Getting the Sales Message Right



No amount of process, people, or product will help if the messaging is not working

Good messaging is like good art; it is hard to define but you know it when you see it. And like art, it can be hit or miss, and more often on the miss side when it comes to early startups. Many folks attribute those startups that start getting traction and achieve scale as being startups that found product-market fit. While that is true, what got them there was the right message. That is the crux of finding product-market fit.

Ultimately you are creating a clear explanation as to what your company is and what problem it solves for the market. If you unlock that riddle, you will find that you open a lot of doors. In that sense, your sales messaging is the master key for your particular market for the segments you have defined.

How does this differ from marketing messaging? It shouldn’t, at least by much. Marketing however has a much broader audience to reach out to, which includes partners, analysts, investors, competitors, industry groups, existing customers, and the broader market. They are the catch all, so they are approaching messaging at the brand level.

Most of what marketing creates should still align with what sales does, but sales are focused on one audience only; prospects. If marketing is the wide lens, then sales is the super narrow lens. The messaging therefore needs to be much more targeted, crisp, and jargon free. The point is that anything that creates questions, concerns, or roadblocks in the minds of prospects should be removed, and that includes messaging that could likely confuse potential customers.

Messaging is such an important topic that I made one of the Enterprise Sales Meetup events all about that one thing. If you did not have a chance to attend, it was a panel of sales and marketing experts in the B2B enterprise market sharing their thoughts for crafting effective messaging from a sales context. What I have included below are some of the salient considerations that came from that discussion on messaging, messaging that creates interest and closes deals.

  • Who are you trying to reach? Messaging is not some monolithic, one-size-fits all thing. You need to understand who you are reaching out to buying creating buyer personas and then targeting your messaging to fit that persona. If you neglect to personalize your message, you risk alienating the very audience you are reaching out to.
  • Is the messaging crisp? Like a good elevator pitch, the messaging needs to be easy to say, easy to understand, and to the point. Drag on and on, it makes your company, your product & yourself appear unfocused. Note that this does not mean you should adopt the “we are X for Y) format many startups utilize which sounds pithy and undermines your unique value.
  • Is marketing and sales aligned on messaging? Often these groups are working at cross-purposes, which causes marketing and sales efforts to appear disjointed. This creates questions in the mind of prospects as to what you offer, creating unnecessary friction in the sales cycle. It is critical that sales and marketing are working together as one united front.
  • Is the message too ambiguous? The best messaging strikes to the heart of what a company does and is offering. If the messaging is too broad or too “inside the studio” then you are forcing people to dig. In an age when attention spans are getting shorter, expecting people to dig for more is a very bad assumption.
  • Is your messaging too complex? In the attempt to appear novel and cutting edge, sometimes we fall victim to being too smart for our own goods. The result is messaging that confuses or scares prospects. The effect compounds at every stage of the sale, lengthening the time it takes to explain and educate prospects. Do not get fancy! Stick with language that speaks directly to values a prospect would relate to and remove the jargon which creates barriers.
  • Is the message unique and defensible? The opposite problem of complex messaging is reducing it to something so basic that it does not sound all the unique. For example, simply calling yourself a recruiting platform or a CRM tool may be simple and to the point, but it does not speak to why your offering is better than other options in the market.
  • Is it the very best messaging? You may think you have come upon the winning ticket, but you might be missing out on an even better message. Never be afraid of testing new messaging and trying new ideas to stay fresh. To that end, always test across various outreach channels to see what is most effective. That also means you need to incorporate a metrics driven approach to your testing.
  • Is your messaging too static? Markets, customers, and products are constantly evolving at faster cycles, so the messaging should also evolve. Messaging need to needs to be relevant and timely, so make sure that you are reviewing the messaging on a regular basis.
  • What are customers and prospects saying? We often forget to take notice of how our customers describe our company and products, or what transpires in conversations with prospects. Make sure to capture that information from the field reps or survey your customers directly to see if it aligns to your core messaging. Chances are the way they are explaining things might be more relevant to your target audience.
  • Does your message lead to a conversation? While marketing is about the message, sales is more about the conversation. What that means is marketing driven messaging tends to broad and product-centric.  For any sale though, the message quickly needs to evolve into a conversation that is not about product, but about the customer.

If you have any thoughts on sales messaging and different approaches you have tried, I encourage you to share your experiences.



Reprinted by permission.

Image credit: CC by Max Braun


About the author: Mark Birch

Mark is an early stage technology investor and entrepreneur based in NYC. Through Birch Ventures, he works with a portfolio of early stage B2B SaaS technology startups providing both capital and guidance in the areas of marketing, sales, strategic planning and funding.

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