When you hear: « Our turnover has grown by double digits over the past year », you imagine something between 11% and 15%. But it could be 28% or 54%. We tend to be precise when we want to communicate something out of the ordinary and vague for the rest. This is probably a mistake.
Being generic means communicating in a way that leaves the door open to interpretation, to the perception of each individual. Being specific, on the other hand, means offering information that is objective and quantifiable. Saying that someone is tall does not have the same meaning if you are 1.60m or 2m tall. Saying that someone is 1.86m gives everyone a reference point that everyone understands, including the person who is a little taller (he’s been there, and that’s what he was told when he was 1.86m).
Being specific sends the message that we are talking about something concrete, verifiable, tangible. Being generic makes the information vague and opens the door to questioning.
Whether you are selling products or services, there are 5 moments when being specific can make a difference:
- Lead generation. The objective is to feed the pipeline and get in touch with people who could eventually become prospects. The important thing at this stage is to arouse curiosity. Feeding this curiosity with quantified elements brings much better results. For example: « Our solution allows you to quickly and significantly reduce hosting costs » offers an interesting perspective, but not as much as « Our customers were able to reduce their hosting costs by an average of 37% within two months of going live with our solution ». I prefer the latter because it gives me an order of magnitude and not a promise,
- Reference sharing. In most B2B sales cycles, references are requested. Prospects want to know who we are already working with, who has trusted us and for what benefit. « We have many customers who operate in your industry and whose profile is similar to yours » is reassuring. Not as reassuring as « Among the 7 customers who have activities comparable to yours, 2 of them had the same objective as you: to increase their profitability. Thanks to our solution, their net margin increased by 4% within 3 months of going live. « ,
- Discovery. In the phase where the salesperson’s objective is to understand the prospect’s ambitions, the nature, impact and root cause of the problems they are trying to solve. Obtaining measurable information is key because it determines the size of the problem and therefore the opportunity. When the client says that his objective is to increase sales by 12% over a two-year period in a given segment, does that represent €25M per year or €12,000 per year? When the client says that the cost of manual processing of this or that activity has exploded, has it gone from €1,000 to €5,000 or from €30,000 to €150,000? In one case, the amount would justify the implementation of an automation system. Not in the other case,
- The implementation plan. Whether we are talking about the delivery of manufactured goods or the production of software, the question of time and associated costs is not only key but is also likely to be part of the decision criteria. Offering a detailed plan with dates of major project milestones is more effective than giving an estimate (e.g. « 6-9 months »). As well as giving the impression of greater control, it avoids your prospect telling you that they are ready to sign if you can halve the timeframe, but it also allows you to use the timeline to create a sense of urgency by highlighting the need to sign as soon as possible to ensure that the timing targets are met,
- Negotiation. Even if buyers often have discount targets expressed as a percentage, it is often more effective to negotiate in terms of amount. A percentage is not a currency. « Provided we can sign the contract by the end of the week, we could make an extra effort of 3% » does not sound as palpable as « Provided we can sign the contract by the end of the week, we could make an extra effort of €175,000 ». You can’t refer directly to a percentage, understand what it really means, as you can with an amount.
Being specific means giving substance and reality to what we say. It means making it real, tangible, material. It gives an impression of transparency, of attention to detail. And this is perhaps what will make the difference.
This article can also be found on LinkedIn.