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A man walks into a home improvement store and heads for the power tools section. A few minutes later, an eager young store clerk sees the man in front of the drills looking perplexed. The clerk rushes over and starts explaining the speeds and feeds of the various drills for sale. But the man seems to only get more frustrated and eventually he shouts out “But I just want to buy a 1/4” hole!”

Go ahead and give me a big eye roll or shake of the head. I deserve it for dusting off this corny, old and overused sales training story. But I think it is more applicable than ever for the new world of solution sales and Apps that we live in today. So please give me a chance to connect the dots.

Companies large and small and across all industries are clamoring for cloud based SaaS solutions today. They see less and less value in investing in long development cycles so that they can own bespoke in-house solutions. They just want the desired business outcome and benefits. Kind of like the man who only wants to buy a 1/4” hole and could care less about owning a drill to hang on the peg board in his garage.

Okay, I connected those dots, but what does this mean for sales messaging? Well let’s recall the lesson that the old story was meant to teach: it is all about the business result that the customer is seeking. The point being that it is more important than ever that our sales messaging be customer centric, outcome oriented and value focused.

So, in this environment, it makes sense to inspect our sales messaging to make sure we’re selling holes, not drills. In that vein, I think there are four quick checks we can conduct on our sales messaging to see if we’re on target:

  1. Establishing a Business Challenge/Opportunity – all good sales messaging starts by finding a business pain worth solving or in some cases a business opportunity worth exploiting. If you don’t create a compelling desire in your customer to take action, then the rest of your story will fall on deaf ears.
  2. Features/Functions Only Value is in Context of Solving the Problem – it is easy to get excited to tell your customer about all of the great capabilities of your solution. But today, customers see talk about a ton of features as a sign that your solution is complicated, probably expensive and hard to use. So, any detailed talk about features/functions should be tied directly to proving that your solution will solve the business problem.
  3. Communicating the Value – we’re talking discrete business value, with hard financial savings or demonstrable improvements in customer service and engagement being the most preferable. Companies are very sensitive to avoiding investment in automation for automation’s sake. No hard ROI, no increase in customer loyalty, no deal.
  4. Don’t Oversell Your Company – we all love to talk about our company and how great we are, but to a customer it can be like looking at pictures from your vacation. Talk about your company should be the last thing you do and should be brief. The key points to convey are that your company is credible, has the expertise to deliver the solution and the staying power to continue to innovate and support them as a customer in the future.

A quick review of your key sales messaging using these four tests followed by tweaks where dictated by the effort should help you make sure that your team is selling holes … not drills. And with that, I think I’ll put that old story back in the box where it belongs and not test my luck with your patience again too soon.