Get to the Point!

In an age where e-mail is the preferred mode of communication, verbal conversation has taken a back seat to the Internet when it comes to relaying information. And why not? E-mail offers absolute convenience (you can send a message when you feel like it; your recipient can respond when she feels like it). Plus, you don’t actually have to speak with anyone and suffer through tangent stories about the grandkids or last night’s bad date.

But no matter how popular the Internet continues to be, you’ll never get away from actually having to speak with a live human. Whether you’re trying to make a deal, get an answer or provoke an action, getting to your point quickly and succinctly will always work in your favor. Brevity will help your listener understand what you need and it will prompt her to respond more effectively.

Requesting a raise, “sealing” a deal or interfacing with your child’s teacher are all cases in which you’ll need to avoid rambling and ask for what you need in an organized and efficient manner. Since most requests are initiated with a phone call and most calls are met with a voice mail service, let’s use the phone recording as a case in point in our study in delivering condensed, uncluttered messages.

This may sound complicated, but it’s simple. All you need is a paper and pen, or have your laptop handy. Jotting the following information down will enable you to organize your thoughts, which will lead to a skillful delivery. Plus, it will help you avoid the common “um” and “uh” that make their way into most voice mail messages.

The form you create will resemble a standard outline format:

Objective:
A.
1.
2.
B.
1.
2.
C.
1.
2.

Request:
As a personal exercise, ask yourself to encapsulate what you actually want in one sentence and place it at the “objective” line. Let’s make believe I want an appointment with a marketing manager so I can pitch a product to her. She is likely inundated with requests, so my appeal will have to be compelling from the get-go. My condensed wish is to get an appointment, so I’ll jot that.

Objective: I want to make a sales pitch to Ms. B at XYZ company. Secondly, identify 3 reasons why you believe this person will benefit by meeting with you. When you have clarified those, place each reason in categories A, B, and C in the order of importance.

A. It is widely known that Ms. B’s company is innovative and progressive so my product fits her corporate style.
B. My product will help Ms. B’s department achieve their marketing targets.
C. Ms. B is busy and I can present my pitch quickly and with competence.

Once that’s established, formulate two sub-points that support each of the three points. For example:

A. It is widely known that Ms. B’s company is innovative and progressive so my product fits her corporate style.
1. My product is on the leading edge of its industry and will fit company XYZ’s requirement for a creative scheme.
2. Ms. B is aware of my competition’s brands, but mine is a better fit for her company because of its imaginative approach.

B. My product will help Ms. B’s department achieve their marketing targets.
1. We have an appeal that is specific to Ms. B’s prospective clientele.
2. Our product is highly rated yet less expensive so it will offer company XYZ a better value for their marketing dollars.

C. Ms. B is busy and I can present my pitch quickly and with competence.
1. It takes 20 minutes to demonstrate my product.
2. I’ve already worked out a price and can leave a demo for Ms. B to try at her convenience

By now, you should be able to easily come up with the final and most important point of your message: What you actually need from your contact, in this case Ms. B.

Request: I would like to schedule an appointment to see Ms. B the week following next to deliver a brief presentation and a sample of my product.

One important note on scheduling appointments: With all due respect to the popular “sense of urgency” concept, most people today have jam-packed schedules and generally spend more time canceling or changing appointments rather than making new ones. Suggesting to meet someone a few weeks from now offers your target an opportunity to feel more at ease about seeing you at a time when the calendar is probably more open. The individual will also feel less threatened because that “must see now” message always seeps through a plea for a sales appointment.

But, let’s get back to our voice-mail message. Now that we’ve formed our outline, it’s time to make our call. If you can recite the points you’ve made in about 15 seconds, terrific. But you probably can’t. The most important thing to remember is to lead strong and to finish stronger. So take a look at your completed script, which now looks like this:

Objective: I want to make a sales pitch to Ms. B at XYZ company.

A. It is widely known that Ms. B’s company is innovative and progressive so my product fits her corporate style.
1. My product is on the leading edge of its industry and will fit company XYZ’s requirement for a creative scheme.
2. Ms. B is aware of my competition’s brands, but mine is a better fit for her company because of its imaginative approach.

B. My product will help Ms. B’s department achieve their marketing targets.
1. We have an appeal that is specific to Ms. B’s prospective clientele.
2. Our product is highly rated yet less expensive so it will offer company XYZ a better value for their marketing dollars.
C. Ms. B is busy and I can present my pitch quickly and with competence.

1. It takes 20 minutes to demonstrate my product.
2. I’ve already worked out a price and can leave a demo for Ms. B to try at her convenience.

Request: I would like to schedule an appointment to see Ms. B theweek following next to deliver a brief presentation and a sample of my product.

The objective is to help you focus on the purpose of your call, so you will not include that in your actual voice-mail message. That also goes for your sub-points, but you still need to establish those to infuse yourself with confidence, perspective and drive. But given the fact that you’ll have about 15 seconds to get Ms. B’s attention before she deletes the message, you’ll need to grab her within that time. By stating your most potent points you are more likely to engage her interest. And once you’ve done that, you must ask for what you want. This seems logical, but is a frequently overlooked step. With a little adaptation to make your outline conversational, your recorded message will sound like this:

My name is “__________,” from such-and-so company and since it’s widely known that your company is innovative and progressive I believe that our product (state what it is) will fit your corporate style. I’d like the opportunity to introduce you to it, and explain how it can help you achieve your marketing targets. I know you’re busy, but I can present my pitch in a quick 20 minutes. I’d like to meet with you any afternoon the week after this one. You can call me back at 222.333.4444 or e-mail me with your appointment preference at _______@such-and-so-company.com. I’m excited to demonstrate how our product can be of value to your company and I look forward to hearing from you.

You’ll notice that we’ve taken points A, B, C and our Request, and have tailored them to a spoken style. Now, don’t be surprised if Ms. B doesn’t call back right away, because marketing managers simply can’t get to every call. But you’ve already established yourself as an effective speaker who can get to the point and you will likely be remembered next week when you follow up with another call. In this case, persistence pays. But in any case, a concise and articulate outline will help you make a clear statement so that you can ask for exactly what you need.

Make copies of this outline format and carry it with you. Whether you need to confront a friend, make a pitch at a business meeting, or discuss an issue with a spouse, learning to formulate your thoughts in a pattern will make you a better communicator. When you’re not bound to a recording, you can also utilize the sub-points that you’ve listed as well. And once you have the system down, you can forgo the paper and pen and make a mental outline before your appeal. In our fast paced world there’s little tolerance for long-winded or incoherent messages. The faster you get to the point, the easier it will be for you to achieve the results you seek.

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