A Supporting Cast: How to Create Profitable Sales Materials

It used to be that you always had to show a brochure and leave expensive glossies when you went on a sales call, but these days there are better options. Now a one- or two-page brochure and a business card are adequate if you include the right information.

Because people will visit a Web site for more details, all your marketing materials need to do is grab their attention and make an excellent sales pitch.

Prospective customers are rarely in your offices, and that makes it virtually impossible to get to your hard copies. Electronic brochures, white papers, case studies and Web accessible information are critical marketing materials in a tech-savvy world. Make sure that anyone can open the files, make print large enough to read easily, and don't be overly verbose.

Create a library of mini-brochures specific to your products and similar to your customer types. Today's marketing needs to be targeted, simple and technically advanced. White papers should be short and extremely concise.

Three basic sales tools should be used in every marketing piece you put together — return on investment, value add and a differentiator. To understand any of these points, you first must learn your product internally by talking to the product managers and customers who use your product regularly.

There are two additional pieces you should include in all marketing pieces — case studies and testimonials. These are evidence of your successes and credibility.

Most sales reps don't use their own products because they are out selling them. Because of this, customers can teach them more about the product than anyone else. They have used it for more applications than you can dream of, and that creates a repeatable business solution.

Once you know your product, you can sell it by:

1. Knowing the ROI. To sell your products, your materials must have the ability to state the average ROI for customers similar to your prospect who are using the product in a similar way. It doesn't matter if your product costs a thousand dollars or a million, the customer must know when they will recoup their costs. You should also mention the money they will save every month thereafter. This will prove your product's value.

2. Providing a value add. A “value add” is an additional service or product your company can provide that will support the customer and give you an advantage over your competition. For example, some companies provide 100,000-mile guarantees, annual maintenance plans or no-interest financing. One large photocopying company offers to put the copiers online so they can be fixed remotely after diagnosing problems through a computer network.

3. Setting your product apart with a differentiator. All of your marketing materials should state clearly why your product is unique compared with all others in the same space. Copier salespeople close on billions every year at an angle, ink refills are less expensive, prints faster, etc. The only way to know the advantages of your product is to know your competition's product. The secret is to learn how to explain the differences to prospective customers without knocking your competition. Instead, say “that is a great product. Our products do all of that, plus we do X.” That makes the differences clear while still preserving your professionalism.

4. Using case studies as evidence. Case studies are some of the strongest sales materials you can have. These are examples of customers who used the product and their success stories. They should be no longer than three short paragraphs. The first paragraph should consist of what the customer's problem was. The second should include information about the product you sold them. And the third should state clearly what benefits the customer reaped by using your product. The results should use quantifiable metrics whenever possible.

If you suddenly find yourself in the position of having no case studies, but you have a client base, go back to your customers and ask about the results of using your products. Ask for statistics and metrics. For example, “did it improve your productivity by 40 percent? By 25 percent?” They might say, “No, it made us about 20 percent more productive, BUT we were also able to communicate more effectively with our call centers.” Your sales materials should have a unique case study for each product or type of product you sell.

Here is an example of a case study that a mortgage company might use:

“'Home (Equity) for the Holidays'”

“Customer X worked for the same restaurant as a manager, and was shocked when she learned that her restaurant was being shut down. Out of work now, she was living off credit cards, her bills were piling up, and she was running out of options. On top of everything, Christmas was around the corner, and she had no idea how she was going to buy gifts for her children.

“Enter United Equity Mortgage Company …

“United Equity was able to refinance Customer X, despite the fact that she had no job and no income. UE was able to give her access to $33,000 in home equity so she could pay off her bills and even have money left over to buy Christmas gifts for her family.

“By consolidating her debts, she also began saving almost $200 every month. On top of all that, the cash-out refinancing gave her the freedom to look for the right new job, and today she works at a great job that she loves.”

5. Having your clients testify about your product. Customers love to hear from past customers about how the product is holding up, when the ROI was reached, and ask all of the other pertinent questions. These are great ways to prove your credibility and relieve your customers' fears. When you close a deal, ask that customer if they would be a reference for you for a certain time period. For example, “May I use you as a reference from September 1-15, if I call you first and reconfirm that it is still all right with you?” This keeps your references current, which is very important. Also, this is great information to use on the Web site.

Once you develop all of your sales materials with these tools, you should redevelop everything for the Internet. Most people today do their research on the Internet. Make sure everything you have as a hard copy is also available on the Web. E-mail electronic brochures and white papers instead of hard copies and save yourself time and money.

If you understand your product and its advantages, there is no limit to your sales revenues. Be targeted, be clear and listen to your customers' needs. Your customers will teach you everything you need to know; all you have to do is listen.

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