In a highly saturated and fiercely competitive selling landscape, writing sales messaging that stands out has never been tougher.
While 13 seconds is the generally accepted value, the human attention span is actually closer to six seconds. That’s an incredibly short window to catch your prospects’ attention. So, what can you do to stand out?
Unfortunately, there’s no blanket approach to writing impactful sales messaging. To captivate your prospects, engage your audience and rise above the noise, you need to carefully consider every beat of your cadence, utilizing the USPs that best resonate with your buyers’ pain points.
In this article, we will delve into the science of writing sales messaging that engages and inspires your audience. Read on to discover the considerations and techniques that can supercharge your sales outreach.
Key considerations for effective sales messaging
To create effective sales messaging, you need to approach the creation process strategically. In the live sales environment, there’s a lot of white noise, saturation and false promises offering you “the one trick to instant engagement success.”
Be careful what you buy into. The reality is that there isn’t a holy grail for perfect sales messaging. It’s a rigorous process of building and cultivating a strategy based on what you already know about your prospect’s market, your previous experience, their competitors, and the historical data at your disposal.
This strategy can be split into two stages: Pre-messaging and strategy.
Finding the data to inform your messaging, assets and cadence, driving engagement with proven processes and insight from past experiences.
The thinking process for establishing engaging messaging, considering the traits and pain points specific to your buyer and their industries.
Writing engaging sales messaging is not a dark art. The secret to being a cut above the rest is all in the pre-planning stage. Before you write a messaging strategy or cadence, you’ll need the data to back up your decisions. This starts with understanding your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) and buyer personas.
Ideal customer profile
Without a fully fledged understanding of who your ideal buyer is, you’ll never be able to tailor your messaging to target them specifically — or truly empathize with their pains.
Different decision-makers prioritize different aspects of their business. While top-level targets may share some consistencies, there’s no guarantee that a Chief Financial Officer and a Vice President will care about the same things. When you form a cadence for these decision-makers, you can’t just use the same language or tonality — you need to have two different sales messages: One for your bottom-up approach and another for your top-down.
If you know that a message, tonality or touchpoint has been effective for a particular industry or ICP previously, that will give you a good foundation to build on. It’ll also help you diagnose where your industry-specific messaging misfired in the past, and save yourself from repeating the same mistakes in the future.
The strategic stage
So, you’ve collected your ICP, established your buyer persona, blown the dust off your assets, and uncovered previous intelligence on historical performance. You’re now ready to go through the thought process behind building engaging messaging. Where do you start?
1. Sales motion
The first step in forming a messaging strategy is understanding the sales motion. Whether it’s outbound, inbound or upsell; cross-sell, event follow-up or nurture, the motion will change your entire outlook on the rest of the attributes in your strategy.
If you’re dealing with an entirely new buyer persona or net-new prospect from an industry you haven’t sold in before, you’ll require a more comprehensive sift through your historical data. This will eventually inform the touchpoints at every stage in your cadence. It won’t be as straightforward as applying your data to an existing customer. Instead, you’ll need to look at your upsell strategies for existing clients and understand why they resonated.
It’s best practice to make your segments exclusive — i.e., don’t group small and medium enterprise (SME) business messaging with startup-level messaging.
Each business size will require unique messaging, totally tailored to suit their specific pain points. Don’t be the salesperson who tries the generic hard-sell to every business with the same message. It won’t work. The way you speak to an enterprise-level prospect should be completely different to prospects from small or medium businesses.
Messaging should be agile and flexible. There’s no hard-and-fast rule on writing a new message for each and every prospect that enters your pipeline. If a certain cadence is performing in one industry, and the identified pain point is common elsewhere, don’t be afraid to test the waters.
That’s not to say your messaging can be a rinse and repeat across all the industries you target. If your offering has the same benefit across healthcare, SaaS and finance, you’ll see some positive returns — but that’s not always likely. If it so happens that the benefits are different, you’ll need to create messaging specific to each industry as well.
When writing sales messaging of any kind, you need to be mindful of location. Language isn’t the only communication barrier between North America and EMEA; certain types of sales messaging just will not resonate in Europe as it would in the U.S.
The bottom line is, each nation communicates uniquely; there’s no one-size-fits-all across the globe. You simply cannot expect a successful tonality to work in Germany because it’s worked in the U.S., even if the prospects are active in the same industry. Overseas decision-makers have grown to understand what to look out for and you’re likely to be blacklisted.
Writing your sales messaging is only one side of the coin. You’ll also need to consider the best media to bring it to life. Guides, whitepapers, case studies, videos; these all play a role in clarifying what you’re trying to say, and how you’re trying to say it. They need to be personalized, targeted and well-thought through.
Instead of just selecting assets on a whim, take the time to understand all the content you have at your disposal. Don’t just select a few based on gut feeling. Look at everything that’s been done before and every content type you haven’t used yet. While your four-page PDF product guide might look great, there’s no guarantee it’ll work for every prospect.
Know your audience
The key to effective message writing is knowing your audience. That doesn’t change whether it’s inbound, outbound, blended, B2B, B2C, cross-sell or upsell. You can carry out in-depth research into all of the above, but when it comes to putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), you need to put yourself in your receiver’s mindset — on a personal level as much as a professional one.
Your ICP and buyer personas are a rough guide, but your messaging should always be tailored to the way each receiver wants to be spoken to. Most salespeople will share the same “bag of tricks,” but it’s how this is used to connect with decision-makers, make their ears perk up and convince them to read further that makes the difference.
Share insight across your team
No two messaging styles will ever be the same, and — from a sales perspective — that’s a good thing. Everybody on your team will put their own personal flair into the messaging they write, based on personal experiences and interpretation.
To build messaging that’s diverse, unique and engaging, you’ll want to share insight across your sales team, adding a variety of internal perspectives from different ages, cultures and schools of thought before it’s sent to the recipient. Not only will this help to remove any grammatical or formatting errors, but different perspectives help to minimize the fluff and keep your branding unified.
Keep it short and sweet
Content stuffing is never a good idea, no matter the context. A one-trick win to writing engaging messaging is to find the sweet spot between keeping it short and being informative.
B2B decision-makers are generally time-poor, so the key is to keep your messaging as succinct as possible. Nobody wants to read 14 paragraphs concerning a new product launch. That collective research and context should be condensed down into three to four sentences, or potentially even a quick video. Show the value in your offering and why it solves their pain points, then drip-feed the other perks throughout your cadence.
Know your enemy
In sales, there are a lot of fish in a small pond. Sometimes, you just don’t get to your prospect first, which isn’t the end of the world — you just need to be prepared to blow your competition out of the water.
Understanding your market and sector means keeping one eye on your competitors, and the content they’re putting out there. By doing so, you can weaponize your messaging to capitalize on areas they’re not talking about, or outshine them in areas they are. It may sound adversarial, but it’s less about competitor name-dropping and more about showcasing why your product/service is the #1 in the market — and the right fit for your prospect.
Don’t make these mistakes!
Thinking you’re owed a conversation: The sales world has said it a million times over: Your prospect does not care about you. You can spend hours slaving away, building the perfect cadence for that decision-maker and solving all of their problems, but they still have no obligation to get back to you. Your messaging should always focus on giving the prospect a REASON to take an interest. It’s not a god-given right. If they aren’t engaging, go back to the drawing board.
Being unauthentic: Decision-makers will see right through insincerity. You cannot make sweeping statements about your offering without the stats and credibility to back them up. Your prospects want to see, not hear. The proof is in your anecdotal experiences: Case studies and use-case examples in their industry or similar. These give you a competitive advantage that matters to the buyer, rather than just “fluff” that can be disproven on peer-to-peer review sites.
Know your product and be realistic: If you don’t have any enthusiasm for your product, how can you expect your buyers to? By understanding every inch of what you’re selling, you’ll be able to infuse that knowledge into your messaging and make it more valuable. But equally, you’ve got to be realistic about your shortcomings, so that when you write content, it is accessible and honest.
Not continually improving: Testing messaging takes time. One of the biggest mistakes sales teams make is not being patient enough with their content — being too quick to change. Give yourself enough time to collate vivid, insightful data, then look to adapt and build off the results. This will give your team a cleaner insight into what works, what doesn’t, and where messaging needs to be refined. Don’t settle for mediocrity either; just because it worked once doesn’t mean it’s fool-proof. Test, execute, analyze, update, and then repeat.
As a Forbes Under 30 entrepreneur/consultant, Sercan had the fortune of practicing innovative business models and behavioral operations management for productivity in business development with Google Exchange, Hult Prize IXL Center, MassChallenge, MIT Media Lab, and InsideOut PlayOps. Being a Turkish-American who was lucky enough to live in 4 countries and travel to 27 across Europe, North Africa, and the United States.