When selling, the fastest way to turn off a potential customer is to talk for too long. I once asked New York real estate queen Barbara Corcoran, founder of the
for public speaking advice I could share with my clients. Her response: "Nobody is as interested in you as you think they are." Harsh, perhaps, but she has a point. As information continues to overload us, it's more important than ever to be succinct. I often recommend that business owners practice describing their product or service in 140 characters (about 20 words) or less, the length of a message on Twitter.
Try it yourself, then check out attempts by fellow readers.
Remember, sales prospects don't normally have the time to listen to your life story. You need to state your case and move on. If they're interested in learning more, they'll let you know. Here are several areas where it pays to keep it short.
People read a page on a Web site more slowly than a printed page. So you might want to reconsider your 7,000 word treatise and replace it with a 700-word essay that includes just the key points. Better yet, offer an even shorter post with a few findings and a link to the full piece.
As a journalist, I received a ton of unsolicited pitches from public relations professionals. Many e-mails would contain great ideas but were so long and convoluted that I had to work too hard to figure out the story. Every journalist I know shares the same frustration. The most effective e-mails get right to the point.
Some of the most noteworthy speeches in contemporary history (JFK's inaugural address, Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, and Barack Obama's 2004 keynote at the Democratic National Convention) were under 20 minutes. Ask whether or not you really need 70 minutes for your next big event. A well-crafted presentation should last no more than 20 minutes.
My wife and I were in the food line at a Chamber of Commerce mixer when we asked the man behind us what his company did. We knew were in trouble when he responded, "That's a good question. Where should I start?" There were six people ahead of us but by the time our turn came five minutes later, I still didn't know what this man did, apart from something related to wireless something.
The next time you're trying to sell someone your product or service, try to do so in 30 seconds or less. Then gauge your listeners' reaction to see if they want to learn more. Be specific. Don't waste those 30 seconds with meaningless buzzwords like "best of breed" and "solutions." Earlier this month, 30 startups presented to a group of investors at an event called Launch Silicon Valley.
Lumiette was voted one of the companies "most likely to succeed." Its elevator pitch was specific—it manufactures and distributes energy-efficient flat-panel lamps. In one sentence you learn that it makes a physical product (not a service) and you learn specifically about the type of product it makes.
There's power in brevity. As a rule, keep it short.