“Always Lead with the Exploding Grandpa” and Other Sales Advice

Copywriting and Sales
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Title graphic for Hillary Weiss blog post titled “Always Lead with the Exploding Grandpa” and Other Sales Advice.

My family is full of Very Useful Humans you can call in an emergency.

Mom and Dad? A nurse and doctor, respectively.

Big Brother? Works in IT, and knows his way around a tricky computer or jacked up wifi system.

Big Sister? A history PHD and general Encyclopedia of All Things. She’s also the oldest, which makes her my go-to Imparter of Sisterly Wisdom, and a phenomenal pep-talker.

(I also have a cousin who’s a professional sharpshooter, another cuz who’s a former CPA-turned-jeweler-turned-

real-estate-agent, and there’s a whole squad of lawyers on my dad’s side. We’re a handy back-pocket bunch! #ijs)

And then there’s… me. The family, uh, marketer/brand strategist.

Which means no one in my family’s REALLY calling me at 5 AM out of the blue with a question, yaknow?

And, as much as this Gift of the Gab has given me over the years, that part’s always felt like a bit of a bummer.

UNTIL, that is!

I’ve Trained My Whole Life for This

My sister recently finished her (really, really good) Young Adult novel, and began shopping it around to agents.

And, to my delight: I got tapped in to run interference.

“At last!” I thought to myself blissfully as Google Docs links flowed into my inbox. “It’s MY time to be useful!!”

So I rolled up my little sleeves and got to work on her query letter.

Almost instantly, I noticed something.

“Amelia is a 12 year old girl who, on a vacation to her Grandmother’s mysterious old house…” it began.

Then, about three paragraphs down, I read the line:

“… and her grandfather, who was rumored to have exploded…”

Record scratch.

“Hey,” I texted Big Sis. “You’ve gotta open this letter with the grandpa thing.”

“Oh, you think??” she asked, rather fretfully. “It’s an important part of the book but I feel like it doesn’t make a lot of sense without the initial context of where the kids are.”

“That doesn’t matter, really.”


Rule #1 of Compelling Writing Is:

Start in the middle, right where the action is.

Always, always, always lead with the exploding grandpa.

She laughed, and agreed.

And a week or so later?

A consultant who preps fiction writers to meet with agents told her it was the best opening line she’d ever read.


Plus, as a bonus result: we now sign off a chunk of our communiqués with “

Love you! And don’t forget: always lead with the exploding grandpa.”

I’ve been thinking about that story a lot since it happened, because it’s a lesson I always come back to in creativity, business, and life.

Especially now, as I’m reimagining some key cornerstones of my business (more on that soon!)

When we prioritize stuff like “pillar content” that’s been written 100 times, before we can share our own weird, nuanced opinions…

When we feel we need to “earn our stripes” to do the Exciting Stuff we really wanna do with our work and our brains…

When we’re certain we need to spend a few more years proving ourselves before we’re allowed to charge for the strategic stuff we’re giving away for free right now…

Or when we’re certain we don’t deserve that experience, that time away, or reward until we’ve dragged ourselves through the mud a little more…

Don’t Bury the Lead in a Pile of Context

… the possibility is very strong that we’re burying the most compelling, joyful, and deeply alive parts of ourselves in the name of pragmatism and practicality — so “people have the proper context first”.

(And I say this as a card-carrying pragmatist.)

It’s well intentioned, to be sure! But the truth is: Every time I find myself wandering the long, narrow hallway of “I can’t have ___ until ___,”,  I never seem to find the exit.

It isn’t until I get fed up with the endless walk, throw caution to the wind, and start sticking out my elbows that I find a side door that reads:

“F– it, I’m gonna do it anyway.”

And THAT’S when things really start to come together. Often with annoying speed.

THAT’S when my pieces start getting noticed.

THAT’S when people start telling me they’ve been waiting for the Exciting Stuff I’ve been sitting on to get released and where can they sign up??

THAT’S when my strategy brain became a shockingly easy sell.

And THAT’S when I step into that reward, away time, or experience, and it fills my heart up and nourishes me in ways I never imagined it could.

And I suspect you know exactly what I mean.

Step Out and Say What You Really Want

So, in case you need it today, this is your sign.

To stop waiting.

To take the leap, the risk, and the reward you’ve been waiting for.

To see what happens when you stop placing hurdles and obstacles up around your joy.

Because sometimes, by golly — as a smart, responsible human who cares about your people and the work you do…

… You deserve to skip straight to the good part.

You deserve to do what you REALLY want to be doing, sell what you REALLY want to be selling, and say what you REALLY want to be saying, instead of burying it all “for now”, until that Unknown Time when you’ll feel like you deserve to unleash it.

So the next time you find yourself wandering that narrow, endless hallway — consider sticking your elbows out.

Just this once. To see what happens.

And don’t forget:

Always lead with the exploding grandpa.

Write on,

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