One of our clients is a leading provider of workforce mobility. But what on earth is workforce mobility? Unless you’re in the industry, you could be thinking mobile phones … or travel management … or vehicle fleets … or who knows what else.
For the prospect that’s never met you before (or for meetings with lots of different stakeholders), a generic term like “workforce mobility” can open up a Guesswork Gap. When your message falls into this gap, one of three things will happen. Your listener will either:
1. Guess right
2. Guess wrong
3. Give up
Which of these three outcomes is most likely? You guessed it: #3. Instead of doing the hard work of trying to figure out what you mean, chances are your prospect will simply check out. And once you’ve lost their attention, you may have just lost the sale.
How do you avoid the Guesswork Gap? Be specific.
You’ve got to give your prospect something they can actually picture in their mind’s eye. If they can’t “see” it, they won’t remember it.
For the client mentioned above, instead of relying on the term “workforce mobility” to describe what they do, we brought in a few specific examples to paint the picture. Now, what they actually do is help companies move their employees around the world. So, we explained that they “help some of the world’s largest companies with absolutely everything involved in relocating their people – from rethinking company policies … to accurately forecasting the costs … to getting the VP’s cat through customs.”
It’s a really simple fix – just a few concrete examples. But it will keep their message from falling into the Guesswork Gap.
Why it’s such a challenge in B2B
This is one area where B2C brands have it easier. If you’re selling Cheerios or Ford F150s or gym memberships, your prospect can immediately picture what you’re talking about. There’s no guesswork involved. This holds true even if you’re selling a new feature or benefit for that product or service. The Cheerios are now chocolate-covered? I can still picture that. The F150 has bigger wheels? Got it. The gym is offering more classes, or later hours, or new equipment? Still no Guesswork Gap.
B2B is a whole different ball game. And it’s because you’re dealing with so much complexity and so many intangibles – especially in industries like technology, consulting, or financial services. You say “payment technology” and your prospect is wondering if you’re talking about credit card swipers, Apple Pay, tokenization, EMV or some kind of mysterious new wizardry no one has even heard of yet. And it’s all because you have something the prospect doesn’t have: context. You can picture it. They can’t. So, chances are, they’ll just give up and check out.
How to stop the guesswork before it starts
All you need are a few really specific examples. I’ve been working on this in my own conversations. Instead of describing what we do as “strategic messaging and positioning” and hoping the person I’m talking with will know what I mean, I’ve started going ultra specific. I’ll say, “We create everything from the tagline of the company – like the ‘Just Do It’ if you’re Nike – all the way to the elevator pitch their sales people use when they’re talking with a prospect.”
This way, I avoid any confusion (such as the dreaded “Oh, you mean messaging like text messaging?”). Would some of my listeners already know what I mean by “strategic messaging and positioning”? Sure. But even then, they might not be thinking exactly what I’m thinking. They could still “guess wrong” – picturing some kind of abstract branding exercise that doesn’t actually result in useful messaging. The examples remove the guesswork.
Find the gap – and close it
So step back, put your “prospect hat” on, and take a closer look at your own sales and marketing messaging. When you go through it with this filter in mind, you’ll start to see all kinds of ways to clarify vague terms with specific examples. Not just in your overarching company description, but in your key selling points, your features and benefits, your calls to action, everywhere.
Remember, your prospects lack context. And they’re already overwhelmed with information. So don’t keep them guessing.