicate with them in a way that connects.

(It’s a concept called reader awareness and it just might rock your world.)

That feeling when you find out how to create content that makes sales calls smooth as butter... 

Reader Awareness: So Hot Right Now

Why should you care about this thing called reader awareness? Well, knowing how to cater to your audience's awareness-level is the difference between a sales message that makes people’s eyes glaze over… and the kind of message that has people scrambling to work with you.

I've written before about the importance of knowing your audience and how to communicate your business message. The third piece of that puzzle is knowing how to speak to your audience in a way that meets them where they're at (and good luck getting their attention otherwise). 

So how do you do that? 

Creating content and copy that caters to your audience's current state of mind is the only way. If you’re not speaking directly to the in-the-moment struggles, wants, fears and aspirations of your perfect buyer then nothing you say will connect with her – which means you haven’t got a chance of converting her into a paying customer. 

A crucial part of knowing your audience is understanding how well they understand their problem, its causes, and the potential solutions. This, at its core, is reader awareness.

(Fun Factoid: "reader awareness" was first coined by Eugene Schwartz, a Mad Men-era copywriter, over FIFTY years ago! Jess Mehring wrote an awesome break down of the conventional formula here, and what follows below is a slightly modified riff on the concept.)

So, with that in mind, let's talk about how you can use reader-awareness to write more compelling content and copy for your brand:

At any given time, a potential client will be in one of theSE five stages of awareness:

  • Unaware (has no idea that anything is wrong, let alone what she can do about it)

  • Pain Aware (is feeling the effects of the problem in her life, but doesn't understand what's causing it or how to fix it)

  • Problem Aware (understands the cause of her problem)

  • Solution Aware (is searching for solutions to her problem, and is beginning to understand her options)

  • Most-Aware (is aware of you, your solution, and is contemplating buying from you)

Who Have You Been Ignoring Lately? Let Me Guess... 

Most people who are experts in their field (that’s you, dear reader) skip right to the end and speak only to the most aware people. But the truth is, there’s a good chance that your ideal client is NOT most aware when she hits your website, or reads your email, or visits your sales page for the first time.

She might be pain aware - meaning that she knows something is wrong, but doesn’t know what’s causing it.

She might be problem aware - meaning that she knows what’s causing her problem, but doesn’t know what solutions are available or which one makes the most sense for her.

She might be solution aware - in that she understands the potential solutions but doesn’t understand why YOU and YOUR solution are right for her.

It is your job to create content that speaks to your potential clients at EACH stage of awareness... 

So that they can become informed, educated and empowered decision makers.

(Except the totally unaware clients - they're too hard to reach and your time is better spent on clients who are more motivated to solve their problem).

So, for the love of all that is holy, don’t assume your clients know anywhere near as much about your area of expertise as you do.

Think back to your ideal client - how aware is he or she? Have you been leaving a lot unsaid by not speaking to her at her level? Are you providing the information that she needs in your content and copy to progress into a higher stage of awareness, and become ready to buy?

It’s your job to help move your audience through the stages of awareness to get them to a point where they can make an informed decision about whether to work with you or buy from you.

Here's how to get started with that: 

Ask yourself the following questions: 

  • When a reader lands on my blog, how aware are they likely to be? (To answer this question, consider where they came from, and what they were searching for.)
  • When a reader visits my sales page, how aware is she by now? How might I need to educate her about the causes of her problem, the possible solutions, and which one is right for her? 
  • When a reader visits my website for the first time... how aware is she? What problems or desires is she actively looking to solve or fulfill?

And with that in mind... what would my reader need to understand about each of the following:

  • Herself
  • Her problem
  • The possible solutions
  • My solution
  • Me, as a business owner

… in order to feel ready to say YES and click that buy button? (Or, alternatively, filter herself out because you're not the right person for her?)

Your answers to these questions will form the backbone of your copy and your content plan.

(Congrats - you just got a goldmine of new content ideas for your blog and email list, and you've just made sales calls waaaay less painful.)

Feels good, doesn't it?

A Real Quick Meta-Moment

This fine little article you're reading right now? It was written for my pain-aware prospective clients: people who are feeling the burn of having to sell themselves so hard, but don't fully understand how the right kind of copy and content can help them solve this problem.

My goal is that when someone is done reading this, I'll have helped them draw the connection between their problem (sales = hard), what they want (easier sales and more of them) and my solution (strategic, conversion-focused copy), thus moving a littttle closer towards being ready to get some help.

Is that creepy? No. It's educational. And as a business owner, its not just your job to create the product or deliver the service. You also have to educate people about who it's for, and how it helps them achieve what they really want. 

Creating content and copy around your reader's awareness is the only way to do that. (Unless you're a sadist who enjoys long and unfruitful sales calls. Don't let me tell you what to do.)

Let's Wrap This Up With a Handy Summary: 

  • Your content (think blogs, emails and the like) and copy are an opportunity to start pre-selling clients on why they should work with you. Result: more sales, more clicks, more clients = more income. 

  • The Curse of Knowledge makes experts like you communicate at a level that their readers don't understand. This is bad, and it's why your sales calls can be so difficult at times. Sales calls SHOULD be about deciding if you're ready to move forward with each other, and NOT about laying the basic foundations of understanding and awareness. This is where smart copy and content comes in.

  • You can (1) overcome The Curse of Knowledge and (2) create more effective, business-building content by catering to reader-awareness. The result? Not only are you likely to receive more consults and bookings, but the prospective clients on these calls will more qualified and better positioned to make a buying decision. Today's blog showed you how to get started with that, and... 

If you're looking for some examples and even more concrete advice about how to create content that caters to each level of awareness, check out this free resource I put together for you:

Here's to sales calls that don't suck,