I was recently speaking to a group of business development managers at a large Philadelphia-based company. During the Q&A, I was asked a question I'd never been asked before:
"How do you contact clients?"
The answer was so obvious to me, at first I thought I misunderstood the question.
"You contact the client the way you know they want to be contacted," I said. And to most of the people in that room, what I'd just said seemed like new information. For me, this had been my mindset since the first day I began my journey as an entrepreneur.
It's surprising to me how many people in sales still use communication methods where they only think about themselves. They approach the task from their own perspective, putting their preferences first and prioritizing communication channels with which their most familiar--instead of really thinking about who their selling to, and how that "type of person" wants to be contacted.
The second mistake I see sales reps, middle managers, and even executives make (and they make this mistake often) is approaching sales with a "one size fits all" mentality. But what works for a decision maker at a Fortune 500 company probably won't work for a stay-at-home mom, and what works for someone in their 70s probably won't work for someone in their 20s. Each demographic you're selling to has their own preferences, communication styles, even vernacular. Which means "effectiveness" primarily comes down to attention to detail.
So, how do you do that?
Consider the difference between opening an email that says, "Hello there. I am reaching out on behalf of Customer Support Solutions. Do you have fifteen minutes to speak with me today?" versus an email that opens with, "Hey there, I recently stumbled across your site and really loved what I saw. I did notice, however, you weren't doing X. I think I may be able to help. Any chance you're free for a quick chat sometime later this week?"
Those two messages are "saying" the same thing--but have entirely different tones. And tone is the first secret to getting people to pay attention to what it is you're saying (and not tuning you out).
For me, anybody that can get me their message by text or email, and do so in a way that doesn't waste my time, is my personal preference. Now, of course I want to have real-time phone or in-person conversations when needed, but unless it's one of those "must" situations, email or text is just fine. But that doesn't mean the tone shouldn't still "feel" like a comfortable in-person meeting.
2. Subject lines that make sense.
Look, it doesn't matter if you're writing cold outreach emails, opening lines for your sales team's sales scripts, thought leadership articles, or LinkedIn messages, the first impression you make is the most important.
I find so many people in sales give very little attention to their subject line. Some even make the glaring mistake of putting their pitch in the subject line itself, which is the equivalent of showing up to a coffee meeting and (before even saying your name), saying the tagline of your product or service. Instead, I encourage teams to think about subject lines as genuine conversation starters between human beings.
If you can speak to the "pain point" of the individual you're selling to, chances are, they'll hear you out. Because everyone is looking for solutions to the things they're personally struggling with.
3. Be Brief
At the end of the day, brevity is one of the most undervalued ways of showing someone you care.
When you're brief, you're showing the other person you value their time. One of the worst ways to speak to a potential customer is to go on and on when that's not what the conversation needs most. Instead, spend more time asking questions to ensure the things you do speak to are directly in line with the customer's needs. Then, share your insights, and move on to the next question or point, showing them you care about them more than you care to talk about yourself.
Sales (and communication in general) isn't about "pitching" the customer.
It's about figuring out what they're struggling with most, and then speaking exclusively to solving that obstacle, easily and effectively.