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.

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.

10 tips for creating interest in technology companies

Most deals are completed by not who we talk to, but who our audiences talk to… “Its not what you say, it’s what they pass on that counts”

The acid test of your pitch is did it get passed on and ultimately did it go viral.

Talking  in the language of our target audience not ours takes practice. If you are a scientist and/or technologist seeking endorsement and funding from investors, start talking their language.

Here are 10 tips to creating effective pitches:

  1. Get attention be different – Opening WOW.
    Stand out from the crowd, wake people up.   Just because you have their physical presence you do not have their mind.
    Don’t be boring.
  2. Be succinct  – Talk in simple 10-30 sec sound bites, create a 3 min version first.
    Long messages are hard to process and seldom get passed on. The power of your message is inversely proportional to the number of words used.
  3. Build simple context for relevance
    The more complex the technology, the greater the need to add a 10-30 sec statement that simply explains why we should care about this topic and why is it relevant to other people.
  4. Customer Stories engage audiences
    The most powerful way to explain a technology is to give us an example client, their problem and what difference your solution makes for them.  Customer cases are proven to be 80% efficient in closing sales. Ignore the temptation to explain how your technology works – its secondary, almost irrelevant, wait to be asked.
  5. Contrast & quantify outcomes not technology– (with & without)
    Build on your customer story by quantifying the difference your product made comparing life before and after your product. Audiences like black and white, not complicated shades of grey.
  6. Explain your business model – including how you make money and go to market.
    Use the business model canvas or a variant of it to illustrate your business model in a page.
  7. How you say it is more relevant than what you say
    Research showed that message impact is determined 7% by content, the rest is by body language and voice (vocal variety). Don’t make your pitch boring by the way you deliver it.
  8. Investors invest in people first – technology second
    Tell us something about your team and why with them on board this project/venture will succeed.
  9. Be clear about both where you are today and what your BHAG is
    inspire use with your vision, but show us how you will get from where you are to the end goal
  10. Be true yourself and your brand
    Authenticity and personality counts- have a character and a way and be proud of it

And do not forget to listen … pitching is all about baiting an audience to begin an intelligent  two way conversation…

more on this topic including an elevator pitch template >

Differentiation for Services Coy’s

My twin and I are different…

So we all know we need to have a USP (unique selling proposition)  – Elevator Pitch. But what about when you are in the services business ? …”we are the best” or a derivative of it “we are the leaders” fails miserably on the unique test.

Unfortunately unless the output of your service is significant – it is useless at differentiating you, in fact doing a great job is what I call a hygiene factor – something any decent professional will give.

Very seldom, if at all, it is the firm that differentiates the service provider. There is always someone else that has the “expert team” or “boutique personal service”. We need to hunt further than that.

Think about how you choose your last: Dentist, lawyer, architectural designer or business adviser?

Differentiating in the services game is hard, as the string of poor web sites  are testimony too.

My guess it came down to one of these:

  • Referral from a trusted source – the great thing here is price is often eliminated with a great referral. So make sure all your endorsements are succinct and powerful and not hidden away,
  • They stood out from the pack in some way. This could be from:
    • Making a stand eg Being thought leaders or just different
    • You just liked them, because they are “like you”.

Notice I am not talking about a logo or fancy tag line. It is more about your approach, attitude or way you are. Once you are conscious of what your customers like, give them more of it. Make sure that this “way” is consistent across your entire organisation. Have you ever fired someone because they did not adhere to your company values – brand attitude?

It still blows me away when I see people referring to their craft rather than a measure of success from the client’s perspective. Here is classic from a web site “Accounting is our passion,” If accounting is your passion, enjoy yourself. But what can you do for me?

For something completely different check out this law firm www.valoremlaw.com/ (see the tease below)

They are making a stand:  “the billable hour is dead”

 

Check your web site out,  how much of relevance do you offer your clients?

Some more ideas on standing out from the crowd:

  • Share customer stories, highlighting what your customers got beyond your basic service
  • Make sure all your headline stories on your promotional material talk the language of your customers need and success – not yours
  • On referrals, make sure you make it easy for people to refer you:
  • Be clear on what you do and don’t do. give them a simple sound bite to pass on…
    Particularly if there is some overlap of your services with them.
  • Be clear on what market segment you are after.
  • Make sure you have a LinkedIn profile and its up to date (google is great at finding you here)
  • Reciprocate – people you give referrals, will give you ones in retutn
  • Your existing and past customers will give you the best referrals, they know you. Always ask for an endorsement and highlight rather than hide them on your web site. Third party endorsements have an 80% probability of closing a sale.
  • Google yourself and see what people see of you. Do it on an I-pad and see how your web site looks – influencer’s are generally busy people and they steal time by using these portable devices

More GMC articles on Networking or Pitching , or if you want more information specific to  selling professional services I found a great resource here  http://www.marcusletter.com/Differentiation.htm

90 Sec Elevator Pitch Template

Going to a networking function and decided you want to nail your elevator pitch … try this format out for size.

Build your 90 sec elevator sales pitch with sound bites – (10 – 15 sec succinct statements). These are newspaper headlines not a full novels, cut the jargon and keep it simple.  Contrast (before-after or with-without) combined with a specific  customer story is the most powerful.

Do not forget you need to get attention – Stand out from the crowd – Take a stand.

 90 Sec Template:

1: INTRODUCTION AND WOW (15 sec)

Hi I am (name) …  I am from (company name) …
Opening WOW statement    (Take a stand on something,  make a judgement call, or give a great customer story)

2: VALUE PROPOSITION (15 sec)

The problem we solve for customers is…    (quantify the customer pain and gain)

 3:  UNIQUE PROPOSITION (15 sec)

What makes us different is …    (include comparisons to substitute products including doing nothing)

 4:  TARGET MARKET (15 sec)

My ideal customer-referral  is …   ( size, revenue, geography , sector etc)

 5:  CASE STUDY PROOF (15 sec)

One of our customers …  ( give an example – be specific with names and quantify the gain)

OK and for those of you who are good at maths you now have 15 secs left …

More information is available here in a two page cheat sheet>

For inspiration on a power investment pitch check out the best example I have from first attempts at my investment pitching workshop. Watch video here>

Creating a Succinct Story

Click below for a free 28 min seminar on “Creating your own succinct story”  watch here

No Need for Stealth Mode for New Ventures

Pitch your product without giving away the “secret sauce”

Recently I came across a great blog post – Start-ups in stealth mode need one piece of advice – Just Stop .  Having spent the last 3 years in the early stage investment markets I can confirm this sound advice. I have never yet meet a business that wants a NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement) signed before they speak to you,  having any chance of success.

Not enough business people bait their audiences using a quantified value proposition. Instead they revert to the easier and more natural option of telling their potential customers about what great technology they have and how it works. These same people complain that their competition are stealing their ideas.

It’s about time the people giving advice in intellectual property educate their clients on how to talk about their business and their solution
without having to disclose details that would break any potential future patent rights.  Rather than simply advising them to say nothing, which usually gets translated by young entrepreneurs, into avoiding all contact with potential clients and investors – hence stealth mode.

So my advice is simple:

  1. Practice pitching your business in terms of value proposition rather than technology
  2. If your business can be destroyed by telling some one about it, stop now.

For the lazy ones who haven’t clicked the link above to  read Jason Freedman’s  full post  yet, you should have, here are the highlights:

Reasons you do not need to be in stealth mode:

  1. Execution is more important than the idea
  2. Someone else already has the idea
  3. Totally unique ideas generally don’t make it
  4. Failure is more likely through your incompetence than competition
  5. You desperately need feedback
  6. First mover advantage is silliness

If you would like a hand learning how to pitch without giving away the secret sauce – then attend the “Power Pitching Master Class” or give me a call.

Why do business people speak like idiots?

Before you hit send on that next memo, or deliver that speech or announcement to your staff, or write that next PR release – check for bullshit!

Ok look at your last piece of prose: did you include any of these words “Best of breed, centre of excellence, paradigm shift, results driven, socialise”?

Fear and Peer pressure it seems is the main cause for most business people to use this strange version of the English language.

I have just finished reading “Why business people speak like idiots” a book authored by Brian Fugere, Chelsea Hardaway & Jon Warshawskey.

Whether it’s memos that say nothing, sloppy boring presentations or jargon overload these guys take the knife to all of it. Their take is: this predictable-PC dialect, the business world has fallen into is a waste of time. Hell, we’ve become immune to these empty, generic messages. And as a result no one really listens any more.

The worst enemy of all – CUT PASTE and BLOAT – be careful with that next power point you prepare and how you use these features. Templates kill the message, and cut and pasted templated messages are the worst.

A couple of my favourite tips were reiterated in this book:

  • Stand for something – avoid the curse anonymity – staying low may keep you safe but will not help you get noticed and achieve stuff
  • People love imperfection – ums and ah’s are ok. Overly scripted messages fail. Check out my Rework blog post- “no one likes plastic flowers”
  • Avoid the tedium trap – boring, boring, boring – spice thinks up
  • Stories work – tell a story about a customer or something relevant to your topic – people get it.

Theory vs Story telling:
Brian and team give a great comparison as to the world’s acceptance of storytelling versus theory. Compare the book sales numbers on the two books on transformational change below.

  • “Leading change” by John P Cotter – 210,000 copies sold 2003 – Theory
  • “Who moved my cheese” by Spenser Johnson – 14 Million copies sold 2003  – Story

More Tips from this entertaining and informative book:

  • Short presentations pack punch – straight talkers get more credit
  • Short sentences are more memorable
  • One syllable words build momentum – big words don’t impress
  • Bull has an aroma – and it isn’t exactly channel 5. Say it as it is – if its bad news front up to it and take ownership
  • Avoid the obscurity trap – don’t let fluff and verbosity get in the way of the real message
  • Avoid stupid generic photos or clip art

The good news is that it is not that hard to stand out from the pack, by just telling it as it is and using simple words.

Check out Winston Churchill’s famous speech to the House of Commons June 4 1940, below.

“We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France,
we shall fight on the seas and oceans,
we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be,
we shall fight on the beaches,
we shall fight on the landing grounds,
we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,
we shall fight in the hills;
we shall never surrender”

How many big words does Winston use ? 

If you are after a light read and are willing to join the no bullshit movement get your hands on a copy.
Thanks for the book Motive8 team – a great read.

Loyal – Trusted Networks Don’t Just Happen

Have you ever sat back and analysed your business network and assessed who gives you referrals that result in clients – one’s that pay.

  • Building a collection of names – Easy
  • Building relationships – Good Fun!
  • Building a powerful referral network that results in $ales – ????

In my case, excluding existing and previous clients, I have received more referrals from one person, than the rest of my wide network put together .

This concept has had me thinking lately as to what defines and differentiates a person more likely to refer paying work to you than others.

Here is my list for an ideal referral agents – or a great person for your network:

  1. They like you – they can be bothered
  2. You have provided them clients – reciprocity .
  3. You both service a similar market – i.e their clients are good clients for you
  4. You have a mutual clear understanding of what you each do well – how clear is your pitch?
  5. It is clear that you are not in competition to them – My take is fear of a stealing clients gets in the way of most referrers
  6. If you are in the professional services area – you have seen each other in action. This is important because we may like people – but our own personal brand is associated with any referral.

Jits Doolabh’s Trust Model

I meet Jits (www.revonet.co.nz ) for the first time the other day over a coffee and he shared his model for building effective networks.  Basically he goes through a process of shifting contacts – potential clients or referrers from knowing you to liking you then trusting you. This is evident by the clients matching responses and behaviour transitioning from agnostic through to being loyal and ultimately acting as a referrer for you.

He has systemised this model to help companies improve their sales performance. By working intensively with sales teams and owners he has managed some transformational results in sales results.

 

For those looking at boosting their networking power, there are some helpful tips can be found on jasons blog at www.thepeoplepeople.co.nz http://www.thepeoplepeople.co.nz/2011/01/the-top-13-of-2010/

Value Propositions – Revisited

Lack of clarity in business around what value they offer their clients or whats important to clients can be fatal. It has been so refreshing to recently read the 37Signals Rework book . Here is a company that has  been a raging success by focusing on keeping their applications simple – under doing their competitors on functionality.

To often we lose sight of our most important stakeholders our customers are we focusing on what is important to them.

Yes yet another post on value proposition from me – the last one was  No Value Proposition = No Business , this simple concept is still not understood.  I still come across too many business people who are confused between technology, features and Value Propositions (VP).

  •  Value: quantified worth or success factor, equivalent worth in money
  • Proposition:  the act of offering or suggesting something

Technologists in particular get fooled by their early adopters purchasing on technology and new. You need to remember this is a small group of people and will not make you rich. (Read Crossing the chasm – Geoffrey Moore)

The buying decision by your customer is complex – but there is always a mix of emotion and logic. In tough times clear value propositions dominate over emotion. My take is if you have a clear value proposition you business does not need to be sexy to win sales.

To illustrate the point here are the value propositions and thoughts I went through on some recent purchasing decisions for my business:

Product:  Learning Source Training Logistics -Booking System  VP:  $129 per month is cheaper than hiring support staff to manage venues, registrations and last-minute course communications.
The per registration fee is directly related to my success.

Product:  Xero Accounting:  $50 per month is cheaper than wasting my time with bank reconciliation and checking bank balances via my banks proprietary web site.  Automated processing is quicker than that on MYOB. Saving me 4 hours every month.

Note: the reason I shifted GMC from MYOB (which BTW I think is a better technical product) is because they wanted to charge me for a software upgrade for new GST rate (a feature I just expected to work).  The business values were miss aligned with mine.

 Interesting my guess is many business owners are still paying for bookkeeper’s that could easily be replaced with Xero plus business owner devoting 30 mins a day to staying in touch with their business finances.

Apple mac air:  value proposition : its starts instantly – but most importantly it’s sexy.

50 G Drop Box: $100 per year – fear of loss of data was the final VP that tipped me. My server lives my house – a break in forced me to consider what if I lost all my data. It was the only thing not replaceable in my house. $100 appeared as an insignificant cost. The convenance is great – but note it was  fear that closed the deal.

How to write a book in less than 48 hours

Writing a book in less than 48 hours …
Sounds like an impossible task, but that’s what Lawrence excels in, braking paradigms.

Who said writing a book needs to be an arduous long drawn out process?
Key to his model is rethinking the book process as an entrepreneur rather than as a traditional suffering “writer-author”

I have just spent the weekend attending an insightful workshop lead by Lawrence Green, who has completely opened my mind as to what is possible with limited time. More importantly he  has certainly broken the procrastination loop I was stuck in on this personal goal (to write a book). Hell taking his technique there is no reason not to bash put a couple.

Fundamental to his process – is mapping how he maps the book out – using a drill down process of 3’s  ( 3 main ideas, 3 sub idea’s , 3 sub-sub ideas), focusing in on the purpose and audience, but most importantly not losing the power you have in your natural way or voice. We live in world of the spoken word, so why not just speak your book. The key was in using a smart interviewing techniques with great guidance of a thought out map. 

His interviewing process and audio recording technique, combined with the use of modern elance.com outsourcing for transcription and editing process puts your book creating process on steroids. What blew me away was that you can get 4 hour transcripts (dictation) written up mass at market prices of  sub US<$100.  Lawrenece’s attitude is “why should I write up stuff when I can get others to do it for me”“let me focus on the important part of idea creation and making a difference”.

Often when we commit to written word we miss the passion and true “voice”  of our message. The interview process is powerful – because it unleashes the true self, allow our true message (and value add) to come out.  As Lawrence said “when I review by recordings I found I said things, I didn’t know I knew ”

The weekend catered to a variety of attendees some stuck with writer’s block others part way through the process. Every one left inspired, encouraged and in most cases with a full map of their book and no doubt with another 48 hours they will have it written. For me, I arrived cold no prep, I have left the weekend with core map complete for book no 1 and looking forward to making the next major step over the xmas break – watch this space!

For those of you who have a plan to write a book in your life plan, then this is must attend weekend. He inspires all to break hang ups and reasons not to start, provides frame work and tips on how to get the task done.

Contact Lawrence about reserving your spot on his next weekend retreat.  http://lawrencelewisgreen.com/  or twitter @LLGNZ