The “Gun Across the Chest” Method for Copy That Closes the Deal

Cowgirl with gun

We’ve all seen the iconic imagery of outlaws and lawmen alike, trying to catch some shut-eye with a gun beneath the pillow just in case. One wonders how good that sleep could possibly be.

If it were me in that situation, I think I’d take a different approach.

It seems to me that any intruder might be a little more persuaded to move on if you slept with your gun across your chest, handle firmly in hand. Someone might stop and think about whether you have a gun under the pillow, but a gun across the chest leaves no room for doubt.

A gun across the chest in proactively persuasive.

Now, I’m not all that big a fan of guns myself. But when it comes to shooting down objections, this analogy is pertinent to writing action-oriented copy.

Why? Because when it comes to copy that gets people to take action, you don’t want them to “think about it,” which usually means leaving the page, never to return. You want to proactively address objections right then and there in a way that leaves no room for doubt.

Simulating a Dialogue

Salespeople who work with people face-to-face have an advantage over copywriters. As long as a salesperson is skilled in getting a prospect to share his concerns about the purchase, she can skillfully address each objection as it arises. She also has a whole host of visual and auditory clues as to where the sticking points are.

With online copy, you have to anticipate objections and proactively address them. If you do it well, your reader will feel as if there is an actual personal dialogue going on that just happens to eliminate concerns.

One way to do that without a typical long copy approach is to have a “questions” section. You essentially anticipate the remaining questions that are rummaging around inside the prospect’s mind, pose the questions, and then conversationally answer each one. If you make the questions section interactive, each reader can choose to view only the questions that are pertinent to them with the click of a mouse.

Are Blogs an Exception?

But what about blogs, you say? Isn’t that why we have comments enabled?

Sure, that’s one way to handle unanticipated objections or to provide additional clarity. It’s also a way to get valuable feedback about things you failed to consider in the first place. But remember that most people won’t take the time to ask you a question in the comments, and even those who have the same unspoken question won’t take the time to click-through and look for answers.

And with landing and sales pages, you’ve got to get it right with the copy itself. Fail to address obvious objections, and you’ll see your conversion rate suffer.

So, shoot down anticipated objections with your copy to convert more sales or other desired action. If you don’t, your online ambitions may end up dead on arrival.

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Reader Comments (38)

  1. says


    Great post. When people read, questions pop into their heads. It’s just how we work. How we think. So, if you can address those questions/objections right when they’re having them, it’s incredibly powerful. They get the feeling you really understand them – that you can relate. Pretty soon the level of trust rises and they’re more ready to hear the rest of your message.

  2. says

    Yep, you gotta anticipate your readers’ questions and answer them to their satisfaction …

    yesserie, you do!

    In blogging? I don’t think blogs really have anything to do with how to handle objections in the written word, do they?

    In anything that’s written and designed to SELL something, this rule applies BIG time, though.

    Gotta keep that pistol in plain sight, always at the ready!



  3. says

    Your advice on handling objections is good. Your advice for handling guns is not so good.

    I’m picking nits, but as a competitive shooter with a drawer full of award medals, I have some expertise in this area. So I’d not advise anyone to sleep with a gun in their hand or on their chest. An accident waiting to happen. Also I wouldn’t advise pointing a revolver at your nose with your finger on the trigger as the girl in the photo is doing. Safety first. :)

  4. says

    Dean, gun-handling advice noted. I actually heard the expression in a progressive country song last night, and had to use it. :-)

    Although I recently heard of a police officer who shot herself in the wrist with a gun underneath her pillow. That’s why I try not to mess with them at all!

  5. says

    Well, they used to call it “alt country” and now they’re saying progressive… but no, I don’t think ELP or ELO are big influences (funny comment though).

    It’s basically a euphemism for “country music with a brain” or “country music not made in Nashville.”

    You know, like Hank Williams (the first). :-)

  6. says

    What are you thinking? George Jones singing “Brain Salad Surgery” or ELP singing “A Few Ole Country Boys”? Egad. Just shoot me now.

  7. says

    That album had a few really solid tunes on it. I think if they had removed the stuff that wasn’t good, it would have been a solid 10-song album. Did you get the new one yet? What I heard sounds like a vast improvement over the last one.

  8. says

    Wow. You’ve given me something to think about.

    I am guilty of burying the “gun” through wades of information.

    So…hmmm. You’ve challenged me to find a way to deal with objections upclose and personally.

    Thanks for the challenge!

  9. Mike Tekula says

    I just heard “Okie from Muskogee” for the first time yesterday (thanks to Pandora) – had to turn it up so the rest of the office could enjoy it. We had a good laugh.

  10. Mike Tekula says

    We don’t make a party out of lovin';
    We like holdin’ hands and pitchin’ woo;
    We don’t let our hair grow long and shaggy,
    Like the hippies out in San Francisco do.

  11. says

    This is a great analogy. It gives me a new perspective to think about while writing. I’m new to this blog and have really learned a lot from reading old posts and comments.

  12. says

    The story on Okie is that Merle wrote that song from his father’s perspective not his own. For some reason that song makes folks in the office laugh but for Merle’s dad that was probably the ONLY way to look at hippies. Hmmm…

  13. says

    Sleeping with a gun across your chest is bad, because: a) it isn’t likely to stay there;
    b) it’s an accident waiting to happen;
    c) it’s in plain sight, telling the bad guy it’s there;
    d) all of the above;

  14. says

    What is the Bugliosi line we talked about a long time ago? I don’t remember the words exactly but I think in court, as the prosecutor, he would always introduce the defense’s main arguments before they could – even if he couldn’t refute them – so they wouldn’t be as impressive the second time. It gets rid of those *GASP* moments that can destroy your credibility.

    Great image though. I think that’s why your posts tend to have a certain power that some of the guest ones lack.

  15. says

    This is good useful advice, and I’ve found that it can really freak people out. A lot of us seem to live in this fluffy pink cloud universe where if we don’t say anything bad about our product/service/etc., no one else is going to think of that criticism. Alas, that is not reality.

    Was it Merle himself or a friend of his who told the story on Fresh Air that Okie from Muskogee was basically written as a parody of how the Normals looked at freaks like Merle and his friends.

    That is an interesting strategy, Ryan. Hm, I like that, will have to think about how I can use it.

  16. says

    I haven’t listened to Fresh Air in a long while. Hmmm… I don’t really think of Merle as ever being a hippie freak. I don’t even really think of him as criminal either. That was marketing. It was petty theft or something silly. Like that Rodriguez guy that stole a goat…

  17. says

    The questions section is a good idea – as long as the “clicks” don’t pull them off the page.

    Chad, exactly. That’s why on Teaching Sells we used javascript.

  18. says

    Pre empting objections is hard. The good thing about online copy is that it costs nothing to edit at any time. We can constantly tweak in a way that with printed copy becomes expensive very fast!

  19. says

    You guys did a great job of doing this on and my brother and I did the same on our site that we modeled after being in your program. I am not making shameless plug for your program but saying it works great.

  20. says

    At the risk of being the sole dissenting voice, I think that there is a potential downside. Yes, you want to answer objections as they are asked, but at the same time you don’t want to suggest those objections (another advantage salespeople have over copywriters — they know when to shut up based on body language.)

    I was just writing some copy for a client of mine, sort of a glossy brochure-type sales folder for a general contractor. I started writing about reliability and completing on time and under budget. Which seems reasonable — one of the top things on everyone’s mind when hiring a contractor is “will this renovation be done when they say it is, and will it be on budget?”

    I took it out because the glossy pictures of this high-end contractor should give a professional look and feel — so much so that you don’t need to say “reliability” in words. In fact, after reading the draft I realized that suddenly you are putting the possibility of a blown completion date into the potential client’s head when everything leading up to it implicitly makes the client feel like reliability is a given.

    I guess my point is here that you need to be careful when trying to answer *every* objection. You don’t want to raise awareness about possible objections while you are at it…


  21. says

    Hi, Brian –

    Great post!

    When I’m writing web copy, I always keep in mind the fact that users primarily visit web sites to perform tasks and get answers to their questions.

    So simulating a dialogue and answering users’ questions up front makes perfect sense.

    Thanks for all of your insightful posts!

    – Rebecca

  22. says


    You make a good point; however, I think for longer sales copy it’s important to address them all. On a brochure, not so much. As usual it depends on the audience and the goal. With longer copy they have a lot longer to think (if they’re actually reading it all) so you better think it’s a good idea to anticipate their objections.

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