Sales and Sales Management Blog

June 2, 2009

Boost Your Sales Series: “Are You Losing Them at Hello?” by Jill Konrath

We welcome Jill Konrath as our guest expert today.  If you use the phone to generate business, don’t miss this article–and take what Jill says to heart.  It will garner you more business.

Tomorrow Trish Bertuzzi is up with “Prospecting Baseball.”

This summer you’ll be exposedto 52 of the top sales and management experts in the world addressing issues that can immediately change you or your sales team’s success.

Come back every weekday–or better yet, save the Sales and Sales Management Blog in your RSS Reader.


Are You Losing Them at Hello?
By Jill Konrath

In the movie Jerry Maguire, when Tom Cruise is in the midst of his proposal to Dorothy, she stops him with, “You had me at hello.” Every seller dreams of hearing those exact same words when they approach corporate decision makers.

Unfortunately, the opposite usually occurs. Instead of capturing their prospect’s attention, most sellers create resistance with their opening remarks and blow the opportunity.

                    Why do bad things like that happen to good people?
                    In short, weak value propositions.

If you’re running into trouble cracking into corporate accounts, most likely the root cause is your failure to clearly articulate the business outcomes that customers realize from using your products, services or solutions.

A couple weeks ago, I did a new exercise while training a group of sellers. In small groups, they rated common value propositions that sellers could use when prospecting for new customers.

Using a 1-10 (tops) scale, they evaluated value propositions such as these on their effectiveness in initiating change from the status quo: 

____    We offer one-stop shopping for all your (fill in the blank) needs.

____    We’re the industry leader in (fill in the blank) and have been recognized for our exceptional (fill in the blank).

____    We specialize in (fill in the blank) and work with well-known clients such as Microsoft, Best Buy and Kraft.

After serious discussion amongst the sellers, these value propositions received scores between 4-6. Their rationale? They were nice benefit statements about the company, but not quite as punchy as they could have been.

Since my book, Selling to Big Companies, was required reading prior to the session, I assumed these sellers would ace this exercise. Not so! In fact, they were way off.

                         The truth is that all the above value propositions really deserve a
                         score of one.  Not four. Not six. Just a measly score of one.

“C’mon, Jill,” you might be saying. “How can that be? They’re not horrible statements. They’re nice.”

Yes, they are nice. I’ll give you that. But they’re grossly ineffective and that’s why they rated so poorly.

Capturing the Decision Maker’s Attention
While those commonly used value propositions listed above might be important at some point in the decision process, they’re totally and utterly worthless when prospecting.

When it comes to capturing a decision maker’s attention, here’s what you need to think about:

  • Strong value propositions pique curiosity and entice. When prospects hear them, they want to learn more.
  • Strong value propositions create a stark contrast from the status quo. When prospects hear them, they’re willing to consider making a change.

Consider this: If you were on the other end of the phone and a seller called with this message, what would your impression be?

                          “Eric. Jill Konrath calling from Selling to Big Companies. We offer one-
                           stop shopping for all your sales training needs – everything from lead
                          generation to closing. We use state-of-the-art methodologies to
                          ensure our training sticks.”

Does it entice you? Not one iota. Does it get you to consider switching sales training vendors? Not likely. Does it make you want to invest lots of money that’s currently allocated elsewhere? Not on your life.

Statements about your company and what it does are NOT value propositions. Period. They are not value propositions.

                                   If you want to get decision makers “at hello”, you need to clearly
                                   articulate the results the customers can expect from using your
                                   product, service or solution. That’s results, spelled R-E-S-U-L-T-S.

For example, a few months ago I trained the national accounts team of a well-known media company. All sellers identified one large corporate client with whom they wanted to set up a meeting.

                                   As a result of the workshop, 87% of the sales force landed an 
                                   appointment with their targeted account.

Those outcomes are unheard of in my business. Virtually every Vice President of Sales will want to learn more.

That’s the power of a strong value proposition. Even decision makers who weren’t considering a change will think it’s worth their time to find out about the sellers offering.

If you really want to “get them at hello,” then make sure you:

Talk results.
Decision makers don’t care about your products or services. They only care about the results they’ll see. Stress that and you’ll catch their attention. Omit those results and you’ve lost them.

Get real.
Refer to actual client successes and include measures or statistics. Success stories from other companies in their industry are especially compelling. By giving specific examples, you really pique their curiosity.

Test your message.
After you’ve planned what to say, ask, “If I were the decision maker, would this message entice me? Would it make me want to spend an hour of my valuable time with this person?”

If your answer isn’t a resounding yes, rework and revise your message till it is enticing. Don’t leave it to chance. Don’t hope that it will work. Your job is to make it so compelling that your decision makers “get it at hello.”


Jill Konrath, author of Selling to Big Companies, helps sellers crack into corporate accounts and win big contracts. She’s a popular speaker at annual sales meetings, professional conferences and industry events.

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