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The Secret to Writing Sales Messages

THE SECRET: Explain quantifiably what the customer gets from your offering, using simple, everyday words.
Let's look at an example.

I recently received this sales message from a reader. While it's well-meaning, it shows exactly what NOT to do. Here it is:

ORIGINAL: "It's really very cool! Because we specialize in automated workflow solutions, our customers hire us to build, implement or update digital documentation solutions/'The paperless office' and incorporate streamlined workflow solutions that move them toward greater profitability and increased business valuation."
Let's start with what's right about the message: a true attempt was made to make the message compelling and customer-focused.

Unfortunately, that attempt fails because the overall viewpoint and choice of words are all about the vendor and its products, not about the customer's story.

In addition, it's way too long. Spoken in a regularly-paced voice, it takes around 25 seconds to get it that mouthful actually out of a mouth. I can't imagine anybody listening to that spiel with going at least a little glassy-eyed.

But it's not just the length, it's the contents, which are heavy on biz-blab and buzzwordery. Let's deconstruct it:

  • "It's really very cool! -- The fact that you have to say so at the beginning shows that you know it's not cool.
  • Because we specialize in... -- Beginning with a "we" statement shows that the message is about the the vendor not the customer, a theme that carries through almost the entire message.
  • ...automated workflow solutions... -- Because I've worked in high tech for decades, I'm pretty sure what's meant by this techie term, but I doubt if many customers would know (or care).
  • ...our customers hire us to build, implement or update... -- To most reasonable people, "build" and "implement" are the same thing? However, to a programmer, "building" is writing the code and "implementing" is installing and customizing the actual system. So this is techie jargon.
  • ...digital documentation solutions... -- Say what? I once wrote a book entitled "Document Databases" and I'm still not sure what's meant by this term.
  • ...The paperless office... -- This is just high falutin' nonsense. Every year since the PC was invented, printer sales and paper sales, have mushroomed. Face it: the paperless office is as likely as the paperless toilet. Not gonna happen.
  • ...and incorporate streamlined workflow solutions... -- Again with the "workflow solutions" -- as if once wasn't more than enough. And what does "incorporate" mean? That the solution is going to be it's own business with its own tax id? And "streamlined" is just a throwaway word. According to who? Compared to what?
  • ...that move them toward greater profitability and increased business valuation."... -- Almost as an afterthought, we finally get to some customer benefit. Unfortunately, they are vague and trite.
What would work better? Turns out that the service this company provides is actually quite useful, although you'd never know it from that turkey of a sales message. Here's a better one:
REWRITE: Our customers save millions of dollars by using a computer to scan and control their paper documents and approval processes.
Here's why this message works.
  • It's short and sweet. You can say the entire sentence in a casual speaking voice in just seven seconds.
  • It's about the customer. It explains what customers do with the product, not what the product does.
  • It has a quantifiable benefit. Further detail about "how many millions" (assuming real case studies exist) can be provided later.
  • It omits buzzwords. Instead it explains what the customer is doing in simple, easily-understandable words.
Here's another example that came in about five minutes after I posted the above:
ORIGINAL: "Customers use our application to help them rapidly deploy business plans throughout their operations, it cascades high level objectives quicker and most effectively than existing systems."
Once again, an attempt was made to make the message customer-focused, but the message is all about what the product does, with some vague promises tacked on. The phrases "deploy...operation" and "cascades...objectives" are biz-blab, while the words "rapidly", "quicker" and "more effectively" are meaningless because they're unquantifiable. So here's my rewrite:
REWRITE: Our customers spend 15% less on management overhead because our software helps their teams focus on what's important.
Get it? You just explain quantifiably what the customer gets from your offering, using simple, everyday words.

Why do so many people find this so difficult? I think it's because some people (marketeers mostly) wrongly believe that it makes an offering seem more important if you trick the message out with high fallutin' phraseology.

And that's a shame, because chances are your product really does do something "cool" for the customer. But unless you can express it simply and easily, you're throwing away sales opportunities.

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