Copy-Paste Syndrome: How do you avoid it in sales?

2 minute read

The spotlight is on you. It is a new client demo, and you pull up the slide deck. You are on slide three before you notice it. The wrong client info is in the deck. This info is from last week's demo! You quickly double-check the file name, but nope, the correct file. Some of the information didn't get swapped. You panic slightly, wondering if all the info in the deck is wrong or only slide 3. You have fallen into Copy-Paste Syndrome. 

In pursuit of efficiency, many occasionally fall prey to Copy-Paste Syndrome. In fact, in the medical world, copy-paste mistakes contribute to 35.7% of medical chart errors. A small error might be embarrassing in sales, but significant or chronic errors can ruin the client relationship. This blog discusses Copy-Paste Syndrome and how to avoid it across different formats, including automation. Don't let the detrimental effects of Copy-Paste Syndrome affect your sales success.

Definition of Copy-Paste Syndrome

There is no singular origin for the term "Copy-Paste Syndrome." It emerged suddenly into use over a decade ago. Though mostly self-explanatory, Copy-Paste Syndrome is a colloquial term that came about to describe the tendency of individuals to copy and paste mindlessly without customization. It is also used when a template hasn't been customized correctly. Or when a presentation re-usees slides without adjusting information. 

While the use cases are broader than these two examples, the concept is the same across the board. Some or all of a work was copied and then pasted without being correctly adjusted to add unique information or perhaps without removing parts that are not relevant for that client. 

In the world of sales, correct names and correct details count. They are part of the relationship management process, and if you fall prey to Copy-Paste Syndrome, you risk your reputation and your future business. Authenticity and genuine connection are the cornerstones of effective sales. With this in mind, let's look at a few specific cases of Copy-Paste Syndrome in different sales areas and how to avoid or prevent it. 

Copy-Paste Syndrome and Presentations/Demos

We discuss presentations first, as mistakes in this arena are usually the highest stakes. Clients might forgive a forgotten name or detail earlier in the sales funnel, but when presentation time rolls around, they expect to be shown effort and desire for their business. Leaving a previous company's logo in the header or misnaming the CEO can make any prospect think twice. While slide decks are often recycled, it is easy to miss a detail when editing your presentation. The following steps are recommended to stop errors before production starts.

How to Avoid Copy-Paste Syndrome in Sales Demos

  1. Start with a blank template slide deck: It is usually easier to see empty places where you need to add detail than risking the find and replace of every instance of customization from an old deck. You can even review your latest presentation and turn it into a 'blank' before returning for the fill-in. Setting your mind only to the task of removal and then only to the task of adding information will cut your error rate down considerably.
  2. Spellcheck and grammar check software: Use it to help catch those little typos and errors. It isn't editing the content, just grammar and spelling, so this is not the simple solution. You still need to read it.
  3. Proofread your work: This can be harder than it seems. Some tricks include reading it backward so your brain is less likely to predict what is coming and miss errors. Take a break and come back to it. The mental space lets you see the work with fresh eyes. And the last tip is to proofread it all over again. More than once is needed for important presentations. 
  4. Re-write key points as a checklist: If you make notecards or just a checklist to review that you included everything. It is helpful to list the main points and any customization you want to include. The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande is an excellent reminder of the importance and utility of simply listing things out and checking them off.
  5. Get a second set of eyes on it - Have a co-worker review the material as well or even a friend. Better still, by making the checklist in step four, you have a detailed list to hand to your co-worker or friend to review the presentation and ensure the most important things are present and correct.  

Demos are often your highest-stakes interaction with the customer, so they require the most stringent precautions. However, it is worth watching for Copy-Paste Syndrome mistakes in other parts of your work, from cold emails to social outreach to phone conversations. While the suggestions may vary slightly by format, the core concepts will be repeated. 

The key takeaways of starting from blank, proofreading, spellchecking, not being a substitute for the readthrough, checklists, and outside eyes verifying will be your most potent tools. Unfortunately, having a second set of eyes on every bit of text you send out isn't practical. It might be wise to have someone review it before you send it to a few hundred or a few hundred thousand. 

Copy-Paste Syndrome and Email Templates

Have you ever gotten an email that started 'HellO!!! ms. white' when you are, in fact, a Mr. White? You instantly dismiss emails like that or, at least, are put on your guard by them. Capitalization errors, aggressive punct@tion!, and incorrect details are just some red flags we use to filter the spam from our inbox. And only if the spam filters don't find it for us. 

Copy-Paste Syndrome hits in an email on a few points, usually with bad templating and bad templates. A template is by its very nature copied and pasted with a few minor things changed, making error risk higher than a typed-out message. 

Preventing risk in templates often means 'cleaning' your data. Cleaning means ensuring hyphenated last names are registered as one last name and not middle and last, and adjusting for the middle initials or titles such as 'Dr.' While the error rate is less now than in the past, it is still worth ensuring that your templates are linked to the correct column of data [first name][last name] but that the data source is as free of errors as possible. 

Wrong links in emails are another common source of Copy-Paste Syndrome. When multitasking, snagging the incorrect hot link for an email is all too easy. Especially when they are made up of random strings of numbers and letters. It is shockingly simple to paste the wrong Youtube link into an email. You don't want to send a team email of last night's game highlights instead of that tutorial on cold email templating. Luckily this fix is easy; always check your link before you click send. 

Error-Free Email Tips

  1. Check your template/Choose the suitable template: The wrong template might cause your deliverability score to the tank. Check this blog for tips if this keeps happening to you. 
  2. Spellcheck and Grammar check: Many emails already have a basic spell check. However, this is less robust an option than exists elsewhere. There are many spelling and grammar check software, both free and paid,  that can be hooked into your email, or you can copy-paste into them. These are handy when sending everything from internal office memos to newsletter campaigns. Fixing typos and comma errors ensures your emails look clean and professional.
  3. Proofread: Reading the words out loud is an excellent technique to catch errors. Doing this also gives you an idea of the flow and readability of an email. Readability increases scroll depth.
  4. Checklist Key Points: A checklist will help ensure everything you want in that email is present. Beyond that, keeping a checklist across multiple campaigns is a beautiful tool for measuring which aspects are essential for a higher CTR. 
  5. Peer Review: Test emails are vital. A big part is not just catching content errors but ensuring responsive design so your email works on all devices. 81% of emails are read on mobile devices. 

Copy-Paste Syndrome and SMS Marketing

In October of 2022, Jimmy Fallon's Hashtags segment had one with the hashtag "#textfail," while the topic was personal rather than professional communications, it was filled with standard errors, primarily the wrong person texted, to autocorrect errors, to fumbled fingers, to Copy-Paste Syndrome when copied and then pasted into the wrong chat. 

We are all familiar with that pinch of embarrassment from texting errors. Mistakes are inevitable with fast, daily communications. The issue is one of scale, such as when a statewide political campaign mass texted the wrong link to a website not just once but twice; yikes. SMS Marketing mistakes are expensive, generally between $.01 and $.05 per text. This is compared to the much cheaper  $0.0009 and $0.001 for mass marketing email. The stakes are also higher because your opt-out rate in SMS is much higher than the Spam filter trap or the Unsubscribe in email. 

A similar list of rules applies to SMS as to Demos, specifically steps 1,2,3 and 5 from above. To avoid Copy-Paste Syndrome in SMS marketing, it is recommended to go through the following steps: 

SMS Marketing Copy-Paste Syndrome Avoidance 

  1. Start from scratch: Be very cautious of templates or prebuilt SMS designs. Testing both an iPhone and a non-apple product phone is best for complex designs. Keep in mind things register differently on different phones. Simple is usually the way to win. 
  2. Spellcheck: This one rolls into #3 proofreading in short messages like SMS, but if grammar and spelling are a weakness for you, an official spellcheck and grammar check software is a solid investment.
  3. Proofread: Yes, it is probably three sentences max. But read it and reread it and read it one more time.
  4. *Make a checklist of key points: This only sometimes applies in SMS Marketing.
  5. Get a 2nd set of eyes on it - you can use the excuse of testing various phone operating systems to pre-send the text to a friend or co-worker with a different phone. When it pops up, they might as well proofread it for you: two birds, one SMS. 

Copy-Paste Syndrome and Social Media Marketing

Social Media Marketing is a make-you or break-you game. It can feel impossible to compete, especially with such a grueling pace. You need to be on the leading edge of anything that might be a trend, with the average trend on TikTok lasting 3-5 days and likely being oversaturated by the time you hear about it. If you post when saturated or after the 5th day, you are dead before launch. 

While B2B, being professional contacts, is less susceptible to these jack-in-the-box trends. It is worth knowing that professional posts have a shelf life and are held to a higher standard on things like 'copying.' If your social posts mirror your competition repeatedly without adding new information, you have fallen into the deepest trap of Copy-Paste Syndrome, plagiarism. It is odd to even conceive of plagiarism in a social media field that is repetitious and copying by nature. 

Copy-Paste Syndrome can also risk posting similar things over and over with no innovation. New is needed in social media. 

This list helps prevent both these pitfalls when social posting.

  1. Start from scratch, at least most of the time: If you post on something trending but regularly post new and innovative topics, you will be seen as legitimate. Social engagement aims to hook the audience with the trending topic and reel them into your deeper unique content. 
  2. Spellcheck your lingo: Your 'fit slaps! No cap? Straight fire, man. Bruhh. What?!?! Luckily current terms are Googleable, so checking use and spelling is easy. You might avoid slang terms in general, but they creep in occasionally. Check yourself before you wreck yourself.
  3. Proofread and reverse search it: Proofreading social posts includes some quick searching to ensure your content is not word-for-word copying or that an image does not have connotations that do not align with the message you want to convey. Misapplied memes can kill social media credibility. 
  4. Key Points - You probably don't need a checklist, but you need to know the purpose of the post. It is too easy to oversaturate your channel in non-value add content that fills the void and checks the box of weekly posting. Take the time to make sure you are providing value, even if that value is humor, by making this post. 
  5. Have it Reviewed: This step is vital for social posting. I actually recommend you have two reviewers with opposing perspectives whenever possible. With a potential audience of 4.9 billion, a few more opinions are wise insurance on any company-branded posts. 

If this section has you curious about the 'life' of a social post, here are some fun facts about the lifespan of a social post. This demarcates when the post is seen as 'lost' to the web archives and will not achieve its engagement potential. When is your response and growth window over?

Life Spans of Social Posts

  1. Twitter - 15 min
  2. Facebook - 6 hours
  3. LinkedIn - 30 hours 
  4. Instagram - 48 hours

Copy-Paste Syndrome and LinkedIn/Social Messaging

"Hello"….. Have you ever had these messages on LinkedIn or other social messaging services? Just a Hello or a Hello, [Insert First Name Here]? Annoying and ineffective. Equally ineffective is the Hello, my name is [Inster Your Name Here] and a bullet-pointed list of the top 5 awesome things your product does. These are stale and salesy, Copy-Paste Syndrome at its finest. 

When reaching out from a social channel, the goal is more about starting a conversation than a sales pitch. There are, of course, templates, structures, and best practices to be considered. For more on that, check out this great article by Josh Turner. [Replace with cross-blog link once we cover the topic] but consider these tips on keeping the Copy-Paste Syndrome grind out of your social messaging.

  1. Start from Scratch Multivariate Test Your Templates: For social outreach, especially partially automated social outreach templates are inevitable. The recommendation is not to ditch the templates entirely but to choose more than one template and run multivariate testing to get some complex data. Without measuring performance, there can be no gauge for improvement. Templates need to be adjusted and refreshed regularly. This approach prevents Copy-Paste Syndrome by helping ensure the same lead doesn't get the same templated message more than once. 
  2. Spellcheck and Content Check: If you customize the template with a classic approach such as "I saw your post about x," recheck the post while rechecking your spelling. 
  3. Proofread and Test: Rereading is always wise, in repetitious. So beyond the reread, testing is smart if you use a new Automator or a particular template for the first time. 
  4. What is the Goal of the Message - A different angle on the prior checklist tactic, before choosing a template, make sure your message or your planned series of messages gets you to your end goal. Chatting is good, but in sales, you need to direct that chatty conversation toward your end goal strategically.
  5. * Review from Another: This is optional for these types of messages. It might never come into play beyond the review of response rate data.

Copy-Paste Syndrome and Cold Call Scripts/Sales Pitches

Verbal communication is also susceptible to Copy-Paste Syndrome. Have you ever accidentally said "Sure, honey" to a co-worker who was not, in fact, your wife? How about a "Thank you" when it should have been a "You are welcome"? Luckily verbal slipups are usually far easier to forgive and talk your way out of. The difficulty usually centers around highly repeated phrases or overly practiced scripts. 

The trouble arises when clients interpret your slipup not as the over-practice or mental speed bump it was but as some parapraxis. Parapraxis, also known as a Freudian slip or a slip of the tongue, is a psychological concept that refers to an unintentional error in speech or memory that reveals an unconscious motive, desire, or belief.

Parapraxes are often attributed to the influence of unconscious motives or repressed desires that find their way into conscious expression through these unintentional errors. A client might assume that a slipup on the name of their company means you don't value their business. A slipup from overly scripted cold calling makes it seem that you are not listening to their responses or are robotically trapped in dialogue and, therefore, not a person with autonomy and authority.

Break out of the mold of verbal canned responses. No verbal Copy-Paste Syndrome is needed. Here are some script-practicing tips on how to stop repeating yourself into a verbal blunder. 

  1. Take Strategic Breaks: Copy-Paste Syndrome can be easily avoided by taking breaks between calls or conversations. By giving yourself enough time to breathe, stretch, and reflect upon the previous call, you can prevent yourself from falling into the trap of rigidly sticking to a script.
  2. Take Improve Classes: Not only a fun way to get out but a great way to improve your reaction time and attentive listening skills. By removing work pressure, you can relax and find your groove. You can even learn to evolve from Dad jokes or perhaps just make new funny friends. 
  3. Practice Cold Call Scripts On Inattentive, Uninterested Relatives: If you want your reaction and gentle direction tactics tested to the max, nothing beats the belligerent, curious, chaotic verbal sparing of children and teens. Ask for help from nieces, nephews, or your own kids. If you are short on young relatives, a friend or relative outside of the sales profession, who you ask to be 'bored' or 'play devil's advocate' can achieve the end goal. The goal of such practice is to make sure your main points come through by asking the person afterward what they remember. You want to sharpen your communication skills and train through some of the worst possible responses. 
  4. Have a Checklist, Not a Script: Sometimes scripts for both presentations and cold calls can hinder more than they help. A list of key phrases and points will ensure your main goals are addressed while allowing you to speak naturally and not in an overly practiced manner.
  5. Ask Open-Ended Questions: The break-in routine question-response of an open-ended question acts as a built-in reminder for active listening. Active listening and open-ended questions naturally prevent robotic or over-practiced responses from your end.


In conclusion,  Copy-Paste Syndrome is more than repetitious mechanical repetition. From finger slips to incorrect right clicks to verbal Non-Freudian Slips, Copy-Paste Syndrome can be problematic for the professional communicator. 

As a B2B sales professional, consider working a few countermeasures into your routine. Having a well-planned and planned out sales process can be sidetracked in its early stages by incautious Ctrl+V. These changes also have the benefit of helping you connect better with your customer, not just avoiding the dreaded Copy-Paste Syndrome. With just a few tweaks in technique, you can ensure that every communication feels fresh, engaging, and personal every time, even when it's <Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V>.

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