Elevator speech. Value prop. USP. Whatever you call it, make it stick.
As value propositions go, Volvo’s is spot on: “For upscale American families, Volvo is the family automobile that offers maximum safety.” It checks the boxes for audience, differentiator and why-to-buy. Most would say the brand has delivered on the promise.
But a major automaker has millions of ad spend to make its message stick. Now let’s say you’re a midsize manufacturing company—a B2B marketer with a small budget. Your sales team has aggressive goals to meet, and marketing support amounts to sell sheets, a website (often brochure-ware) and a Power Point deck. For those tasked with bringing in new accounts, the sales tool of choice is still sadly the phone. And if someone actually takes your call, you can be so flummoxed by having to engage a real person, the outcome can be cringe-worthy.
Here’s what happened to one unprepared sales guy.
His new business targets included a global agri-equipment manufacturer. He had about five names on his prospect list, and as he told me, “I didn’t expect anyone to answer the phone. I thought I’d leave a voice mail.” But, on his first try with this particular contact, the guy answered. What happened next is a prospecting nightmare.
Sales guy: “Hello, I’m so-and-so from service company. We have a solution that addresses one of your biggest pain points.”
Prospect: “Not gonna happen.”
“But, but, but…”
The call ended, not only without next steps, but with don’t call back.
This occurs more often than any of us like to admit. Let’s face it; we’re all selling something. And with so many ways to avoid a pitch from an unknown person—email filters, caller ID, call screeners, rudeness—the chances of getting a dialog going is small. When you are given the chance to tell your story, the opportunity is fleeting. Here are a few thoughts on prospecting:
• Use direct mail to break the ice; three touch points with call and email follow-ups are best. Cold calls without marketing support are less effective.
• Keep your message in the voice of the customer; show that you understand their pain points.
• Don’t sound like a telemarketer: “Hi Bob, how’s your day going?” Nothing makes me want to hang up faster than over-the-top good cheer from a complete stranger.
• Tone is everything; record yourself making a sales call to test for authenticity.
• Remember, your company’s value proposition is not an elevator speech; getting the cold callee to listen requires more, so do your homework.
• People like to be asked; so a brief introduction—name, company, I’m the one who sent you…” will suffice, along with a request to “get on your calendar for a 30-minute call.” The prospect is more likely to agree to a phone introduction if you provide that option.
Brooke Lighton is a principal at Connascent, Inc., a branding and sales consulting firm based in Chicago. Brooke is a native New Yorker who started her career as a science writer at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. She segued into advertising, working first as a copywriter at Ogilvy & Mather and later as a Group CD at Foote Cone & Belding. In 1988, Brooke launched her own agency, Lighton Colman. She is a principal and heads creative services for Connascent, a branding and sales consulting firm. You can see their work at www.connascent.com.