Samples can be helpful. Demos can be effective. But what is the primary tool used by salespeople?
Whether spoken or written, words make sales happen… or not.
Too many salespeople (and marketers and advertisers) use the same words — words used so often they’ve become meaningless — to describe their products and services. Pretend I’m a potential customer or client. Here’s how I react if you use the following:
- “Customer focused.” Talk about redundant; should you be anything but customer focused? If your goal is to imply that other providers are not customer focused, tell me how: faster response time, greater availability, customized processes or systems… tell me in concrete terms how you will meet my specific needs. (If you don’t know my needs and therefore can’t address them, shame on you.)
- “Best in class.” There are two problems with that phrase: Who defined your “class” and who determined you were the “best” in it? (My guess is, you did.) Still, maybe you are that awesome. Prove it. Describe your accomplishments, awards, results, etc. As a customer I don’t need best in class, I need best for me — so tell me, in objective terms, how you provide the best value for my needs.
- “Low-hanging fruit.” When you say, “We’ll start with the low-hanging fruit,” I hear, “We’ll start with the really easy stuff you are too stupid to recognize or do yourself.” No business wants to hear they have low-hanging fruit. Just describe, in cost-benefit terms, how you prioritized your list of projects or activities.
- “Exceed expectations.” Admirable goal, one every business should aspire to, but exceeding expectations is an internal goal. Tell me you will exceed expectations and exceeded expectations becomes an expectation. (I know, that’s kinda Zen.) Just tell me what you will do every time; if you consistently pull it off I’ll be delighted. Always let the customer judge whether you go above and beyond.
- “Unique.” The ever-increasing pace of commoditization means few products or services have no like or equal for long. If I’m considering hiring your firm or buying your products, “unique” means nothing to me. Tell me, in concrete terms, how you are better.
- “Value added.” This term is often used to imply I’ll get something for no or very little incremental cost. That means what I will receive isn’t value added — it’s part of the overall deal. So tell me the deal, explain all the options and add-ons, and help me figure out how I can take full advantage of what you provide.
- “Expert.” Margaret Thatcher once said, “Power is like being a lady; if you have to say you are, you aren’t.” Show your expertise instead. “Web 2.0 expert” often reads as “We can slap videos and theoretically interactive applications on your website. “Built websites for …” and “Created applications that…” lets potential customers evaluate your level of expertise and its suitability for their needs.
- “Exceptional ROI.” We all seek a return on investments and we all love a great ROI. But without access to my numbers you can’t accurately calculate my ROI. Therefore your estimates are either theoretical or based on another customer’s results, and either way I know those estimates are absolutely best-case. “Provides an exceptional ROI” reads as “…and you’re a terrible businessperson if you don’t do this.” Show the costs, don’t hide anything, and trust me to calculate my own ROI. If I’m not smart enough to do so I probably don’t have purchase authority anyway.
- “Partner.” Long-term business relationships are great, but we will never be partners because while your hand reaches into my pocket, mine will never reach into yours. Still, maybe one day I will see you as a quasi-partner… but that’s something I’ll decide on my own based on your performance, not on your marketing.
- “Turn key.” I love a turn key solution as much as the next guy, but few solutions truly are. No matter how comprehensive the offering I always wind up participating more than I was led to expect, so when I hear “turn key” I’m naturally skeptical… that is, unless you thoroughly break down what you will provide and what my participation will be, both during implementation and after. Turn key is in the eye of the beholder and the customer is always the beholder.