The following is part one of three for a series of posts that will help you develop a clear and unique “message strategy” for every sales call. By utilizing the following tools and prompts, your sales calls will make a stronger connection with your customer and therefore be more effective.
The messaging and positioning strategies I’ll be discussing are very advanced sales strategies. Few commercial lenders even know about them, let alone know how to utilize them. They are without a doubt incredibly useful in helping you differentiate yourself from your competitors. The reality is advertisers have been using these highly effective messaging and positioning techniques and strategies for decades to sell billions of dollars’ worth of products and services.
Why it is important to have a strong message.
Approximately a decade ago, I was in Line A (remember Southwest’s old boarding system?). I was chatting with a very smartly dressed business woman. We discussed business and when I told her of my new client, she replied, “Interesting. I had a couple of their lenders come out and meet with me a few months back. Then again, I’ve been contacted by at the lenders from five different banks in the last six months.”
Intrigued, I asked her, “So, what was your experience meeting with these lenders?” To which she replied, “The experience was completely typical and unmemorable.” Then she added, “Don’t get me wrong, they were nice, knowledgeable friendly bankers.”
OUCH! “Completely typical and unmemorable.” Sometimes the truth hurts. It is common for most sales people in any industry to make similar claims and statements when speaking to customers, but all the more reason for you to develop a strong message that will break through this monotony and make yourself memorable.
Messaging Rule #1: Differentiation Occurs By Behaving and Communicating Differently
Most every banker touts their bank’s customer service, responsiveness, and competitive rates as differentiators. The problem is, so does every other banker, which only further commoditizes an already commoditized industry. The first step you can take in the journey of learning how to message customers effectively is to become aware of the fact that much of what you’re saying to customers at the present time isn’t helping you differentiate yourself…it is actually hurting you!
We have some bank clients who developed almost story-like presentations about their bank. These stories include statements such as “we’re family owned” or “we’ve been around for over 100 years” and the assumption is that these statements matter or are meaningful to the customer. Notice I said the assumption is that the message is meaningful to or resonates with the recipient. Now, if you’re calling on the owner of a family run business, stating that your bank is family-owned will very likely “resonate” with the prospect and position you favorably. Likewise, if you’re calling on a company that has been in existence for over 100 years, stating your bank has been in existence for over 100 years will likely also position your favorably. In these scenarios, the “messaging strategies” will likely be on point. But to use that message with any other prospect other than the owner of a family run business or a 100 year old company, the message will likely have no value because it doesn’t resonate. Said another way, the statement is just more noise in an already noisy market! It’s the wrong messaging strategy for THAT prospect. The lender’s positioning strategy was not aligned with the recipient of the message.
Since we’re not selling to robots, why would we think that by making the same claims and representations over and over and over to individuals would be an effective way to position ourselves as unique? Why would we wing-it and make all sorts of assumptions about what will resonate to a prospect? Lisa and I call this “pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey” customer messaging for obvious reasons. Are you ready to take the blindfold off?
Messaging customers effectively is both an art and a science. It’s crucial to do it effectively, especially on an initial prospect call (your first in-person sales call) because it only takes a few minutes before a prospect forms an impression about you and your bank. We’ve all heard the adage, “you never get a second chance to form a first impression.” This couldn’t be more true than on an initial sales call.
To learn how to message customers effectively, we first must learn, understand and begin to utilize certain terminology:
Positioning – “Positioning” is a term and powerful strategy born out of the advertising industry. The definition and intent behind positioning is:
- To make a positive and distinctive first impression based upon saying or doing things differently from how your competitors communicate or behave on an initial prospect call.
- A marketing and communication strategy that aims to make a brand occupy a distinct position in a market, and in the mind of the customer relative to competing brands.
- How you differentiate your product or service from that of your competitors and then determine which market niche to fill. Positioning helps establish your product’s or service’s identity within the eyes of the customer.
- Positioning defines where your product or service stands in relation to others offering similar products and services in the marketplace.
Good positioning makes a product unique, forms an emotional connection with the customer literally within 30 seconds to a couple minutes of first contact with the prospect. Good positioning also makes prospective customers strongly consider doing business with your company as a distinct benefit to them. In a cluttered and noisy marketplace with lots of products and brands offering similar benefits, effective positioning:
- Makes a brand or product stand out from the competition
- Helps a company command higher pricing
- Creates an emotional bond between a company and its customers
- Creates affinity or attraction which helps draw customers to a particular company
- Allows a product and its company to ride out bad times more easily
Well-known brands with effective customer messaging strategies:
As it relates to messaging customers, it is critical to understand that a company’s positioning strategy is to design messages that will resonate and be interesting to a specific demographic of the market. Said another way, a company’s messages are designed to attract the attention of the company’s ideal customer.
In preparation for my next blog, I want you to consider the following questions:
- Who are the ideal customers for the five companies identified above and what is their customer messaging strategy?
- What is the intent of your current messaging strategy?
- Who is your ideal customer?
- Do you find yourself describing the bank in nearly identical ways to different people?
- Look at your bank’s website. What message are customers receiving and is it distinctive? (Look at your competitors’ sites to find out.)
For part 2 of our Effective Message Development series, we will address:
- How to create affinity (an attractive force) that causes customers to want to do business with you
- How to do research prior to a sales call that helps you design a customer messaging strategy
- How to develop a customer messaging strategy that is unique for every sales call