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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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.

Kick Starting New Ventures

Many people are stuck in a deadly procrastination loop over whether to start a new business venture or not. Bending any ones ear that will listen, but never actioning it or getting into enough detail to hit the go button. Business is not a spectator sport.

My advice to people is that this activity is wasting your live away. My motto is – new ventures should “grow fast or fail fast”.

5 Steps to Kick Starting your new venture:

1: Find out what you don’t know – you don’t know
2: Create a brief business plan and get it challenged
3: Identify what’s in the way of getting started
4: Validate your market
5: Revise you plan and get it challenged again.

GMC in conjunction with Grow Wellington run the Activate – Jump Start boot camp. Taking  new ventures through steps 1-3 in 48 hours, helping all of them make significant progress in moving their businesses ahead.
Then following the weekend up with a support programme, including a post weekend strategic review and follow up mentoring.

Learning’s from the weekend included:

–   Peer review of your business model and plan is the quickest way to transform your thinking
–   Being away from home and the internet for a 2 days and nights can aid your thinking process and help you get clarity
–   The simple act of presenting your business model and plan to someone – will help you get clarity.

If you are sitting on the next big thing, or are stalled making the next big change to your business than would recommend signing up to one of the remaining jump start weekends for 2011  Wellington-Palmerston North 18- 23 Nov or Auckland 25 – 27 Nov.

If you have a GST registered business you may qualify for up to a 50% discount for events like this, contact me for more information.

Typical feedback from the weekend and follow up sessions:

“Relevant and to the point… with immediate and significant impact on my business.  It has paid for itself in the smart decisions I have made since.

The Activate weekend is different to all other business workshops I have been to, no hypothetical cases leaving you to interpret and apply to your business.

It was amazing what we all learnt from analysing each other’s business; I left having made some fundamental shifts in my business strategy.

The post weekend mentoring has been invaluable in accelerating the journey of my business.  

John Matsis – Founder Tonic Foodgroup Ltd

“Exhausting and inspirational in the same moment… this is gold.”

“Mark and Activate have transformed my business from a cool product, into a focused business with a clear strategy to market. ”

The ability to get clarity out of the chaos for my new venture is invaluable, the investment to participate paid for itself 10 times over in saved time.  

Rachel Hatch – Founder Mexis – Virtual Reality Devices

“Brutal and inspiring… don’t start a new venture without attending Activate.
It begins with a startup bootcamp weekend that exposes and plugs any gaps in your business model
“.

“Mark has a great way of saying what needs to be said – even it’s not what we want to hear – and making us feel good about it.”

“We are operating at warp speed as a result of attending Activate The follow up support has been key in keeping me on track and focused on getting the important high value stuff done. I recommend any business owner, new or nearly new, attend this practical programme.”

Judith Eastgate – Founder, Perfect Accent

Do you have proof that your product will sell?

Starting a new business or product line?
Have you validated your market yet?

Do you have enough facts to convince a complete non-emotional stranger that once you have built your product or service that people will buy it and you will make enough money to create a business?

We all too often fall into the common trap of thinking that we have come from the industry, so we do not need to do any validation that customers will actually want and more importantly buy our product.

Too many businesses, fail to complete this best risk mitigation technique available to them, before ploughing into developing their product. 60% of new products fail when launched, many taking the company out with it.  This failure rate can be eliminated with a simple 60 day market research programme, started before you invest your time and energy into developing your next product.

I have just read Rob Adams “If you build it they will come” book. This post is a small collection of some of the topics covered and thoughts I have had post reading it. This book is now going to be compulsory reading for my clients who are starting a new business, including those attending the new Activate – business growth programme I facilitate.

Rob details a simple process of first doing some basic market sizing work off publicly available information (secondary research) and then getting in front of customers to conduct a series of rounds of one on one interviews. Nothing in the book is rocket science – yet 90% of businesses I come across could save a lot of time, money and frustration by following his process.

Rob, recommends you allocate 10% of your product development budget towards market validation before you start developing it.

My recommendation is that you do 50 -100 interviews, including testing what your potential customers will want to pay for your product-service (ie the ASP – average sales price). Then work out how many you expect to sell each year.

Revenue per employee is a great benchmark metric for businesses, under $100K you do not have a viable business. Over $200,000-250,000 per employee then you are on the money.

Do the maths:  (X customers x Spend Y$) / (number of people in your business) if < $100,000 stop and get help quick.

If the thought of interviewing 100 potential clients to understand their needs daunts or scares you, then I would say give up now, these same people are going to be the people who once you have set up your business you are going to be selling to.

This simple market validation process ensures that you can create a “must have product” rather than a “nice to have”  that people will struggle to open their wallet for. I can guarantee as a result of these interviews you will change your product as a result. Don’t be like others who develop and release version 1 to find this out. Likewise you can establish the “minimum viable product” a concept of the least functionality you need to make your mark in the market.

Explore the bounds of your competitors including substitutes (work a round’s or doing nothing). This is particularly relevant when you are creating new disruptive products, in which case you need to work out what discretionary spend budget you are going to take the consumers money from.

So if you did not get a copy in Rob’s recent NZ tour, get yourself a copy. It will be going on my Top 5 must read books, kicking off Rob’s Early book “A good kick in the arse basic guide to entrepreneurs” only because this kick (market validation) is the most needed one for startups.

I love Rob Adams phrase “Business Pornography” – the fairy tale stories the press love propagating about businesses, that magically created the dream product, its running out the door and live is easy.

PS: This was my first kindle experience – loved the ability to highlight sections then export them to word doc.

PSS: for us visually oriented people, can we have some pictures-diagrams in your next book.

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

5 Actions to implement in your biz from #IceIdeas

The IceIdeas forum gathered a sellout crowd of 600 entrepreneurs.
Below are my pick as the top 5 messages that owner managers should take away from the day and action.

            Sales – the No.1 source of capital

  1. “Spend as much on sales and Marketing as product development” – what is your sales and marketing budget vs development budget?  In my experience the cost of sales and marketing of successful companies is more than the R&D budget.
  2. “Sales is more about the customer and customers procurement process than the product “  –  This is particularly true about selling into large companies. Who are the influencers in the decision, is budget approved and planned ?   “People will do what they want when they want “ – this was a great quote on the day  – I still see companies expecting businesses just to buy because it exists.
  3. “Be the newspaper not the ads”– in your communications spend 25% on sales 75% on value for your client. Too often I see people in the social media space bombarding us with messages of buy – buy – buyPeople
  4. Why should the 20th person join your team?” – This is a great concept, often in growing companies we get so focused on the hype of getting started yet  we  do not put enough effort into talent management. For many businesses that have great sales pipelines the marketing effort needs to go into attracting and retaining great staff.
  5. “Every one should know – what every one else does on the team” So true, it’s important that across disciplines everyone has empathy for each others role in the company. To often the techies and science people absolve responsibility to the sales effort and vice a versa

First Impressions Count – 8 Tips

The real world says first impression count – how much business are you missing out on because you are maiking 8 basic mistakes?  Here’s 8 turnoffs for me (or a potential client)…

  1. Do you have a dedicated domain email address?   
    Sorry but there is no excuse for a @gmail or worst still @hotmail account any more. Register a domain name (costs $40 per year). Hell I would recommend getting a family domain for your kids.  www.freeparking.co.nz
  2. Does your web site exist and not look like a child made it at school?
    Too many companies use large homemade web site that say nothing of relevance for their customers. At very least commission a graphic designer to develop a simple holding page with your contact details on it. Less done properly is better than lots of crap. This is the best place to spend your next $5 – $10,000 of marketing money. Also make sure it can be viewed on an i-phone and i-pad – people who use these devices buy stuff.
  3.  Do you exist on LinkedIn?  Linked  is the easiest way to build an online profile that will help you get clients, qualify staff, suppliers and much more. Start a profile today www.linkedin.com
  4. If I Google your business name or your name something comes up? Failure to have any online presence today is suicidal.
  5. What does your business card look and feel like?
    Make sure people get an idea about what you do from your card. Use the rear of the card as well, use quality print stock and finish.   
  6. Is your mobile phone no. on your business card?  
    Having your mobile phone no. on your card says I am open for business.
  7. Do you post clients stuff that can be emailed?
    Don’t post me something that can be emailed; most business people today are mobile, paper gets wet- lost and ignored. My suggestion is email everything. Last weekend at a trade conference, I heard someone say since they started emailing bills out they get paid faster.
  8. How you look, appear and smell?  Tidy & not smoking in my presence?  Style matters, it doesn’t matter what the look is – but remember it reflects your company and personal brand. Young entrepreneurs soap and deodorant are necessary. Old guys it may be time to throw out that sports jacket that has served the last 10 years  🙂

 As a footnote – remember the world does not like plastic flowers “perfect in every way” have a personality – brand and stand for something.