There is simply no sales tool that's more important than your sales messages--the one- or two-sentence explanation of why prospective customers should consider buying from you.

Unfortunately, many sales messages are so poorly written and ineffective that they actually make it more difficult to sell.

Here are six rules of thumb that will help you write a sales message that actually helps you move an opportunity forward. I've got a few examples below, too, so you can see how to turn a bad message into a better one.

1. Write like you talk.

Sales messages are meant to be spoken.  Even when somebody reads the message, you want readers to feel like you're talking to them personally.  Therefore, whenever you write a sales message, ask yourself: "Does this sound like something I'd actually say to a real person?"  If not, your message won't work well.

Before: "Engineers efficiently evaluate and improve their designs using our software tools. We are dedicated to building the most advanced vehicle system simulation tools."

After: "Engines designed with our simulation software are more fuel-efficient than those that aren't."

2. Use common words rather than biz-blab.

Unfortunately, when most business folks sit down to write something, they turn into Dilbert's pointy-haired boss and start writing in gibberish, stuffing sentences full of important-sounding terminology that means little or nothing. The cure is to use simple nouns and verbs that have a precise meaning.

Before: "We provide 'one stop shopping' for all of your HR needs. Through a single relationship, you have access to HR services for the continuum of the employment life cycle."

After: "We help our clients with hiring, compensation, compliance, and training, so that they can spend more time running their business and less time and hassle dealing with HR details."

3. State facts rather than promises.

Promises are only meaningful to people who already trust you, and that list probably doesn't include prospects who aren't yet customers.  In fact, most people view a promise from a stranger with skepticism if not outright suspicion.

It's more effective to provide a quantitative, verifiable fact that creates credibility.

Before: "You'll love our dedicated account managers, comprehensive inventory, reliable delivery and competitive pricing."

After: "Our customers save as much as $100,000 a year when they purchase directly from our account managers."

4. Don't lie.

It's a really bad idea to start out a business relationship by telling a bald-faced lie.  And that's what people try to do when their sales message says something like: "I'm not trying to sell you something."

Before: "I am not trying to sell you something, but would like meet with you to discuss the possibilities of working together."

After: "I would like to meet with you to discuss whether our offering can save you money."

5. Replace clichés with specifics.

Words like "guarantee," "no obligation,"  and "free trial," are red flags that convince the customer that both you and your firm are full of malarkey. Everyone who's not an Alzheimer's patient knows that:

  • Guarantees are meaningless.
  • A sales call implies social obligation.
  • A free trial costs time and effort.

Use specifics instead.

Before: Our product is fully guaranteed and we offer a free trial with absolutely no obligation.

After: We have a 90-day return policy and don't charge your credit card until after you've had 30 days of usage.

6. Get to the point.

When it comes to sales messages, the fewer words the better.  There's hardly a sales message on the planet that can't be tightened to remove extra words and phrases.  Edit, edit, edit.  If you lack the skill to write concisely, hire a professional editor.

Before: "Our customers hire us to help them combat rising health care costs and decreased productivity from poor staff health. With our easy-to-use software and qualified health specialists, you can lower your company's health care expenses."

After: "Companies use our software and specialists to reduce absenteeism and poor performance stemming from employee health problems."

Got a sales message that you want critiqued? I provide this service for free to subscribers to my free weekly newsletter.