- A compelling lead-in that states a financial benefit to the customer.
- An explanation that differentiates you away from the competition.
Last week, a firm contacted me to see if I could do some contract writing for them. Since such work is part of my business model, I responded. However, I responded with a vendor-focused sales letter that was all about me.
Predictably, the opportunity immediately went cold and I was put on the back burner. Realizing my mistake, I resent the sales letter, but with a customer-focused message. The result: I've scheduled a meeting to brainstorm future projects with that firm.
I'm posting a lightly edited version of the email exchange because it illustrates exactly how important a customer-focus can be, and how vendor-focused messages can screw up even the best opportunity.
Here's the email thread:
From the prospect: We are in the process of identifying potential freelance resources to write white papers and key articles that can be used for lead generation and PR purposes. Potential topics might include: leadership development, talent management, sales performance, entrepreneurship, change management and risk, and innovation and creativity. ***** thought your interview process was very efficient and we both appreciated your writing style. Any information you can provide on your services would be appreciated.
- Commentary: Needless to say, this is the absolute BEST kind of referral. A happy customer called a potential customer and convinced her to contact me. This should be easily to move to the next stage, right? Not necessarily...
- Commentary: Note that my response was all about me and my business model -- as if the client should care. Nothing about benefits or impact. Nothing about what's different about working with me. And you can imagine how well THAT worked. In fact, you don't have to imagine, because here's what happened:
- Commentary: Ouch! While it's possible I might get an assignment out of this, realistically I'm now "on file" along with every other writer. No competitive advantage, nothing. Nada. I completely wasted the opportunity. Dumb! Dumb! Dumb! Anyway, after beating myself up for a while, I went for the "hail Mary" save:
- Commentary: Note that the messages now take the format of 1) a statement of financial benefit to the client, followed by 2) an explanation that further differentiates the offering. I then add the call to action, and voila...
- Commentary: Bingo. I'm back in the running, with a scheduled meeting.