How Much Does the Wrong Sales Message Cost?

Not too long ago, I was interviewing the marketing director of a $50 billion healthcare company. It has a sales force of several hundred, scattered across America. Making thousands of in-person sales calls a week to hospitals and other healthcare providers. And with rare exception, one member of the sales team wasn’t being invited. In fact, this team member was being overlooked on purpose. Even worse, it was the most expensive member of all, costing this company hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. So, who was it?

Well, it wasn’t a WHO, but a WHAT: the sales support materials that this marketing director had created. Brochures, PowerPoint presentations, flyers, sales sheets, binders, giveaway items–an entire litany designed to help this company deliver a strong story at the point of sale. Problem was, the story wasn’t strong. Indeed, when I looked at all of the collateral pieces together, I could quickly see that there was no consistent story at all.

No wonder the sales guys weren’t using the collateral system. It wasn’t helping. (It might even have been hurting.)

I’d like to say this story is rare, but if you’ve been a corporate writer for any length of time, you know it’s not. Effective sales collateral systems are the exception, not the rule. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. If you build a Corporate Messaging Platform first, you’ll accomplish three goals that will help ensure your sales collateral will make it to the meetings:

  1. Deliver the right message: A Corporate Messaging Platform will help you develop a story that is both differentiated and relevant. You’ll answer the question, “Why choose me, instead of my competitors?” And then, have a system for customizing that message for each of your various sales audiences.
  2. Deliver it consistently: Your Platform becomes the foundation for every sales support tool you develop. Whether you’re creating a corporate brochure that appeals to every audience–or a simple flyer that targets just one–you’ll have a system for maintaining clarity and consistency. Your sales collateral will look like a ‘family’–because it is.
  3. Save 30% while you’re at it: When you use a Corporate Messaging Platform, you never start from scratch. Your launch point is already built, regardless of the tactic or audience. In my experience, this saves 20 – 30% of the time, money and effort you’d typically invest in a project. Imagine saving 30% of your creative development budget over the course of a year, and you begin to see the value of creating these platforms.

“How much of your sales collateral could be thrown out, and no one would notice?” It’s a question I typically ask a prospective client during our first discussion. I generally hear 30 – 40%. Once, I heard 90% (he wasn’t joking). With a Corporate Messaging Platform, a corporate writer can begin to cut that number down to size. 

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5 Comments for this entry

  • Andy Bartling

    September 13th, 2010 on 11:49 am

    Corporate Writer Insider note: Here’s a comment from the Linked In group: Claude C. Hopkins Copywriter:

    “Great article, Andy! This has always been one of my pet peeves, which I addressed on my own blog in a slightly different way:

    I think more marketers and writers need to go out on sales calls to see what it’s like in the “real world.” Every time I’ve done that I was able to generate marketing materials that actually helped the sales people.”

  • Andy Bartling

    September 14th, 2010 on 4:07 pm

    Corporate Writer Insider note: Here’s the latest comment from Linked In’s Copywriter group:

    “One of my clients hired me after hiring a cheap writer which cost him time and money for a job badly done. This client went on to hire me for another site of his and is now enjoying a surge of traffic as well as better page rank and Alexa ratings – something he would never have achieved otherwise. Yes, I charge ten times more than a cheap writer, but the results speak for themselves. Bottom line is this – you get what you pay for. “

  • Bob Simon

    September 14th, 2010 on 4:38 pm


    This is good article and great comments related to the development of a corporate message and a strong sales platform.

    Bob Simon

  • Andy Bartling

    September 15th, 2010 on 8:43 am

    Corporate Writer Insider note: Here’s the latest comment from the Copywriter’s Beat group on Linked In:

    “Andy, Well said. All too often clients come to me for one thing and I see that they have disparate messages across different media and they wonder why no one understands what they offer. Once they see the widsom you can see the light bulb go on. Once they make the changes, you can see how they think that light bulb shines right above your head. Thanks for the insights.”

  • Andy Bartling

    September 15th, 2010 on 8:44 am

    Corporate Writer Insider note: Here’s a comment from Linked In’s Copywriters International group:

    “To be sure, billions have been wasted and lost due to poor sales messaging.

    There are so many causes:

    1) Madison Avenue-type advertising that never sells anything. Sometimes they don’t even TRY to persuade or move the viewer to action.

    2) Marketing that tries to sell, but has no idea what produces responses in viewers.

    3) Poor match of message and target audience. The right message means nothing to the wrong reader.

    Etc., etc.”

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