9 Sales-Pitch Mistakes to Make Your Prospect Press Delete
As writers and editors, those of us in the newsroom are bombarded with sales content all day, every day. I mean, absolutely flooded. You may think I’m exaggerating, indulging in a little hyperbole to make us sound important. So here are a few numbers to back up this claim:
- Between 6 p.m. yesterday and 8 a.m. today, I received 68 email pitches.
- Of those 68, 27 were follow-up emails.
- As of 2 p.m. today, another 32 pitches have hit my inbox.
- I went on a week-long vacation a couple of months ago. Upon my return, it took me an entire day to wade through the 1,000+ pitches in my email.
- These numbers do not include messages or @mentions on social platforms such as LinkedIn or Twitter.
So trust me when I say that I and my fellow editors know a thing or two about sales messaging. I polled both my journalism colleagues and buying manager contacts to find out the common, grating conventions we see that send a sales pitch straight to the slush pile. Whether media pitches or prospecting emails, avoiding the following gripes can only do good things for your sales efforts.
1. Subject lines matter. Four out of five cold pitches are asking for an introductory call, so the eyes of your media or customer target skim right past subject lines like “Product Introduction,” “Pre-brief opportunity,” or “Can we schedule a call?” If your news isn’t interesting or important enough to put in a subject line, what would make us think it would be interesting or important enough to read? Give some details up front so we know if it’s something we want to look through, delete or forward on to someone else who might be interested. Plus, even if we decide not to pursue it, we’ll remember a specific subject line way more than something we read 15 times a day.
2. Get your names right. This seems basic, but you’d be floored if you knew how many times a day we’re called by the wrong name, or just the generic “editor.” There are dozens of CRM automation tools you can use to customize your emails. If you can’t even get a CRM right, why in the world would we think you’ve gotten the solution you’re peddling right?
3. Don’t randomly invent product categories. As experts in our field, we’re pretty savvy about product categories. When you start making them up willy nilly, you lose credibility. As one colleague said to me in exasperation today, “No, we are not using CPRaas for your copy/print-as-a-service.” It’s especially irritating and confusing when you co-opt an existing term. “IaaS” stands for Infrastructure as a Service, not Insert Random Term Here as a Service.
4. Don’t state the obvious. Wait — you mean to tell us the IT channel is undergoing significant change? Cloud adoption is going up? Security is a big focus? You don’t say! Look, you’re pitching people who can recite these trends in their sleep. Whether journalist or buying manager, we don’t need a primer on what’s up in IT. It’s fine to set the scene, but keep it to one or two key points, and make them something we don’t read dozens of times per day. What specifically is driving the relevance of your solution? Hint: You’ve lost us at “digital transformation.” Which brings me to…
5. Chill on the jargon. Every industry has lingo that can’t be avoided. In the channel, there’s no escaping terms like IoT, XaaS, LOB, MRR, trusted adviser or business outcomes. But if you have to use buzzwords, make sure you’re doing it because there’s no other way to say what you’re trying to communicate. Terms like “ramp up,” “optimize,” “scale,” “leverage” and so forth are empty phrases, as one colleague put it today. Of course your solution is automated, provides a single pane of glass, gives data-rich insights and minimizes some sort of risk — just like every other product or solution we hear about these days. What does all of that mean?
6. Don’t make claims you can’t back up. Did you know that every single company is a “leading provider”? You would if you had our job, because it’s the first line in every boilerplate that comes across our inboxes. Someone please tell us who exactly is a follower if every company is a leader. If you say your solution is “unique” in the industry, a quick Google search shouldn’t turn up a score of competitors claiming the same thing.
7. Get to the point. Unless your pitch is directly related to it, we don’t need your CEO’s life story or your company’s entire mission statement. If you “bury the lede,” as we say in the newsroom, there’s a good chance we’ll stop reading before we get to it.
8. Mind your own manners. “Please give the courtesy of a reply.” This is one of those missteps that immediately separates the seasoned sales or PR reps from the rookies. We never get a pitch from Dell, HPE or IBM scolding us for not replying to their fifth follow-up email. (We also never get five follow-ups from them.) If you don’t get a reply, let it go, friend. Try again another day.
9. Don’t make your news more important than it is. We get that you’re excited about the latest update to your IP. We’re excited for you, because we like to see people trying to be the best they can be. But keep this in perspective. If there’s a clearly innovative feature your latest version includes, say so in the first line or two of your pitch. If there isn’t, accept there’s a decent chance you won’t get coverage. It isn’t personal; it’s just that we can only write about so much in a day.
I’ll admit that we journalists are guilty of some of these no-nos, too. When you write about IT all day long every day, it’s easy to fall prey to what we call lazy writing. But just like we should edit for conventions like this, you should try to strike them from your sales messaging. Why would you use words that don’t truly convey your competitive differentiation or define your value proposition? Bottom line: If your solution sounds like every other solution, anyone you’re pitching is going to think it’s boring and press delete.