Make sure you get your messaging right
You get one chance to make a first impression. Your messaging will either help or hurt that effort. In other words, it is essential. It really doesn’t matter how good the product is if the presentation of it doesn’t grab the listener at hello with the feeling they must hear more and now.
How do you do that? Consistently, across myriad products, time after time when the company we are discussing has no brand recognition (in the US) and hasn’t earned dollar one? The answer is simple. Begin your conversation, your outreach letter, your one-sheet and your deck with a problem. I like to begin conversations with the simple question: “What keeps you up at night?” I have yet to meet a person who didn’t have and wasn’t willing to discuss theirs. From that point on, you have your compass, your focal point for the meeting.
In previous articles we have discussed the 30-minute meeting, prevalent in the US, and the importance of selling a single point solution first, then upselling other features and functions later. In other words, focus wins in this market. To that end, we recommend short, personal outreach notes focused on how you can improve a prospect’s life, company/product performance, etc. Whether you are sending cold outreach or re-connecting with someone you know well, let them know “what’s in it” for them up front.
We used to spend a lot of time at the beginning of engagements developing “one-sheets” on the product or service. Problem we are solving at the top, a couple of USPs, a case study, perhaps a testimonial, some logos and contact information. Right? You’ve seen a million of them. Simple. Useful in many ways. Wrong. Dangerous. Why? Sales is a give and take process. You give a little, the client gives some back etc. One-sheets dump too much information at once. The temptation on the receiving end is real to actually read it and make the decision on your offering then and there – without having taken the time to meet.
Decks. Gotta have ‘em, right? Less and less. Oracle, among other companies, have actually banned their use in meetings, requiring the presenter send a deck, if s/he is using one, over in advance. If you are using one it had better be good. How? Start by understanding the difference between a presentation deck and a leave behind deck. One is a self-standing tool, with more text required. The other is a presentation prop. A single thought on each page, with no text that can distract from the presenter. Using a leave behind deck in a presentation is death for the presenter. Listeners are trying to read while listening, doing neither well.
If a meet in the US is 30 minutes, with five minutes of pleasantries at the top and, with luck, five minutes of next steps at the bottom, plus 10-12 minutes of aggressive Q&A – the most important part – then you have eight minutes for the deck. Mathematically, that is six slides max. Little if any text. Scary, right?
The most important take away here is the importance of simplicity. “Tell me what you do as if I were your mother at holiday dinner.” If you plan to engage in top-down as well as bottom-up selling here, and you should, it is essential that people leave their encounter with you feeling they understand, care about and believe in what you are doing. These are emotional, not intellectual states. Coming off as the smartest guy in the room is fun ego tripping but rarely if ever sells.