No-one gets anything they really want without being able to communicate really well. This is particularly true in sales – the most effective sales and marketing people are all master communicators. Here are five questions and three tips to help you.

Even if you’re a master communicator the competition for people’s attention is so fierce that your message can easily get lost in the white noise.

And no matter how effective your message is, it’s useless if it never reaches your audience.

FRONTLINE Selling teaches and uses a brilliant multi-touch methodology using the phone, email and digital messaging to reach the right target – but even when it gets there it needs to make an instant impact.

Here are three questions and three tips to help your message hit home with the power of Thor’s hammer.

Five questions

Whenever I want to get a message across effectively, whether it’s in a one to one sales communication or a blog article, the first question I always ask myself is:

  • What am I trying to achieve?

If you don’t know why you’re communicating or what you want to get out of it then the chances of you getting it are slim (unlike me these days). And if you don’t have a purpose for your communication, why bother? Even in a private situation chatting with friends there’s a purpose – to have fun, to decide where to eat, to plan an outing or just to make people laugh.

Other questions that can help and that come under this banner include “What do I want this person (or these people) to think and/or do as a result of my message?” or simply “Why do I want to speak to them?”

But however you phrase it, particularly in a sales context, every communication needs a purpose. And often, in the prospecting phase of selling the answer is “to schedule a meeting”.

Why should your initial prospecting goal be to schedule a meeting? Because unless you are absolutely brilliant (and often even not then) it’s close to impossible to get communicate a value proposition in the few seconds you’re often allowed. But you can communicate the value of them scheduling time for you to meet or talk in depth.

The next question is;

  • Who is my audience?

That’s just as critical. Every message has an audience. It may be one person, it may be many but unless you know who your audience is your message will land with the impact of an anorexic marshmallow. If it lands at all.

Once you know who your audience is (but not until) you can ask yourself the third question;

  • What do they really, really care about?

If you want your message to hit home it needs to be about something they really, really care about. Because it needs to cut through the noise and the hundreds of other messages bouncing round the ether.

And what do people really, really care about? Themselves, their career, their problems, their family, their friends, their hobbies, their football team.

They don’t care about you, your product or service, your white papers and case studies, your new office, your awards, your position in the Gartner magic quadrant or how delighted you are about anything.

(They may come to care about some of those things once they believe out that you might have something they want – or to be more exact, that you can help them get something they want – but at first they couldn’t give a rat’s backside.)

Once you know that, the next question is;

  • How can I help them get what they want?

I want a lot of things. I’d like to see Green Day live (in fact I saw them for the second time in May and they were superb), I’d like to visit India, I’d like to be about 6 kg lighter (that’s 14 pounds in American), I’d like just one more Executive Coaching client in Sydney to fill my available working time. You probably can’t help me get most of these things but I’d sure listen to you if you could.

The question is, what do they really, really want that you can help them get. If the answer is “nothing“, then maybe you’re talking to the wrong audience.

  • How can I get it across in simple language?

People don’t have a lot of time to listen to complicated stuff. They don’t pay attention until they think there’s something in it for them. And if it’s hard to understand they won’t make the effort.

In particular, if you’re relying on a third party to communicate a message – such as, for example, an Executive Assistant – you can be pretty sure the message will be truncated unless it’s really easy to understand.

Unfortunately, many people think they need to use long words to make what they do seem impressive, or to make themselves seem erudite (by using fancy words like erudite instead of smart).

They are wrong.

The singular most effective sales message in the past 10 years has been “Make America Great Again“.

(Disclaimer – as my misguided, strongly Republican friend Mike Scher will tell you, I am a proud socialist and as such totally opposed to the values and policies of Donald Trump – but he sure knows how to use a simple message to sell.)

It’s short, it’s simple, it’s easy to remember and repeat and it’s semantically and emotionally packed.

This question deals with what is essentially a headline – the first sentence of your pitch, the header of your email, the title of your article or the punch line in your voicemail.

Three tips

  • Research, research, research

That’s one tip, not three. If you want to know what people really, really care about and how you can help them you need to do your research. Don’t assume (and whatever you do, don’t listen to your marketing department).

If you’re communicating with a CEO or high level it’s relatively easy – look at announcements, company web sites, annual reports, LinkedIn, news articles and so on. And of course industry and economic information.

  • Be specific

The more specific you are the better. If I say “we help large companies sell more” that’s pretty generic and unimpressive.

If I say “we helped XXX company increase sales by $100 million in 12 months” that’s much more impressive.

  • Talk like a human being

Every single communication, whether by email, voicemail, phone, blog, TV ad or whatever is absorbed at an individual level – in other words every person that sees, hears or reads it does it one person at a time.

So talk to them person to person. Don’t use long fancy business words. Throw in the occasional colloquialism (there’s a big word). Use a bit of humour, unless you’re American, in which case use a bit of humor.

An example

Compare “Make America Great Again” with this, which I just picked up from a random Google search – it was used as an example of an effective value proposition;

“Our products help people leverage the internet to triple their market reach and cut marketing costs in half when launching new products.”

Imagine you’re a business development person and you want to get a meeting with the CEO of a large potential client. You get through to her EA and say you want to schedule a meeting and the EA asks you what it’s about.

You say “I’m from XXXX and our products help you leverage the internet to triple your market reach and cut your marketing costs in half when launching new products“.

What do you think the EA will say when he or she relays that message to the CEO?

Chances are it will be “someone called about the Internet” and the likely response will be “tell them to call Fred in IT“.

But if you apply my questions, here’s the result;

  1. What am I trying to achieve? Answer; To get a meeting.
  2. Who is my audience? Answer; The CEO of a company that launches new products.
  3. What do they really, really care about? Answer; Read the Annual Report, LinkedIn, company statements, etc – but for now let’s assume all CEOs care about maximising profit & minimising risk. Pick one.
  4. How can I help them? Answer; By reducing risk of failure when they launch a new product.
  5. How can I get it across in simple language? Answer (Example); “Hi I’m Steve from Executive Sales Coaching. I’d like to schedule a meeting with <CEO>. It’s about the new product you’re launching next month and how we can guarantee the launch will be a smash hit.

Summary

Great communication is a skill but it’s a teachable skill. The best communicators know what they want, they know their audience, they focus on giving their audience what they want and they use simple, compelling, easy to understand language.

They use humour, emotion and semantically packed words like smash.

Happy messaging.

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Steve Hall has been described as Australia’s leading Authority on selling at C level. He is an executive sales coach, a corporate storyteller and acts as a Devil’s advocate to help his clients hone their message. He is a member of Sales Masterminds Australasia and is based in Sydney, Australia.

Steve’s original article can be found here.