If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, did it make a sound?
If a team makes a sales presentation and nobody remembers it, did they make a sale?
The answer to the first question maybe yes, but as every seasoned salesperson knows, the answer to the second is definitely no. Sound waves travel and bounce from objects whether or not people are there to enjoy them, but sales are made person to person.
Enter the sound bite—the pithy sentence that leaps out of a longer speech or conversation and lodges in the memory for future use and persuasion. It is exactly what salespeople need in the current environment when selling and negotiating.
Gaining your customers’ attention has never been more challenging. And once you have it, the non-stop cycle of information pouring out for their attention makes keeping even a bigger challenge. Technology has multiplied the ways customers buy. They have taken control of the product through the internet. They do their own research, they confer with their colleagues, and they come to the sale armed with information and expectations. They want clear, succinct, and highly relevant conversations.
They demand that you get to the heart of the matter and do so quickly. Sound bites can help. If you think about the speeches and posters surrounding the recent and ongoing political scene it is clear that today the biggest messages are conveyed with the fewest words. Putting politics aside, consider the impact of the phrases Black Lives Matter and Make America Great Again. These have helped to focus the energy and commitment of millions. They tell a multi-layered story in a flash. And so does the sound bite—that phrase that, once spoken, takes on a life of its own.
Of course sound bites have always been around. They jump out of the podium or page or screen. For example:
I have a dream.
Mr. Gorbachev tear down that wall.
Who am I to judge?
Sound bites tell the story. They are built to get to the heart of the matter. They make an impression. People tend to accept them and remember them. People who don’t accept them likely would not be convinced by a thousand words. The question is, how can salespeople use them to engage and persuade customers.
How to Use Sound Bites
Sound bites don’t work in isolation; they require context. Zingers alone cannot not reach the hearts and minds of your next buyers. You still must understand and appreciate your customer’s pressing issues in depth. You still must know what your solution is about–i.e. is it a car or is it really about coming home–or running away. You still must drive to outcomes. Consultative selling skills still remain relevant. BUT they must be translated in the high-tech, social medial environment where customers live. The mind-set of taglines, subject headings, tagging codes have to be integrated in how salespeople speak.
Sound bites are not the domain of the marketing department. Today, they begin with you. They must be at your fingertips and at the tip of your tongue.
To paraphrase Marshall McCluhan, the sound bite is the message. Clearly sound bites fall seriously short on the details and complexities of your message. They can seem misleading and over simplified or outright misleading without back-up. But because of their brevity and clarity they are attention getters. For most solutions, particularly B2B, it takes more than a half minute to make your point . The point is they make an impression and open the door for the full story you have to tell. And they resonate with today’s buyers who are living in the world of technology and have become impatient readers and listeners.
Because a sound bite is a short phrase or sentence that zooms in on the essence of a bigger, more complex, more layered, message, it is easy to remember. This “bite” is the piece that media will feature—the shorter the better and it is the part your customer will remember and repeat internally. They are quotable. Sound bites “canonize” your message because brains latch on to them and set the platform for you to win. They help you brand your solution. They edge their way into thinking not only for the customer but for the customer’s organization.. They are a part of creating action and the action you want is for the customer to buy.
There are three issues around sound bites: First is creating the sound bite, then making it work beyond the slogan stage, and finally learning to talk “sound bites” to avoid being long winded because today’s customers are on a fast track and lack the time or patience to listen.
Creating the Sound Bite
The key to creating a great sound bite is making the message for the customer, not for you or your organization. Before you fall in love with a sound bite, ask yourself,: Is it about the buyer? Perhaps the best example of this is Nike’s Just do it. It is not about Nike. It is about the buyer interested in individual triumph—who will indeed “do it” (take some sporty action, in Nike shoes) and not just once but again and again.
There are some mechanics that can help in creating a sound bite once you are clear on the message that makes it ring tight and clear. If you analyze great sound bites you will likely find:
Analogy — Make a comparison between two different things
Ask not what your customer can do for you, but what you
can do for your country.
Contrast — Tell what it is and what it is not. Often start with what it is.
Make love, not war.
One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind..
Consequence — Show how one thing leads to another by presenting the
impact, whether good or bad, solution or problem .
This is your brain on drugs. (Partnership for a Drug-Free America)
If you don’t kill pollution, it will kill you.
Create Surprise/ the unexpected — Set the expectation for x but present y.
Women belong in the house
and in the senate
Two Is Company— Think in terms of pair.
Live long and prosper.
Three’s a Charm — Capitalize on how minds are programed to relate to, be influenced by, and remember things that come in threes.
I came. I saw. I conquered.
Metaphor — Make a comparison between two things that are different but share some characteristics.
Desire – Appeal to what people want, i.e. Apple’s campaign was one of the most successful in advertising history, appealing to people who want to think out of the box.
Alliteration—Group similar consonants together:
Don’t dream it, drive it. (Jaguar)
Dynamic Language—Urge action in a few words.
Synthesize–Put you theme into one sentence.
Please don’t buy junk bonds.
You may find that you come up with a sound bite spontaneously. But don’t count on it. Put energy into developing a sound bite that expresses the heart of your message as it delivers to customers. One salesperson increasingly faced internal competitors who could provide webinar services less expensively. He now consistently wins business by driving home through his sound bite why his customers use him and pay his fees: (his company’s name)When Webinars REALLY Matter. This message appears not only in his message but on the cover of proposals and on each page.
The real impact of a sound bite occurs with repetition. Like the webinar services salesperson, you can build your sound bite into your sales conversations. Test it out. Use it more than once….see if it sticks. Try with a prospect, a good customer, and at home with family and friends. Integrate that one sentence or phrase into proposals: on the cover, on each page, and of course use it when you speak.
Know your solution, know your customer, cap it off with a sound bite and like a refrain weave it into your sales cycle.
Canonizing the Sound Bite
Nike has made Just Do It synonymous with its name. Its brand is recognized on football fields, golf courses, in gyms, locker rooms, schools and among fashionistas. Nike put money and repetition into making Just Do It a part of the lexicon and synonymous with it name. It’s not about Nike. It’s about the buyer. And it needs no explanation. It is repeated and repeated. But companies, while they spend countless resources on creating slogans and taglines, often leave them on the sidelines when it comes to the sales team. And many salespeople simply do not have their one clear message that would help them differentiate and make their mark them in their customers’ consciousness.
Think about your organization’s slogan and whether or not it has potential as your develop sound bites for your solutions. At the recent Philadelphia Car Show there were numerous slogans, for example for Ford – Go Forward. Yet, not surprisingly, they were not integrated into the sales conversations of any of the salespeople I observed and therefore they missed the opportunity to turn them into a sales advantage. Recently I noticed the slogan Eat well, play long on the side of food delivery truck for the School District of Philadelphia. It is likely that precious education dollars were spent on developing it. One hopes that cafeteria workers, students, and teachers are aware of it so that it can work its magic in helping kids value nutrition.
If you look at sound bites in the broader context you can understand that the sound bite reflects the bigger trend the critical need for salespeople to create “abbreviated” sales conversations and not only get to the heart of the matter but to do so with real speed.
The sound bite today cannot stand alone. Salespeople need to know when to speak like they text to grab a customer’s attention and persuade them to take action. Bite-sized hashtags are the sentences of today. Salespeople need to learn how not to be long-winded if they want to be heard.
Sound bites do make a sound –and they can also make a sale. By harnessing their power you can capture attention and stimulate your customer’s appetite for your solution. Build them into your dialogue. Repeat them and so will your customer. Sound bites sell!