Tell me what I don’t know!

You’ve got 60 seconds to pitch your company’s most important prospect. Go!

“Well, your industry is increasingly competitive and margins are shrinking, leading many of your competitors to bypass the traditional distribution network for more streamlined channels. That puts you in an unfavorable pricing environment, which is causing you to lose market share at an alarming rate.”

With 30 seconds remaining, your prospect doesn’t look happy. As her stomach acid makes a beeline for her esophagus, her brain cells shift to the mental notes for her resume. She heard the same thing at Monday’s manager’s meeting. And the week before that. And at the national sales meeting. And from fourteen magazine articles.

You just wasted half of your time telling her what she already knew, and not a word of it put her in a receptive mood.

Think you wouldn’t do that? Take a closer look at your ads, direct mail, and brochures. How many begin with a long recitation of the obvious and the familiar? Too many companies simply waste precious time telling prospects what they already know.

Tell me what I care about. Suppose you told your prospect, “I’m about to show you how you can recapture market share through your existing distribution network.” You’ve got her attention and interest. You see, you’re about to solve the problem that’s been interfering with her sleep. You’re about to help her succeed where everyone else is failing. Instead of belaboring the obvious, you’ve proven that you’re a problem-solver who understands her specific needs.

Tell me what matters. Talk about benefits, not features. Don’t tell me your product uses a three-handled veeblefetzer unless you can explain what that will do for me. “The three-handled veeblefetzer lets you core twice as many radishes in the same time.” That I understand.

Tell me how it works. Coring twice as many radishes is a bold promise – and I’ll admit to being a skeptic. So tell me more about how your product achieves that kind of performance. “The three-handled veeblefetzer cradles the radish, allowing the blades to operate faster with greater accuracy, and reducing waste caused by improper coring.” (And please don’t let your engineers write the description. Once they explain it to you, translate it into layman’s terms. Otherwise, nobody but other engineers will understand it.)

“Give me examples of how your veeblefetzer helped companies like mine achieve their goals.”

Tell me that it works. Most of us are too smart (or too bruised) to buy vapor. We want to be confident that your product will do what we need. Give me examples of how your veeblefetzer helped companies like mine achieve their goals. If I see hard evidence that it doubled radish production for another company, I can envision what it could do for mine. We’d meet client requests in half the time. Cut labor costs in half. Maybe even handle twice as much business.

I can present all those things to managers who understand return on investment. But send me into the boardroom with vague promises of propelling my radish production into new partnership paradigms crafted upon foundations of quality and responsiveness, and you’ll never see a purchase order.

Tell me more. You don’t need to present excruciating detail. But make that detail available in brochures, white papers, or your website. After all, management may not want all the technical details – and might be put off by that much information – but the engineering staff won’t bless the purchase without more meat. Don’t tell everybody everything, but be sure to tell them where they can find it.

Tell me what to do. Your headline and visual are irresistible. The copy reads like your best salesperson on her most effective day. You’ve convinced me! I’m ready to buy! All I have to do is … er … uh … okay, what do I have to do? Should I call you? Visit your website? If you don’t tell me to do something, I’ll do nothing. My warm feeling about your veeblefetzers will last only until I see another great ad four pages later. Like your competitor’s.

Tell me quickly. A successful orator once explained his technique: “I tell them what I’m going to tell them, I tell them, then I tell them what I told them.” In today’s environment, you don’t have that luxury. Just tell your customers what they don’t know, tell them what matters, tell them what to do – and it won’t be long before management tells you that you’re a genius.

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