If you’re in sales, you are always communicating. Your silence on a question that’s posed to you is also communicating something; not something good, that’s for sure. Winning sales communications move the deals forward. Anything less will stall or slow down the deals.
The Foundation for Winning Sales Communications
It may seem like the foundation is going to be ability to write well. While that’s an important skill to have, the foundation is really is the intent with which you approach the sale. Your intention has to be based on three solid pillars of serving, caring and providing value.
A. Intent to Serve: Your first and final intent has to be to help your prospects with their needs with one or more of your offerings. Of course, you don’t need to sacrifice your needs.
B. Intent to Care: You MUST care for your prospects concerns as if they are your own concerns. Put yourself in the shoes of your prospect and look at the deal from the other side of the table and see if the deal looks fair. If not, you need to go back to the drawing board.
C. Intent to Provide Value: However basic this appears to be, this is an important pillar. Your intent to provide value should be unquestionable.
With that in the backdrop, here are seven elements of winning sales communications:
1. Responsive: Even just a handful of years ago, B-2-B prospects were at a disadvantage, overwhelmed with new possibilities and solutions. Today it’s exactly the opposite. By the time a prospect reaches out to you, they’ve more than likely already researched potential solutions online, and they are much further along in the buying cycle. Sure, your offerings are differentiated from your competitors’. But as markets become more crowded with competing vendors, sales and marketing messaging is increasingly commoditized.
When offerings look more or less the same from a feature/function perspective, responsiveness takes the center stage. Respond late to a customer inquiry or other request, and even with a reasonably good offer, you might end up losing the deal to someone else who was more nimble. Problem is, there’s only so much time in the day, so responding in 10 minutes instead of 10 days requires the right tools and mindset.
“Hi [FIRST NAME],
Thank you for your inquiry. Please find below my responses to your specific questions.
Also please know that as long as we work together, I will try to respond to any call or email within 12 hours (and I’ll try to be much faster!). While our solutions and services are unique in the market, at [COMPANY] we also differentiate ourselves by our responsiveness and dedication to customer care and satisfaction.
2. Right The response has to be accurate on many fronts.
This seems like a given, but think of all the emails and other materials that are riddled with “unintended hyperbole”, exaggerating to the point that it’s nauseating.
A few examples:
- We build world-class inventory software
- We make the world’s best burgers
- We are the gold standard in compensation consulting
- We have the industry’s leading ecosystem of fully-integrated interfaces to all major functional applications and officially-certified business processes.
Unintended hyperbole is on one end of the annoyance spectrum. On the other end, you have “willful misrepresentation” of facts to make your offering look superior to competing vendors’ offerings. In the latter case, you might be able to win in the short-term, but only at the expense of your longer-term credibility and opportunities in the account.
More often, negligence is the culprit; sellers rely on content they know may not be the most recent or accurate. Being right is often nothing more than ensuring that sales-ready content is easily vetted and approved by the right stakeholders. This shouldn’t require circulating documents or lengthy meetings. More importantly, once vetted, the content needs to be readily accessible (meaning at the “point of use”) at the front lines of sales engagement.
The dictionary meaning of relevance is to be “important to the matter at hand.” There is no “now” in the definition, but you better believe that “now” is strongly implied. What you send out or otherwise communicate has to be relevant to the recipient’s matter at hand NOW.
Why is NOW so important?
Simple. If there is a fire in the building, nobody is thinking about what they should have for dinner on an upcoming date night. They want to deal with what they MUST deal with right NOW. In the venture capital world, there is a common (almost clichéd) statement – “you need to focus on pain killers, not vitamins.” This is very apt even in selling. You can be relevant or you can be history. Your choice.
Robust means strongly formed or well built. In the context of sales communications, it simply means your response should be free of fluff. A response filled with fluff may “appear to be substantial” but remember that it’s not the length of the response that counts, but the quality of it.
Reading your communication should make the recipient WANT to take the next step. Your response has to move the needle and without substance, you will not be able to achieve that. Being robust in your response is more than just being thoughtful; you need to respond in a way that addresses the “sub-text” of the question. For example, a query such as “Who are your investors?” might be prompted by a deeper concern, such as, “How can you prove to me that your business won’t die next year?” Being robust really means taking the time to think and answer the core question that may not even have been asked.
“Hi [FIRST NAME],
In response to your question about our track record, I won’t lie to you by saying we are the most proven and established vendor in the market. But I do believe we are positioned better than any other vendor to address your unique business requirements, which I understand to be:
1. [bus requirement & how you address it]
2. [bus requirement & how you address it]
3. [bus requirement & how you address it]
And I know we can execute within the required timeframe, by:
1. Milestone A
2. Milestone B
3. Milestone C
To put your mind at ease about our longevity as a going concern, we were selected by [CUST 1], [CUST 2], [CUST 3]. And we were awarded [AWARD 1] and [AWARD 2].”
The above response is robust in that it is free of fluff, contains very specific and targeted information, and it also addresses the underlying concern of assuming too much “vendor risk”.
You need to be respectful in two areas:
First, treat what’s important to the prospect as if it’s important to you. Every query or other request should be treated as special. However simple, silly, or common the query appears to be, there was a reason it was asked, and it’s your responsibility to answer it with care. You might have been asked – and answered – the same question a thousand times, but the person asking the question doesn’t know that.
Second, remember there is a cost of consuming your response. If your response is sloppy, overly-broad, or “not well-formed,” you just dramatically increased the “content consumption cost” that your prospect must spend trying to find the right answers to their questions or concerns.
When it comes to sales communications, always remember that “more or less is rarely good enough.” The way to decrease the cost of consumption on the other end is simple –increase your own cost of preparing that communication with care.
But how can you scale if you keep increasing your costs of preparing the right kind of communications? All it requires is the use of the right tools and the mindset of content reuse. See how we reinvented the copy/paste phenomenon to address just these kinds of situations.
Example: Instead of,
“Hi [FIRST NAME],
Please find attached [THREE DOCUMENTS] that I believe will answer your questions.
If they don’t, let me know and we can have an additional call to address them.”
“Hi [FIRST NAME],
That’s a good question, and you are not alone in asking it.
In fact, before we signed a deal with [EXISTING CUSTOMER], they had a similar concern.
I know your time is valuable, so instead of just attaching some documents
for you to read through, I have crafted some specific responses below that I believe
also take into account your unique business requirements. If you would like additional
background, I can provide you with [DOCUMENT TITLE], which [DESCRIBE].
Let me know if that would be helpful.”
This response is all the more powerful because it will put your prospect on notice that your competitor may (and likely will) send over entire documents.
It is your responsibility to your organization to sell, but really it is your responsibility to sell only what is RIGHT for the prospect. In the long run, your superior selling skills may help you sell ice to Eskimos, but in the long run, that strategy will fall flat with seriously negative consequences.
No customer will be happy if the solution is not right for him or her. You can only imagine the long-term pain of having a lot of unhappy customers. It’s just not worth it. With every communication or customer contact, you have an opportunity to show that you truly care. It is your responsibility to use those opportunities to do the right thing by your prospect or customer.
“Hi [FIRST NAME], I reviewed my notes from our initial call, and while I believe there
is a good opportunity for our [SOLUTION NAME] to uniquely address your business needs,
I need to do some more discovery before I can definitively say that we are a fit for
When we first engaged with [EXISTING CUSTOMER], it took asking some specific questions
to ensure we were a fit….”
Not only is this a responsible reply, but it will likely lead to an additional opportunity to engage with the customer and learn more about their business needs.
This is the final AND most important challenge for you. Can you positively surprise your prospect or customer with your response so much that they go out of their way to spread the word about your communication?
Can you make the response so memorable that they “subscribe” to your future communications – meaning they look forward to your future communications with an open mind. My friend Corey got a set of questions about the WittyParrot product. There were about six specific questions. Corey could have answered those questions with ease. He didn’t do that. He took some extra time to use our own product to answer those queries.
And the reaction?
Wow was the reaction.
Remarkable in simple terms means to create an impression that is so good that the recipient of the communication can’t hold back from talking (positively) about it to others. This is the foundation of Word-of-Mouth Marketing that can help you stretch your sales and marketing dollars.
This is an edited version of an post originally posted at yourstory.com,by Rajesh Setty, a serial entrepreneur and a business alchemist based in the bay area. Raj currently serves as the president of WittyParrot, a cloud-based service that helps your salespeople to deliver the right content quickly. Raj maintains a blog with more than 1900 blog posts. You can also follow him on Twitter at @rajsetty or on Facebook. You are free to re-edit and repost this in your own blog or other use under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License terms, by giving credit with a link to www.startupcommons.org and the original post.
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