August 28, 2006
Liz published this at 1:16 pm
Poorly Written Messages
In the olden days when there were kings and queens, way before I was born, a business message was sending a runner with message in hand from a battlefield to the king. If the message was good news, the runner might enjoy a feast. If the message was not so good, the king might enjoy seeing the runner run until his life was over.
Even when I was short, that killing the messenger stuff never made much sense to me. It seems like the guys with the messages might figure out what was going on and run the other way, instead of running to the king.
Had I been forced to run messages back then, you can bet I would have found out what the darn message said. Then I’d have figured out a way to write that same message to the king, based on what the king cares about.
That’s what I do for a living — write messages for readers.
So where do sales rules fit in all this?
Mike Sigers Got Me Thinking about Sales Rules
I was at Simplenomics last night, reading Mike Sigers’ post, Mike’s 8 Simple Rules for Repeat Sales, when I realized that everyone is a sales rep. I know. I won’t tell if you don’t tell my husband either.
I’m not making some smoky analogy here. I was a sales rep for the Philips-Van Heusen Shirt Company with a two state territory.
I had a genuine revelation. It came to me that I use my sales training every day and that everyone else uses sales practices too. Granted some of us are a bit better than others at getting them right, but that includes sales reps with training too.
In an email this morning I told Mike I was going to rewrite his post. I explained my reason as everyone is a sales rep. He said:
Wait a minute ?!
Everyone a sales rep ?
Not a freakin’ chance – even you can’t do magic… or can you ?
Let’s turn the page and see how far off I am.
Mike’s Rules for Repeat Selling — My Rules for Writing
Mike talks about how he was training a new sales rep and that naturally led me to think about training writers. Most folks don’t think of writing as selling, but anyone who writes for an audience does just that. Let’s take a look . . .
Mike: What is the main function of a salesman?
To make repeat sales. You might get lucky and sell a customer once, but to sell him over and over takes a real salesman.
ME: What is the main function of a someone who writes for an audience, say a blogger?
To get readers to come back and read some more. You might get lucky and have a reader stop by, but to involve readers takes a real writer.
Mike: How do you make repeat sales?
By taking better care of the customer than your competition does. The old adage is true, if you ainÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t the lead-dog, the view never changes.
ME: How do you involve readers?
By understanding why readers read and why they read what you write, by knowing more about your readers than other writers take time to.
Then Mike laid out MikeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s 8 Simple Rules For Repeat Sales
Mike: 1. Give them what they asked for – close doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t count, exact does. Not once, every time.
Mike: Deliver quality – donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t bother delivering inferior product.
ME: No question about that.
Mike: Don’t oversell them – convincing them to take a chance on selling two years worth of product in one years time is the fast lane to being a one-time supplier.
ME: What he means is that folks can tell if you tried to snow them, padded what you wrote to make it look more important, or put in a bunch of irrelevant information.
Mike: Become a valued team member – go above and beyond or don’t go.
ME: Don’t expect readers to interpret you. Go back and look for where they might misunderstand and fix it for them.
Mike: Keep them informed – let them know about delays, pricing issues and potential problems well in advance of the rumor mongers (your competition).
ME: Have a relationship with your readers that lets them know when to expect what you write. If you make a promise in the title, deliver it in the article that follows. If you get attention from some big media folks, don’t change who you are, stay true to your audience.
Mike: Tell the truth – don’t become overly enthusiastic and stretch the truth. Even if it costs you the sale.
ME: Check your facts. Say when you’ve made an error. Always cite your sources. Never take words that aren’t yours. Be authentic and grateful. Know that some readers won’t like you or what you write.
Mike: Show appreciation for past sales – in my industry it’s nice golf courses, 2 hour lunches and leisurely steak dinners.
ME: Write about your readers when you can. Always speak of them with respect. Avoid terms, such as eyeballs, users, or traffic that implies they might be something less than people. Don’t think you are smarter than they are.
Mike: Show interest – either you invest your time thinking about their company and how you can help them or your competitor will.
ME: Listen to your readers whenever and however you can. Look for opportunities to engage them in conversation. Never lose a chance to find out about an individual who reads what you write.
I don’t know, Mike. It seems to me that we’re saying the same thing point for point.
Sales rep or writer, Mike or Liz, what we’re talking about is relationships. It’s more fun to write for people you care about. It’s more exciting to know that people you care about are reading what you write. Makes total sense to me.
As far as the king goes, I’ve decided he can write and deliver his own darn messages. I don’t like his corporate culture. Would you work for him?
–ME “Liz” Strauss
Work with Liz on your business!!