Experts say we have “Seven Seconds to Make a First Impression.”
“You meet a business acquaintance for the first time – it could be your new boss, a recent addition to your team, or a potential client you want to sign up. The moment that stranger sees you, his or her brain makes a thousand computations: Are you someone to approach or to avoid? Are you friend or foe? Do you have status and authority? Are you trustworthy, competent, likeable, confident? And these computations are made at lightning speed. Researchers from NYU found that we make eleven major decisions about one another in the first seven seconds of meeting.” (Carol Kinsey Goman is an international speaker, executive coach, and author of “The Nonverbal Advantage: Body Language at Work,” & “The Silent Language of Leaders: How Body Language Can Help – or Hurt – How You Lead.”)
What is true in body language when people first meet is also true of written communication in CRM with sales letters and emails where people meet. At a glance at the document, within seven seconds, a person can tell, on the one hand, if the sales person is respectful of the customer and mindful that the customer is a reader or, on the other hand, is insensitive to the customer and unmindful that the customer is a reader who can see in the form the degree of attention the sales reps pays to details.
We learn to trust people’s professionalism in a moment. At a glance, we can tell if the sales rep has taken any time with the communication, to think it through, to make sure the point is clear, and to make sure the details support the point being made. We can spot the misspellings, the poor grammar, the confusing arrangement of the sentences and paragraphs. At a glance we can see a huge block of print with no relief to the eye or mind that tells us the writer is working inside of his/her own head and not thinking about someone having to read the stuff. At a glance, we can see how much the writer respects the reader.
Let me make this more specific by giving three areas of major importance to making a good initial impression with a sales letter or email:
1. MAKE THE POINT OF THE LETTER OR EMAIL CLEAR AT THE TOP! Is the point clearly stated at the top of the CRM messages, in the Subject headings or in an opening statement of a sentence or two? What do you want? What is the point? Why are you writing this to me? Usually, for most business people, the point only becomes clear at the bottom of the letter or email, so the writer should take that final or concluding statement and move it up to the top, into the Subject heading or as the first or opening paragraph.
“I can’t spill the cookies in the lobby” is one expression people have for the feeling that you can’t just say what the point is at the top, but you have to meticulously inch your way down, point by point, to the bottom where you can, finally, add it all up to a conclusion. The scientific method, the auditor’s details that lead down to the main point. “UP and LEFT” in the document is where the main point of the letter or email should be stated.
Example: “John, I need your report by 2:00 pm today, so I can include it in mine and have the final report off to Japan by 6:00 pm EST.”
Rather than start with all of the details of the 6:00 pm time and the Japanese managers, and all of the “reasons,” start with the point – what do you want from the reader? What’s the point?
MAKE THE POINT OF THE LETTER OR EMAIL CLEAR AT THE TOP! (and repeat it at the bottom)
2. TELL US, SHOW US EXACTLY HOW THE DOCUMENT IS ORGANIZED! Use white space to give relief and to make structure of the CRM message clear. Paragraphing is a wonderful mark of “punctuation” that opens up the communication, gives the reader a sense of how much there is, how it is organized, what the key words are, and how much detail is included. Tell the reader “on the one hand” and “on the other hand,” “First, second, and third” out on the left hand tops of the paragraphs. Use numbers to indicate steps or parts. Do not assume that the reader will “see” your meaning as you do – TELL the reader what you are doing and how the communication is going to proceed.
Example: “John, the report you sent has five omissions that I would like to help you correct:
TELL US, SHOW US EXACTLY HOW THE DOCUMENT IS ORGANIZED! FORM COMMUNICATES!
3. LEARN AND USE THE BASICS OF GRAMMAR, SPELLING, AND WORD USAGE! Train yourself to use good grammar, spelling, and word usage. We all have spell checkers these days, and those are wonderful – USE THEM! Know what a basic sentence is (an independent clause) and how to punctuate it. Know how to use commas, semi-colons, and colons properly. Know how to spell “maintenance” and “environment” and other common business words. Know the difference between “principal/principle,” “effect/affect,” “it’s/its,” “site/sight/cite” and the many other commonly confused words.
A sales rep who confuses “their/there/they’re” marks him/herself as illiterate and suggests to the reader that the person might not pay attention to, maybe cannot be trusted to handle detail related to customer care and service. Tom Peters gives the example of getting on an airplane and finding the foldup tray filty and, in turn, looking around and wondering if the pilot is trained and if the engines are properly maintained. We jump quickly from a little thing to big things in our judgments.
Example: “The principle we honor today is important to the principal owner of the company. At this important site today, the sight of the founding partners invigorates us all. Their dedication there in the beginning, with its intense commitment and sacrifice, has had an effect on all of us whom the partners have brought into the company, which will affect us for years to come.” (a bit of nonsense, if you will, to illustrate word choices)
LEARN THE BASICS OF GRAMMAR, SPELLING, AND WORD USAGE (professionals pay their customers that courtesy).
Form Communicates in CRM sales letters and emails just as much as it does in face-to-face meetings.