I knew I was onto something when my sales teams began to consistently
overachieve and attend the coveted President’s club trips.
The genesis of that observation started a few years earlier with my promotion into sales management. My first big insight was that we wanted our customers to take a specific sequence of actions. (See chart below.) My next insight was that these actions easily translated into buyer questions that we needed to answer persuasively to achieve engagement and generate orders. The final insight was that most of the marketing content and sales training did not answer these primary buying questions in a persuasive manner.
Primary Buyer Actions and Questions
Over the next several years I came to see that, depending on the offering, all actions (disruptive) or a subset of these actions (main street) and questions were critical to our goals.
Descriptive versus Persuasive Answers
When I reviewed our marketing content and sales conversation for each product and service, I quickly realized that, while the customer communications were well-written, professionally produced and communicated, most were descriptive and focused on answering secondary customer buying questions, such as:
- What does the product do?
- How does it work?
- What features are included, optional?
- What are the key benefits?
The answers were also overwhelmingly product-centric, and accompanied by a list of attributes that were often wordy, generic, general, and anecdotal in nature.
The Two Question Test
To illustrate this point for my sales and marketing teams, I simply blacked out our company and product names from our product landing page and brochure, and asked them two questions: 1) How is this different from what our competitors are or could say? and 2) Is this a persuasive answer to “why change?” and/or “why us?”
As an example, I went to a leading email service provider’s website, selected their product page and found this:
Real Results Start with Email Marketing
Reach customers where they go most: their inbox
Email Marketing just plain works. See how.
Your customers check their inbox all day, every day. You’re sure to reach them when you work with Company X. Build relationships, drive revenue, and deliver real results for your business.
This product landing page clearly fails the two-question test. By comparison, how does your product landing page or brochure stand up to the test? Does it provide persuasive answers to the buyer’s key buying questions? Does it differentiate or need help? Take a moment to investigate.
Overall, the impact of using mostly descriptive communication is fewer leads, meetings, opportunities, and orders. With over 50% of the buying process occurring online, communicating in a mostly descriptive manner is increasingly becoming too costly.
This is not to say that descriptive answers (what and how) are bad and that persuasive answers (why) are good. You need both to be truly influential. What I am advocating is that most companies are over-invested in descriptive customer communications and under-invested in persuasive communications.
Moving to a more persuasive, more influential customer communications style is guaranteed to increase the effectiveness of your marketing and sales teams. You can start realizing the benefits by following these five steps:
- Establish messaging as a separate deliverable
- Determine the right categories, styles, and types of customer messaging needed for market success
- Create persuasive messaging
- Employ persuasive messaging in sales conversations
- Deploy persuasive messaging into marketing content
To learn more, read: 5 Easy Steps to Make Your Customer Communications 30 to 50% More Influential
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Examples of Persuasive Messaging (Very informative, registration required)