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Small Message, Big Impact by Terri L. Sjodin

Terri L. Sjodin/Terri L. Sjodin

This is an edited excerpt from Small Message, Big Impact by Terri L. Sjodin. Published by Portfolio/Penguin. Copyright (c) Terri L. Sjodin, 2011, 2012.


Whether I find myself working with seasoned speakers or wide-eyed newbies, they all want to know how to make a message more persuasive. Take the example of Donna, a sales associate whose job requires that she make cold and warm calls each and every day.

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"I make the calls and I try to be fresh and energetic, but lately I'm falling short of my goals. It feels like I'm just reciting the same old thing to my prospects. How can I change it up and convince them to buy?"

My answer to Donna is simple. "It always comes down to one word – need. Ask yourself this question: 'Have I defined a clear, logical case for why they really need me and what I am proposing?"

What you are selling, whether your own skills, a product, an event, a service, or an idea, must come across as something your prospects need or something they care about. Otherwise, they really are just listening to you reel off facts and features and nifty little promises. They sound nice but not compelling.

Your proposition or case must be built in such a way that it's recognized as necessary and vital to your prospect's continued success or his or her specific interests. In short, what you're putting out there has to pass what I like to call the "So what?" test.

Passing the "So what?" Test

Quite simply, your case or argument or presentation has to answer the following question for your listener or your prospective client: What does this mean to me? If you can answer that age-old question you're halfway to your goal of earning more of their time.


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Now that I've shown you how to begin your persuasive case, let's get down to some specifics. It's simply not enough to say you're the best. You must identify why you're the best. Think back to the main three points in the body of our outline – Why you? Why your company? Why now? – and formulate at least 10 answers for each question. Again, be specific. The more distinctive your reasons are, the closer you will be to meeting your prospect's needs.


At this point you may be wondering, "So, what works?" In my experience several general arguments consistently work in developing an effective case. Some of these might apply to your industry and some might not. Some will work with one group of listeners and others will not. I have listed them here to get you thinking about more specific arguments that you can customize for your industry, organization, product, service, or mission.

These six case arguments have been field-tested and are based on what we hear from people, organizations, and decision makers as to what they need and want:


How are you going to save them time? Your prospects don't care if you're the oldest company in your field. They want to know how your methods and processes are going to save their organizations and their people time on a daily basis. What would time savings mean to their productivity?

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How are you going to save them money? They don't care if you're the largest company around. They want a break on their bottom line.


How are you going to save them mental sanity? Your prospects don't care if you're the best in your field unless you can show them specifically how you can provide effective solutions to existing problems and eliminate a certain amount of stress.


How are you going to provide them solvency and security? They don't care if you have been around 200 years. Will you be here tomorrow? They need to know that investing in you or partnering with you is a safe decision.


How are you going to help them have fun? They don't care about your staff's experience if those people have the personalities of drones. They want to know that doing business with you will be a pleasant, fun, and enjoyable experience.


How are you going to make things easy? Your prospects don't care that your product is the hottest and greatest technology; if it's too complicated to use, once they make the investment, they won't see any advantage in owning it.

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