Sales messages always consist of a claim or a series of claims that you're making about yourself, your firm or your product.

For a sales claim to be effective, the customer must believe it, remember it, and want to take action based on it.  Therefore, every sales claim must pass three hurdles:

  1. Is it credible?
  2. Is it meaningful?
  3. Is it memorable?

Why 'Exciting' Isn't Exciting

In my recent post, 8 Words to Avoid When Selling, I pointed out that the word "exciting" wasn't itself exciting.  That's because most companies use the word "exciting" in their sales claims like so:

  • "Our product is exciting!"

Let's run the claim through the criteria stated above:

  1. Is it credible?  Maybe, but only if the customer already trusts you.  If you've got a long history with a particular customer, maybe that customer will respond. However, if the customer doesn't know you, all you've communicated is your opinion, and to a stranger your opinion means squat.
  2. Is it meaningful? No, because the customer has no idea whether what you think is "exciting" is the same as what the customer thinks is exciting.  As far as the customer knows, "exciting" to you might mean "I'm excited that we finally have a product that isn't total crap."
  3. Is it memorable? No, because millions of companies have used the word "exciting" billions of times.  The word is just mental SPAM, just like "new and improved," "innovative," "guaranteed" and all the other salesy words that no longer pack a punch.

Making It Credible

To excite a customer, a sales claim must be credible.  The easiest way to add credibility is to attribute the caim to somebody whom the customer already trusts or respects.  For example:

  • "This product is exciting!"
    -- Joe Bigwig, VP, Major Company Inc.
  • "Exciting!"
     -- Jill Smart, Reporter, HugeHighTechWebsite.com

Let's run the two claims above through the three hurdles.

  1. Are they credible?  Yes, assuming that the authorities quoted are real people who will stand behind their remarks.
  2. Are they meaningful?  Maybe, a little, but only if the customer does the mental heavy lifting to map the opinion of the sources into the customer's own experience.  (E.g. "Joe Bigwig had a similar problem to mine, so maybe this is the solution.")
  3. Are they memorable?  No.  The customer still doesn't know what "exciting" means in this context and the word "exciting" itself remains forgettable.

Making It Meaningful

The next step is to make the message meaningful, so that it's relevant enough to the customer so that the customer might take action.  Two examples again:

  • "We saved $1 million in reduced cost overruns."
    -- Joe Bigwig, VP, Major Company Inc.
  • "Acme's customers typically save around $1 million a year."
    -- Jill Smart, Reporter, HugeHighTechWebsite.com

Let's go through the hurdles:

  1. Are they credible?  Yes, insofar as customers trusts the sources cited and they'll stand behind their words.
  2. Are they meaningful? Yes, because reducing costs is always an important business issue.
  3. Are they memorable?  No, because nearly every B2B product on the planet claims to create cost savings.

Making It Memorable

To make a sales claim memorable, you must add emotion to the equation. Emotion comes not from adjectives (like "exciting" or "innovative") nor from financial figures, but from real events involving real people facing real challenges.  Two examples again:

  • "Installing Acme saved us from bankrupcy."
    -- Joe Bigwig, VP, Major Company Inc.
  • "I have never seen a product that saved people so much money so damn quickly."
    -- Jill Smart, Reporter, HugeHighTechWebsite.com

The hurdles once again:

  1. Are they credible?  Yes, insofar as customers trusts the sources cited and they'll stand behind their words.
  2. Are they meaningful? Yes, because reducing costs or avoiding bankruptcy are both important business issues.
  3. Are they memorable?  Yes, because there is real human drama both in avoiding bankruptcy (the first claim) and in the obvious amazement of the report (the second claim).

Please note I am NOT suggesting that EVERY sales claim be formed in the manner above.  However, if you want "excite" a customer with a sales claim, it must pass all three hurdles.  If it doesn't, it's not helping you sell.

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