Are your prospects walking out on you?

by Gemma Maidment on 1 July 2006

I've put together and delivered more sales presentations, briefings, and demos than I care to remember. But the nice thing about repetition is that after a few dozen presentations you get very good at reading body language.

You can easily tell when the audience is engaged, when they're confused, when they're bored, uninterested - even angry and inpatient. (And that's a good thing because you can quickly switch gears in response to this feedback!)

But that changes when you write copy. In essence, a direct response piece - whether it's a sales letter, an email, self-mailer, or landing page - is a sales presentation on paper.

And every time a prospect throws your letter in the recycling bin - or hits the delete button - he or she is in walking out on you right in the middle of your pitch.

A tough and demanding audience

So here's how you can start using this technique to strengthen your copy: Imagine you're presenting your idea, concept or product to a room full of potential prospects. But this time, the ground rules are tougher than usual.

Your prospects have agreed to sit down and pay attention. They won't interrupt you. However, they've made it clear that if anyone loses interest at any point during your presentation (even in the first 10 seconds) that person is allowed to walk out of the room.

Rude? Maybe. But that's your incentive to try and keep as many folks engaged as possible. The more attendees you still have in the room at the end of your presentation, the better your score.

By putting yourself under this kind of pressure, you'll be forced to take a harder look at your copy. You'll have to now make sure that all the critical elements are present.

You'll also be forced to trim the filler that doesn't add anything to your core message - and cut out the empty hype that will send attendees running down the hallway screaming in pain.

Critical elements to consider

Here are some important elements to pay particular attention to:

  • Prospect Pain - Do you understand the prospect's problems? Do you understand what's keeping him or her up at night? Are you demonstrating a good understanding of these issues?
  • Positioning - How are you positioning your product? What's your angle? How does this relate to the prospect and his or her problems?
  • Benefits - Are you clearly articulating the product's benefits as they relate to your prospect's problems?
  • Proof - Are you offering enough credible proof to back up your benefit claims, or are you resorting to hype or empty, overused statements that no longer carry any weight (such as claiming you have a ‘robust, scalable solution that offers seamless integration‘).
  • Credibility - Why should your prospects believe you? What have you done for other similar businesses facing similar challenges? How successful have you been in solving these problems?
  • Value Proposition - Call it the unique selling proposition, key differentiator, or whatever you like. Just make sure you're clearly communicating: why you, why they should care, why now.
  • Call to Action - Do you have a clear call to action? How attractive (and relevant) is it to your audience? How many of those left over in the room will take you up on it (honestly)?

These aren't all the factors to consider, but it's a good start.

What now?

Before you send out your next piece, run it through this litmus test. Imagine yourself having to pitch this idea to a group of potential prospects. Ask yourself: would most of them walk out on me, or would most stay engaged till the end? How many would then take me up on my offer?

Better yet, put yourself in their shoes. Would you stay and listen to the whole presentation, or would you lose interest and walk out?

This little exercise will force you to make the copy stronger, more compelling, more sincere. And this will pay off in better conversion rates and higher quality leads or sales.

This article was written by Ed Gandia. Ed helps software and high tech companies write direct response and marcom pieces that feed pipelines and drive revenue. Ed's focus on producing results-oriented copy stems from a successful, 11-year career in high tech and industrial sales. To subscribe to his free e-newsletter on copywriting and b2b lead generation, go to www.EdGandia.com/GetMoreLeads

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