Brevity is the Soul of Sales

Brevity is the Soul of Sales

These days, only old-school print publishers pay writers by the word.  Because they're still stuck in a 19th century model in which they buy in

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These days, only old-school print publishers pay writers by the word.  Because they’re still stuck in a 19th century model in which they buy ink by the barrel to fill up their pages, never mind the quality. Shouldn’t they be paying for the impact of the words rather than the number? On the other hand, web writers must think they’re getting paid by the word (they rarely are) because they feel free to bloviate.

Business has a similar problem. Why do so many of the people you encounter every day think that more conversation necessarily leads to better and more effective communication when the truth is often just the opposite. Brevity bolsters the bottom line. In our hurry-up world, time is the scarcest thing we have, and far more important than money. You can always get more money; time’s a much more finite and wasting asset. So be quick or be gone.

In almost every business interaction, we simply want people to get to the point. The sooner, the better. Short and sweet. Headlines and CliffsNotes — if we want or need more, we’ll be sure to ask.  Don’t call or come see us, we’ll call you. This goes for publishers, parents, politicians and our peers and employees as well.

If you got something important to tell me, start there and then; if it’s essential and I’m interested, you can elaborate. Otherwise, save us all a lot of time and send me a note. And make it succinct – as we used to say, “If I had more time, I’d be briefer.”

And it’s not just because we’re busy; it’s because we’ve all got other pressing things to do. We’re all drowning in data and trying to figure out how to keep our heads above the flood. We’re easily bored by minutiae and too much (or too elaborate) detail. And honestly, we don’t really care about your adventures, your problems, your feelings or your journey — we only care about the answer, the outcome and the results.

Whether you’re writing or reporting, and especially if you’re pitching or selling anything of substance, we don’t have time to hear your life story and all the details and hardships you had to endure in order to finally get something done. Yes, we’re aware that you had to go through whatever it was but frankly we don’t want to re-live that with you in painful and time-consuming detail. Think tweets and texts, not torturous tales. The truth is, we’re glad the project/sale/deal is going to happen, we appreciate your hard work, and we might actually say a special “thank you” even though, frankly, it is your job to go after these things and get them done. So, thanks for the info and the update — here’s your hat. What’s your hurry?

The very best salespeople know these rules better than anyone – get in, make your pitch, ask for the order, get the sale, shut your mouth, and get out. But too many young entrepreneurs and young people in general haven’t gotten the message. They do themselves a world of harm by falling in love with the sound of their own voices and their amazing “story” instead of focusing on the listener/customer and what’s needed to close the sale and get the job done. They oversell, they gild the lily, they don’t notice the client’s eyes starting to glaze over, and they end up leaving without a deal.

Passion and enthusiasm are great in moderation but paying attention to the customer and tapering the conversation to directly and simply address the customer’s needs, questions, and concerns are far more important to getting the right message and the critical facts across. Warren Buffett calls this “mirroring the other person” – matching your tone, voice, energy level and enthusiasm to the person sitting across the table from you so you can make an effective connection. Connection precedes effective communication. Slow your spiel down a bit. As the SEALS say: “slow is smooth, smooth is fast.” Catch your breath, look the buyer in the eye, and lean into the conversation. Tone of voice and body language mean a lot more at the outset than what you’re saying.

And don’t speak Greek. When you’re back at the shop and everyone’s moving at the same speed and knows the story and gets the shorthand expressions and the slang, it’s one thing. But when you’re out on a sales call, you’re meeting new people, they don’t have the background, the acronyms, and the experience that you or your team members have, and it’s all likely to be a little overwhelming for them. So, take enough time to connect, don’t talk down to them, and make sure your message is getting through before you rush ahead.

It’s never about what you’re selling; it’s always about what they’re buying.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

This article is from Inc.com

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