Creating Powerful Succinct Messages That Sell

Succinct communication wins every time in this instant time poor world – whether the end game is selling a business, an idea, a product or service or just communicating a plan of action.

“It’s not what you say, it’s what they remember and can be bothered to pass on”

The best material delivered in the wrong manner will go nowhere. Most people make their pitches too vague, too long and too boring. Hence they never get passed onto target audiences and never go viral.

Below are my top 5 communication tips for sales and investment pitches – whether it’s an elevator pitch, full blown sales proposal or coffee with a potential investor.

1: Earn your audience’s attention (be engaging)

Open with something that gets their attention. Remember that only 7% of a message’s impact comes from the words, the rest comes from body language 55%, and tone of voice at 38%. Passion and confidence cannot be faked, equally so the format of the written word matters.

Don’t forget to excite the sensors – Props (physical things) are great memory hooks. Smell and taste are often forgotten.

2: Be Succinct

Use sound bites (10-30 second statements) and headline concepts.

Think like a journalist – what would be your grabbing headline and how can you compact the main message into the first min of your presentation?

Use the inverted pyramid of information – basic journalistic tool.  The power of a message is inversely proportional to its length (less is more).

 

In creating effective messages you need to decide what not to say.

Changing the order of your sound bites is the easiest way to improve it’s impact and effectiveness.

3: Contrast is the best conversion tool (life before and after)

Illustrate your value proposition by contrasting what the customer’s life will be like before and after they have purchased, or with and without your product/service.

Make it simple black and white, not a million shades of grey.

4: Always quantify gain (be specific)

Be specific in what you say, if it’s faster – how much faster? Use this with contrast. Likewise do not use vague descriptions eg “a customer…”, name them, be specific it has greater impact.

5: Customer stories win minds and get results

Short relevant and concise, quantified customer stories using contrast provide the most efficient way to give others a message they will empathise with, process and pass on.

Research by the “sales brain team” showed the following results to the effectiveness (probability of closing a sale) of 4 different proofs of value:

1: Customer Case (80%)
2: Demonstration (60 – 100%)
3: Data (20 – 60%)
4: Vision (10-40%)

Read the Book “Neuromarketing”– “Selling to the old brain” …. Best book I have ever read on sales.  http://www.salesbrain.com/

“WIFM  – What’s in it for me”

The golden rule for all communication is: “always use your audience’s language of success”, not yours. Work out what is the highest gain for your target audience (financial, strategic or personal gain)

Your first goal is always to excite interest in the outcome (the WHAT). When the audience get the relevance of the outcome they will ask the HOW questions. At this point you have them baited. The How (the technology or process) is your domain, not your customers, they just want a result.

Too often business people attempt to sell their business by talking about their product or craft rather than the “true value/outcome” the client is seeking. This is your language not theirs.

Avoid “The curse of knowledge”

Insiders are the worst at reviewing messages for external audiences, they are handicapped by knowing too much, assuming.  Use an experienced external advisor to help extract your core messages and test their impact for first time listeners.

More on this topic: see other www.succinct.co.nz blog posts on this topics in the GMC top tips:

–       “Link between simple strategy pitch and success
–       “Value propositions revisited
–        ” 90 sec Elevator Pitch

Check out www.Succcinct-Stories.com we can help you prepare your next marcoms brief, test your sales or investment proposal or just help you get your elevator pitch sorted.  This also holds true to how you communicate your business strategy and plan to your stakeholders and team to get engagement.

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Link between simple strategy pitch and success

Link between simple strategy pitch and success

Can you easily articulate your business strategy less than 60 secs?

Most business owners get that they need a product elevator pitch for sales, but have you considered whether you have a strategy pitch for your stakeholders?

Strategy without execution is just a waste of time. If your staff fail to “get” what your strategy is all about, how are they going to engage with it, think out of the box and work as a team to achieve the goals set out in it? Do not expect your team to read that strategy document you diligently prepared or mind read. How many of your staff could tell you what the company’s growth strategy is?

“A business plan is a document that investors ask for but never read” whether you are raising capital or inspiring your team – you are responsible for creating the interest in your strategy and delivering it in a manner that people will engage with and act on.

After helping many business owners over the years with their investment pitch I have come to the conclusion that: the leaders who fail in the ability to deliver a succinct version of their business strategy, will fail to grow beyond where they are now – irrespective of investment or not.  This is evident when I see companies year after year going nowwhere – failing to achieve the growth talked about but never delivered.

Too many businesses suffer from the lack of clarity, wasting time with a team not empowered to say no to stray activities “off strategy, basically letting fate decide what they should be focusing on. In many of these cases the business owner has it all in his head but fails to communicate it. Or worst still a non- connected or busy management team that have parts of it but are not aligned.

High growth businesses live in a chaotic world, most staff living on the edge chasing tails. Failure to articulate your business strategy to your stakeholders (team, board, investors) is just as bad as not having a strategy at all.

My advice is take your business plan / strategy and condense it down to less than five key statements – themes that people get.   Eg Market share is king, more important than profits.  The power of the message is inversely proportional to the number of words used.

This condensing could even be considered as a bolt-on-phase to your existing planning technique.

Creating and expressing your business strategy as an elevator pitch is a mind bender, but the resulting clarity is empowering.  The conversations that you and your team will have around condensing your strategy is a worthwhile exercise in its self.

Some tips:

  • Have a go at presenting your business strategy verbally: no props or power point, can you do it? Have your strategy challenged by someone fresh outside your business or a new employee.
  • Use an external facilitator who excels at this to help accelerate the extraction of the core strategy and listen with fresh ears – BTW this is GMC’s speciality 🙂
  • Use diagrams and pictures to focus thinking, business model canvas, balanced score card diagrams
  • Engage specialist graphical recording – facilitation techniques to record and stimulate complex enterprise strategies and problems. This powerful technique is relatively rare in NZ. Here is a link to one of the many you tube clips explaining this technique.  Two NZ providers GMC work with are: www.motive8.co.nz/ and  www.martincoates.com contact GMC if you want to give it a go.
  • Everything can be simplified, strategy does not need to be complex

Irrespective of whether you are thinking of raising capital or not, creating clarity and simplicity in your business strategy is key to getting staff, board and potential investors engaged and actually achieving goals.

If you can clearly and succinctly articulate your strategy you have a far higher chance of actually executing it.

Breaking the owner – employee attitude gap

How do you get employees to operate as though they own the business?

This is an ongoing dilemma for all business owners.

I have just finished an enlightening book on creating performing teams in this modern age by Paul Marciano – “Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work”

 This book should be compulsory reading for anyone who has staff.

It’s amazing what people managing people, claim to know about leadership – but seldom practice.
Paul has a way of bringing this point home with some simple questions in each of the early chapters, clearly illustrating this point.

When was the last time you said an individual “thank you” to your staff?

I cringe when I hear executives say “people our most important asset” yet there is no evidence in their actions.

Paul like others, I have recently reviewed take an axe to reward and recognition programmes (carrots and sticks), stating that these only stimulate short-term change and never influence culture.  He gives numerous  (20) examples of the harm these programmes can bring into companies. In many cases all that happens is a culture of entitlement is formed.

Paul separates motivation from engagement.  “Employees who are motivated will work hard when there is something in it for them, engaged employees work hard for the sake of the organization and because it gives them fulfillment”

Another differentiation between engagement and not: When I feel highly engaged with a project, I find myself thinking of it all the time-inside and outside work.; when I’m not engaged , I think about the project only when I am on the clock”

Engaged employees do things like: bring ideas to work, when did you last get an email in the weekend from an employee saying …”I’ve been thinking…”, or an employee informs you of problems solved, rather than bringing you dead bodies.

The interesting point he does make is that “it is all to do with the organization and manager and less to do with the employee”.

Motivation is what gets you started; habits are what keep you going.

Habits are persistent and resistant to change and do not go away because we are motivated.

Culture derives behavior and behavior reinforces culture

So given we accept carrots and sticks don’t work, what do we do about it. Paul’s model is based on an acronym RESPECT.

  • Recognition (& acknowledgement)
  • Empowerment (do your staff have the tools to succeed)
  • Supportive feedback
  • Partnering
  • Expectations
  • Considerations
  • Trust

Building on Pink’s Drive purpose, Paul emphasizes the importance of people understanding the context of their role in the organisation and knowing that their efforts make a difference to others and the business.

Some other quick notes I made give you a taste of Paul’s approach:

  • Giving effective Praise:  The winning formula Timing, specificity, proximity, enthusiasm.
  • Lack of training and advancement are the 2 leading reasons for staff turnover
  • “Your Job gives you authority, your behavior gives you respect”

This book is going on my top 10 list to recommend to owner managers who want break the employee – owner attitude gap.

Read more on Paul’s respect model on his web site:  http://www.paulmarciano.com/respect-model/

Paul was looking at coming to NZ in 2012, so keep an eye out for his name on the speaking circuit.

Pigs and Chickens – Business Model

Is your business a pig or a chicken?

Harold Star’s book “Chicken and Pigs – Business Models and Competitive Strategies” puts  businesses into 4 categories.

These models are referenced by transaction frequency and revenue contribution from each transaction.

My takeaways from this book are:

Business models are about customers not end users, often people get these stakeholders mixed up. Customers are the ones writing the cheques.

  •  Few companies know why their customers came to them and why they stay
  •  It takes different skills to attract customers and retaining them
  • Once established a business model is very difficult to change. This comes from the customer behaviours and required skills associated around maximizing operational efficiencies working each model.
  • Business models are predicated around decisions made by management around three model elements (strategic DNA) : Customer, Resources and Capabilities and Value Proposition.
  • Many companies operate multiple models,  as such they need to be conscious that each model requires different skills and behaviours

Through his book it he never actually mentions why he calls them such, perhaps obvious, but my take is:

Chickens: Lay eggs – lots of regular contributions
 Pigs: good for bacon and ham at the end, lots of reward once
 Black Widows: Mate and kill their prey, like big customers who consume your business leaving you  at risk with a small number of large customers
 Locusts:  lots of them and they move in packs, short life expectancy

Check out both Harold Web Site and his book for more detail on this pragmatic approach to classifying and developing strategies to manage your customer pools and business model.

The web site has plenty of great information. Click on each model to get more information.

The Entrepreneurs Guide To No – test your last decision

Being in business is addictive and just like alcoholics, business owners loose objectivity –wasting too much time on the wrong idea or activity.

It’s my ambition to accelerate the growth and failure of NZ companies by removing clutter and simplifying business growth. For most business people I speak with, it’s not a lack of ideas or things to do, it’s about deciding what NOT TO DO.

Do not end up being a great jockey, riding a lame donkey.  Success is just as much about keeping an objective eye out for distracting activities or ideas, as it is about finding opportunities. Don’t overdose on the “go hard or go home” attitude; make sure you are applying some rational thought to your venture.

After reviewing thousands of NZ business ideas, by far the biggest success factor is focusing on stuff that generates revenue and its beautiful cousin profit. Without profit you at best have a great hobby, something you are passionate about and good at.

So before you leap into your next venture or addition to your existing business, test your idea against my “GMC 6 reasons to say NO”:

1: Does it solve a problem or desire big enough for some one to pay money for it?
your value proposition

2: Can you differentiate your product or service from the competition?
    – your sustainable competitive advantage

3: Can you make money from this venture?
     – your business model

4: Do you have a team with enough skills to make this idea –  venture work?
– your talent

5: Is it fun?
– Your culture – motivation

6: Will it stack up against some non-emotive challenge
– Governance

This rule set works whether you are starting a new business or simply trying to improve your current business, use it to test your ideas so you can grow or fail fast.  It’s amazing how many great craftsman we have in NZ creating solutions for problems that don’t exist or are not big enough to warrant someone outside your mother and mates to open their cheque book and purchase.

So Test you last three decisions against the 6 rules….

Straight Talking Strategy – Rockefeller Habits

“Mastering the Rockefeller Habits – What you must do to increase value of your growing firm” by Verne Harnish was referred to me by an entrepreneur who thought it was my style of book: pragmatic, full of useful tips and to the point. He was on the money, in fact I found the book addictive – I could not put it down. For me it went well beyond the promise of another one page business plan template to consider, its goes on my top 10 must read business books list.

What I liked was the way Verne brings business strategy and plans back to simple lists, questions and statement. Below I have given you a taste of what is in this great read.

The right things model – 3 basic decisions Executives need to make:

  1. Do we have the right people?
  2. Are we doing the right things
  3. Are we doing those three things right?

Base Strategy:

Let’s face it, business is basically the act of Getting, Keeping and Growing – Customers, Staff and Shareholders and we get better at this when we sell stuff, make or buy stuff and measure stuff.

Verne has simplified all business strategy into two dimensions best illustrated with the diagram below.

Often in business we can make things more complex than we need to. Verne’s one page business plan and measurement framework is well worth exploring.

Note: you can download a word version of Verne’s one page plan from www.gazelles.com.

For me it’s not necessarily the exact template as much as the principles behind concise “Succinct”  business plans and measurement models.

  1. A simple framework that documents your position
  2. Use of a common language to express the strategy
  3. Develop a habit of using the framework and a language to continually evaluate process. (Like the GMC guide to NO).

This one pager is a good mix of strategy, execution and measurement and complements the business model canvas and balanced score card approach I use.  My take is, you need to work with a model that works best for you, perhaps a hybrid of all of the above.

Verne also shares his philosophy on people and management – including effective use of meetings.

We have all heard people say they don’t need help; Verne says it all “if your staff do not have bottlenecks, then more than likely they aren’t doing anything at all”. As a manager always find out your teams top 3 -5 bottlenecks, remember that it’s your job to clear those.

On KPI’s he also follows the “keep your KPI list small” model, he sights one CEO who had three critical numbers engraved on watches that he handed out to his execs’

Having worked with a number of high growth companies I have come to realise that high growth companies operate with a different measure of time and pace. Verne confirmed this with the statement:

“If you’re growing at 20-100% per year – think of each quarter as if it were a year”

Oh and the link to “Rockefeller”…. well to be honest, you’ll need to read the book for this, for me it got lost in all the great gems I took from the book on how to help companies grow fast.

GMC Business Model Canvas

Often business owners get distracted by the complexity of their own business and end up wasting time and energy working on the wrong stuff. The business model canvas is a technique that documents your business model with a simple diagram. I have found it invaluable in helping businesses gain greater clarity about what activities add value to their business.

Having now used the canvas for some time, I have generated my own version of it, that better suits the type of businesses I have been working with. Often just filling out this template or canvas, creates many powerful discussions that benefits the business.

Below is my adapted version of the canvas: (you can click here for a pdf)

In the formative stages of growth of a company, it is particularly important not to loss sight of both the quantifiable value proposition and what your sustainable competitive advantage is.

In my incarnation of the canvas I have included two new boxes:

  • Problem – What is the problem your product or service solves?
  • Unique Proposition – What do you have that makes you unique and keeps competitors at bay? Particularly ones with deep pockets.

If you are new to the “business model canvas” , here is a link to a book review and summary that I published a while ago on the original book. It’s great to see this book appearing on book shelves all around the country.My hope is that business owners are using it to accelerate decisions in their business on a daily basis and note just letting it gather dust.

PS: Like all tools it works better when you under stand how to use it. If you want a hand getting used to using this model on your business– come along to one of the GMC business planning workshops.

PPS:  I have just updated my version of the canvas read my V2 GMC Canvas post Oct 2012