When a customer asks you for information, they need help making a decision. If you are early in your relationship they most likely have discovered a process in their organization that could be better and they would like to research options. If you are late in a sales cycle, they are probably looking to compare you against alternatives – e.g. risk, total cost, productivity gain, etc. No matter where you are in your relationship, any time you provide your customer with a requested deliverable it should be so good they feel guilty they didn’t pay for it.
Any salesperson that outperforms his peers disrupts the sales cycle by showing the customer a unique fit for his company’s offering in the customer’s organization. This is only communicated effectively through well-crafted documents. Every single information deliverable has the potential to make a significant impact on the customer – you want this impact to be positive.
Your documents should look like a million dollars. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself, “Is this valuable enough to pay for?” If the answer is no, make it better. Here are some attributes of guilt-inducing documents:
- Content – Understand what is at the root of the customer’s request so that your document gives them the insight to achieve their goal. If they have a few surface questions, dig deeper with them. Instead of giving them specific information about your company only, come back with objective data that is comprehensive enough to eliminate their need to go to other sources for information. You may need to perform research on their behalf; do it. Be consultative.
- Style – A robust document does not mean a long-winded word festival. Use pictures, graphs and tables as much as possible instead of paragraphs. No one wants to read long paragraphs, so your valuable information will be lost on them if you simply write it out.
- Aesthetics – Formatting does matter. Great formatting makes the information easier to consume and it attracts the human eye. You formatting should be so good that you keep looking at your document after you’ve sent it thinking, this looksawesome. Make effective use of borders, headers, footers and paragraph headings. Make sure objects and text are aligned and that your color palate is appealing.
As a salesperson, you must realize that you are on the hook for this, so get competent at making great documents. Your marketing department can’t possibly provide a brochure or white paper tailored for every request, and if you go back to a past document made for another customer, it will always be a little (or a lot) off the mark. Making each deliverable guilt-inducingly good takes work and time, but the results are worth it. Your customer will view you as part of their team, a valuable consultant they are already doing business with. Actually making the deal will be a formality.
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