It shocks me how frequently I receive e-mails with typos, poor grammar, or worse, a clear lack of research or relevance. In today’s sales environment, written communication makes up an overwhelming percentage of the sales cycle. Advances in technology have shifted buying behavior. We’ve gone from a world of hearty handshakes and face-to-face interactions to a world of FaceTime and Emoji’s. If we are to adapt to this ever changing environment we must learn to communicate more effectively. Which brings me to the question: Where have all of the writing skills gone?
It seems to me that sales people have forgotten that each message you put out in the world is a direct reflection of who you are as a person. Each of these non-verbal interactions also illustrates how much you respect your prospect or clients’ time and business. In order to adapt we must be able to build rapport, trust, and confidence through the way we present ourselves in writing. Every touch point matters. Whether it’s an introductory e-mail, a request to connect on LinkedIn, or following up on pricing, every interaction counts.
Due to the written version of LearnCore’s role-play based technology, Pitch IQ, business writing skills come up in every prospect meeting. In nearly every conversation we discuss the fact that they have either been a recipient of these embarrassing forms of communication or have a problem with them in their own organizations. To help get the writing skills revolution kicked off I have come up with the Six R’s:
Research: Let’s use the technology in front of us. Google your prospect, comb their LinkedIn, and by all means know what their company does. Sending an e-mail that is entirely irrelevant to the prospects roles and responsibilities ensures failure. Knowledge is power, use it.
Relevance: Wrap the message around your research. You should know enough about them, their interests, and especially their business to tailor your message to the individual. We all know when we have been “mail merged”. Leave the mass impact e-mails to your marketing team. Be specific, relevant, and impactful.
Review: This is when you put yourself in the prospects shoes. Ask yourself whether or not this message would move you to action. If it’s not going to move you it will most likely not move them. Keep in mind your number one priority is to garner a response of any kind. Gaining their attention is one of the most important elements of writing.
Reduce: Introductory e-mails should not be as long as the Odyssey. Leave the epic poems at home. Remove filler words and cut out any sentence that repeats something you have already conveyed. For those that need a little more guidance on filler words I did a quick Google for you: http://michellerafter.com/2014/01/30/exorcise-filler-words-from-your-writing/
Remove: Emoji’s, LOL, Sup, Yo and anything else you send to your friends in tiny bubbles on your phone. You are asking your prospect to entrust you with their business. Do you really want them to think you are still in high school? Respect them and their time. Be professional in every touch point.
Read: First read through and check for typos. Did you use “their” when you should have used “there”? This is not the time to trust spell check. Just because there isn’t a red squiggly line does not mean you used the right word or tense. Finally, read it out loud. Does it flow? Can you remove a few more words or sentences? Would you buy from yourself? This is the time to ensure your message will be relevant and effective.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am by no means Billy Shakespeare. By the time you read this two or three of my colleagues and friends have given this a once over. We all have momentary lapses and toss out a your when we really meant you’re or the dreaded to and too; but we can’t blame everything on auto-correct. In order to adapt to today’s buyers we must develop the way we write. Messaging will make or break your sale. Always remember: the e-mails, proposals, and LinkedIn messages you put out there are a direct reflection of who you are and how much you care about your prospects and clients. Please feel free to reach out if you would like to discuss how to improve business writing skills on a greater scale within your own organization.