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Is Your Sales Message Costing Your Company Business? Probably.

Kevin McArdle

By Kurt Theriault

“Organizations lose business to competitors with less value –business is being taken away from them when it shouldn’t be.”

For 10 consecutive years, according to Forrester Research, the growth rate of marketing and sales expense has consistently outpaced revenue. The gap between sales and marketing investment and the results is large and growing.

What’s behind the trend? According to Kevin McArdle, CEO of McArdle Business Advisors, organizations fail to have the level – and types – of customer conversations required to effectively drive revenue.

We’re stuck in old world thinking about marketing and sales, customers and prospects are bombarded with messaging from all mediums, and the customer conversation needs strengthening.

For 25 years McArdle has helped companies create competitive advantage by uncovering their key differentiators – and communicating them effectively – throughout their sales and marketing conversations. I spent some time with him to learn more about the issue and what we can all do to improve.

To begin, you’ve identified six deadly marketing mistakes that many organizations repeatedly make. Can you share what they are?

The first mistake is casting your solution as the hero in the story. Your solution is not the hero. The prospect is the hero. The second mistake is your story lacks context. In other words, you talk about your solution and how great it is, but you haven’t set a reason why the prospect should be paying attention to your messaging to begin with. A third mistake is your story may lack contrast. Contrast between their current state and their desired state. So, the prospect doesn’t recognize the difference between their world today and their world with your solution in it. Within that contrast lies the value you are creating. The fourth mistake is most companies focus on brand positioning versus differentiation. They worry about furthering their brand, but not enough effort or thought into how they are better and different than their competition. The fifth, they churn out content without a unique point of view. In their blogs, emails and other messaging they don’t have a distinct point of view. They look and sound like everyone else. Finally, the last mistake is, organizations tend to message for interest, not for action. There is a lot of messaging out there that describes companies, solutions and services well, but doesn’t create any desire for action. It isn’t persuasive.

What are the implications of these common marketing mistakes?

Organizations lose business to competitors with less value – business is being taken away from them when it shouldn’t be. They also experience downward price pressure. Lastly, customers stay with the status quo. We find, and research shows, that 25-60 percent of proposals result in no decision. Not a “no” per se, but a decision to do nothing different. Turns out, not only are you up against your competitors, but you are also competing against the status quo.

If you find these things happening in your organization, you likely have a messaging problem.

What’s the most common mistake you see?

Companies over emphasize themselves and their solutions. If you look at most websites you will find a lot of “we do this” and “we do that.” You see links to capabilities, pictures of their equipment and products, a map with their locations, logos of the premier companies they work with. All talking about them, their solution, what they do, and how they do it. Same with most sales presentations.

The problem is that content is not relevant or compelling to the customer and it looks and sounds like everyone else. It doesn’t answer the questions customers and prospects want to know.

Which questions do the prospects really want organizations to answer?

Every sales conversation comes down to two important decisions. Why change the way I am currently doing business? And the other is why work with you? Convincing someone to change is very different than convincing them to choose you. You have to build messaging that does both of those things. Then you need to deploy those messages in tools that generate demand and equip your salespeople to succeed.

How do you do that?

Start by identifying and listing the critical issues your prospect may be experiencing without your solution. Then map the different ways in which you help customers in overcoming those challenges. From there, identify the transformative results customers have realized because they chose you.

Once clear, you need to provide salespeople with the skills to deliver those messages and tools in real conversations. Many companies struggle because they focus on only one of the three. For example, they’ll bring in a sales trainer and focus on process and skills, but not on the underlying messages and tools being used in those customer conversations. Or, they’ll work with a marketing firm on the messaging and tools, but not strengthen customer conversation skills. This is very common. It requires a very holistic look and approach.

If there is one thing an organization or individual could do tomorrow to start improving their messaging, what would it be?

Begin with understanding what you have today. Take out a red sharpie. Grab any of your printed material or print out some of your online material. Now take that sharpie and circle anything that you think would be so valuable – and provides so much insight – to the prospect or customer that they would want to keep it. The likelihood is you will never take the cap off the pen. You may find that most of your content is about you, not relevant, not compelling, and not persuasive to your customer. Start by identifying where you may be missing the mark and begin refocusing it on your prospect’s and customer’s interests.

If you are interested in learning more about McArdle and his approach to helping organizations have more differentiated customer conversations, you can connect with him at www.mcardlebusinessadvisors.com.


Kurt Theriault is president of Allied Executives and works with CEOs, business owners and executive leaders on leadership development and business performance improvement through peer groups, coaching and educational workshops. Visit www.alliedexecutives.com or email Kurt at ktheriault@alliedexecutives.com.