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Nigel MottProduct Sales Manager, Agilent Technologies, Inc.
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How to Assess If Your Customer Communication Is Too Descriptive

 By Michael Cannon

If your sales and/or marketing team is not meeting or exceeding their revenue, profit, and market share objectives or your new product/market introductions are not meeting expectations, one of the first questions to ask is, “How effective is our customer communication — the content and sales conversations we use to engage prospective customers?”

Messaging is a component of all your customer communication. It’s a summary answer to the prospective customer’s primary and secondary buying questions – the key points that must be communicated to convince a person to engage and buy. Messaging is integrated into content via copywriting and the creative process and integrated into sales conversations by way of the communicator.

Most customer messaging, such as company messaging and product messaging, is descriptive. It provides a description of what your company does, the products and services you offer, the features of each offering, how the offering works, and, if done well, a little bit about the benefits of doing business with your company and the benefits of buying your offerings. It’s all the typical content in a company or product brochure.

The Missing Messaging Type

What’s most often missing is persuasive messaging. This type of customer messaging provides clear, relevant, differentiated, and provable answers to your prospective customer’s primary buying questions, such as:

  • “Why should I meet with you?”
  • “Why should I change from the status quo to a new solution?”
  • “Why should I buy this new solution from your company instead of your competitors?”

Sales teams need both descriptive messaging (what and how) and persuasive messaging (why) to be successful. The problem is that most companies provide Sales, and customers, with only descriptive messaging. They make this expensive mistake because they do not know about persuasive messaging, and how to create it.

5-Point Checklist to Assess the Effectiveness of Your Customer Communication

To help you determine if your customer communication is more descriptive than persuasive, consider doing one or more of the following assessments: a competitive collateral assessment, a sales collateral assessment, a customer messaging effectiveness assessment, a field sales time-use assessment, and/or a field/channel training assessment.

Assessment #1: Competitive Collateral

The competitive collateral assessment is quick, inexpensive, and often startling. Obtain one of your key competitor’s company brochures and one of its product brochures. Black out all references to the competitor’s company name and product name and replace it with your company and product names. How similar are the competitor’s brochures to what you would or could say about your company and product? If they are more than 30 percent the same, then your marketing and sales teams’ effectiveness is suffering from too much descriptive messaging.

Assessment #2: Sales Collateral

The sales collateral assessment will help you determine what percentage of your collateral is not considered useful in helping customers make a good buying decision and helping Sales create and win more opportunities. Does your company’s collateral fall into that 50-90 percent of marketing collateral that customers and sales groups consider useless? Is your marketing group part of that 70 percent of marketers who give themselves failing grades in the materials they provide to Sales? If more than 30 percent of the collateral fails the usefulness test, it’s likely you have a persuasive messaging problem.

Assessment #3: Customer Messaging Effectiveness

Another way to determine if you have the right messaging is by conducting a customer messaging effectiveness assessment. Our research indicates that U.S. companies alone waste more than $100 billion every year using mostly descriptive customer messaging. To do this assessment, select one of your products and identify the buyers’ primary buying question. Is the key question


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