Stay Client-Focused!

In response to MCAi's recent survey of media professionals about what kinds of things will help their business, here is an interesting article that gives a clear example of why and how to keep your sales and marketing efforts client focused!

The following article was originally posted June 21st, 2010 @ 11:28 am on

A Customer-Focused Message Saves a Lost Deal By Geoffrey James

In the post, Craft a Killer Elevator Pitch in 6 Easy Steps, I explained how to create a customer focused message. Such messages consist of two parts:

1. A compelling lead-in that states a financial benefit to the customer.

2. An explanation that differentiates you away from the competition.

I recently learned, first hand, the power of a customer focused message--by making the mistake of NOT using one, at least at first.

Last week, a firm contacted me to see if I could do some contract writing for them.Since such work is part of my business model, I responded.However, I responded with a vendor-focused sales letter that was all about me.

Predictably, the opportunity immediately went cold and I was put on the back burner.Realizing my mistake, I resent the sales letter, but with a customer-focused message.The result: I've scheduled a meeting to brainstorm future projects with that firm.

I'm posting a lightly edited version of the email exchange because it illustrates exactly how important a customer-focus can be, and how vendor-focused messages can screw up even the best opportunity.

Here's the email thread:

From the prospect: We are in the process of identifying potential freelance resources to write white papers and key articles that can be used for lead generation and PR purposes. Potential topics might include: leadership development, talent management, sales performance, entrepreneurship, change management and risk, and innovation and creativity.***** thought your interview process was very efficient and we both appreciated your writing style. Any information you can provide on your services would be appreciated.

* Commentary: Needless to say, this is the absolute BEST kind of referral.A happy customer called a potential customer and convinced her to contact me.This should be easily to move to the next stage, right?Not necessarily...

My initial response: The main advantage of hiring me is that I write articles and white papers that people actually want to read.[Three paragraphs of bragging about all the places my writing has appeared.]When I work on a white paper, I generally would work directly with you to scope out the project and then provide a cost, based upon the size of the work, the amount of research involved, and the complexity of the review cycle.I'd be happy to answer any specific questions that you have.

* Commentary: Note that my response was all about me and my business model--as if the client should care.Nothing about benefits or impact.Nothing about what's different about working with me.And you can imagine how well THAT worked.In fact, you don't have to imagine, because here's what happened:

From the prospect: Thank you for your email and for explaining in more detail the depth of your experience. As we start to put together our Marketing plan for next year, I will keep you in mind for key writing needs.

* Commentary: Ouch!While it's possible I might get an assignment out of this, realistically I'm now 'on file' along with every other writer.No competitive advantage, nothing.Nada.I completely wasted the opportunity.Dumb! Dumb! Dumb!Anyway, after beating myself up for a while, I went for the "Hail Mary" save:

My attempt to save: I was chuckling to myself this morning at my own stupidity for sending you such an awful sales letter. Let me try again. The white papers I write generate leads that experience better-than-average conversions, according to my numerous clients. The reason: I work with clients to craft messages and themes that lead readers to consider taking the next step in the sales cycle. I would be happy to brainstorm with you about different approaches to communicating the types of messages that will generate highly-qualified sales leads.

* Commentary: Note that the messages now take the format of 1) a statement of financial benefit to the client, followed by 2) an explanation that further differentiates the offering.I then add the call to action, and voila...

From the prospect: Your email made me chuckle. I would like to take you up on your generous offer to brainstorm about key messages to expand on and leverage for lead generation.Can we put something on the calendar for the week of 07-05? How does the 7th work for your schedule?

* Commentary: Bingo. I'm back in the running, with a scheduled meeting.

See?This stuff really works!

-- Geoffrey James / The Best of Sales Machine

Original Reader Feedback: RE: A Customer-Focused Message Saves a Lost Deal

  • I think the key here is that you made yourself non-threatening in your message. By sending a more personalized and humorous reply to the initial "brush-off" email you immediately differentiated yourself. I think this is something most sales people struggle to do when trying to make contact. --tlmaurer
  • Sales is always all about the WIIFM for the client. Your short, sweet and to the point 2nd attempt not only hit their hot buttons but made you more 'human' for them as well. Good save.

    Other articles available from bnet:

    Achieve a Positive Attitude in 6 Easy Steps

    How to Have a Perfect Customer Meeting

    How to Give a Killer Product Demonstration

    How to Get Referrals from Your Customers

    How to Craft a Killer Elevator Pitch