This post contains 5 very simple rules for making your sales messages infinitely more powerful and effective. How? Simply by eliminating the encrustations of BS that have accumulated on them. To illustrate each rule, I've included a real life example of a sales message that's full of BS, with a rewrite.
You can use this post as you craft your own messages. But here's another idea: share this post with your marketing group, since they're often the worst offenders. Seriously, I've seen marketing brochures so full of BS that you could use them to fertilize a factory farm.
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RULE #1: Replace Technical Jargon with Plain Wording
Technical jargon is useful for conveying information quickly between people inside the same industry or career, it can be confusing to those not in the know. Go through your brochure and replace jargon with simple descriptions of what the offering actually does for the customer. Example:
- The Offering: An online presentation service
- Current Message: "Presentonline provides the leading cloud-based software for creating, sharing and tracking online and mobile video presentations. With Presentonline, businesspeople can easily transform static content such as PowerPoint documents into voice-enriched video presentations that can be accessed anytime, on-demand."
- Why it doesn't work: It's focused entirely on the product and what it does, rather than why the customer might want to use it.
- Rewritten Message: "You can't be everywhere at once, and business travel eats into profit margins. You can reach more people, and get your message across more consistently and frequently, by using Presentonline to create online video presentations that can be viewed anywhere, anytime."
- Why this is better: It focuses on what the customer wants to do and why they might be able to do it easier using the product.
RULE #2: Eliminate Biz-Blab and Buzzwords
Unlike technical jargon (which actually does serve a useful purpose), biz-blab simply burdens a sales message with extra verbiage. Rather than making the message more convincing, it simply makes it sound weaselly and Dilbert-esque. Example:
- The Offering: Software to track management coaching activities.
- Current Message: "Placed in the hands of managers, ACME Coaching Software (ACS) supports all current processes that are already in place to ensure Coaching consistency and that follow ups are executed. The tool provides upper management the ability to analyze the coaching efforts and correlate impact on performance. Comprised of Coaching, Recruitment, Action Planning, Customer Satisfaction Surveys and Evaluation tools, the ACS offers a turnkey performance development platform for small businesses to multi-national enterprises alike. Building high-performance companies requires effective coaching and activity management. ACS is designed to support managers in targeting, planning, tracking, evaluating and encouraging employee performance. ACS combines 20 years of activity management expertise with the latest in web-based and portable technology."
- Why it doesn't work: It's awkward, wordy, full of stupid technical jargon and biz-blab.
- Rewritten Message: "The quickest way to improve employee morale and performance is to turn managers into better coaches. ACME Coaching Software helps your managers learn better coaching skills, track the effects their coaching, and evaluate their own coaching performance."
- Why this is better: It's shorter, stripped of jargon and uses mostly concrete words to explain what the customer would use the product to do.
Everybody in this world has two things: a sphincter and an opinion. However, even though both of those have an equal ability to persuade a customer to buy, of the two, opinions tend to end up more frequently inside sales documents. What's needed, in place of opinions, are verifiable facts, especially those that separates what you do from what your competitors do. Example:
- The Offering: An operational planning methodology
- Current Message: "Most organizations face real challenges in reconciling corporate intent with operational execution. Delays in execution equal loss. Loss of a sale, loss of good people, loss of market position, etc. We propose using a seemingly simple tool, an Org Chart, to bridge the gap. The effectiveness of the idea lies in its simplicity and approachability. Everyone knows how to use an org chart. Simple but not simplistic. OrgEnt is a powerful tool that gives you deep and immediate visibility into your entire organization and allows you to model the financial results of potential changes in real time."
- Why it doesn't work: The entire passage is self-congratulatory, as in "the effectiveness of the idea lies in its simplicity and approachability" and the characterization of the tool as "powerful." A customer is naturally going to think: "Sez who?"
- Rewritten Message: "You put a lot of time and effort into structuring your company. Why not use your org chart to help manage it more efficiently? OrgEnt lets you examine and tune your company's operations in a way that's natural - according to the responsibilities of your entire management team. Our customers experience, on average, a 25% reduction of administration costs."
- Why This is Better: The fact ties the concept down to reality in a way that opinion and bluster can't.
It's been said that you should "sell the sizzle and not the steak." That's BS of the highest order. Few things blunt a sales message more effectively than trying to romance the prospect. Before writing, get clear on what your offering actually does for the customer (that's the meat). Rather than trot out the fancy phraseology, get to the meat as quickly as possible. Example:
- The Offering: Management consulting and training
- Current Message: "Whether you're working with individuals, teams or organizations, we'll work with you to understand what is working, what is not, and create practical solutions that work. Even the best training can begin to fade with time so we provide strategies to keep those learnings alive such as leadership coaching, e-tips, and follow up surveys. It also means that if you already have leadership models or practices, you don't have to throw them out and start over."
- Why it doesn't work: It's not at all clear what's being offered and how its different from what other training companies offer. As a result, there's little or no reason for the customer to be interested.
- Rewritten Message: "Are your training programs REALLY working for you? We aren't a training firm, so we can analyze and measure the impact and ROI of your current programs and ensure that they are fulfilling your expectations."
- Why it's better: This message makes it clear, in much fewer words, what's being offered and why it is unique.
Regardless of what you may have learned in school, the most effective writing is neither full of complicated structures, nor yet does it string together many concepts into a single sentence, where the intended communication might become both tedious and also difficult to follow, thereby confusing the reader and making the sales message as ridiculous and semi-comprehensible as the absurd and overwrought run-on sentence that you are currently reading. (Translation: write crisp sentences!) Example:
- The Offering: Software designed to help non-profit organizations manage and produce fund-raising events.
- Current Message: "Putting on a fundraising auction is hard work, and it's easier if you can spread the work out efficiently among your volunteers. Our web-based software lets your volunteers work from home. Since we also let you use your own credit-card processor on the night of the event, and don't charge any transaction fees, you'll also keep more of the money you raise."
- Why it doesn't work: Takes too long and includes too much detail about features while using vague, filler words like "efficiently." (Compared to what?)
- Rewritten Message: "When giving a fund-raiser, you need every volunteer effort to count. With our software, your volunteers can plan and manage your event, right from their own homes and offices."
- Why this is better: It replaces vague words and pretzel sentence structure with clear, easily understood wording.