The Lost Art in Sales – Business Writing

By: Tony Kevin

Sales is all about communication.  Over the last several years there has been a generational shift in how we communicate.  Obviously, we are using social media, video, mobile communications and email to consume information and also get our point across to our customers. 

As a result of these shifts, I believe, the sales profession is losing a key capability, the ability to use a well-written business document as a difference maker in the sales process.  There are several contributing factors to this:

  • Buyers are more educated
  • Everyone is feeling overwhelmed with too much communication
  • Sales teams are barely keeping their heads above water on the day-to-day stuff
  • Sales Leaders are not driving proposals and business cases as an important issue
  • Our writing styles have shifted towards short and quick messages

Why is Business Writing Important to the Sales Process?

Once I get past the skills issue, my biggest challenge with this is convincing my sales team (and sometimes the buyer) about why it’s important to be able to have well-written business documents to facilitate the buying process. 

As much as we all love to say we sell at the C-Level, the reality is that most sales people spend a majority of their time (over 80%) with non C-Level buyers.  Once the selling is done, the more difficult task exists to help that buyer secure budget internally.  Unfortunately, those buyers tend to not be very good at selling the value of your solution to their management. 

One of the highest-level sales skills is shifting your focus from “your selling ability” to helping and coaching your buyer to sell the deal internally.

I’m a big fan of training sales people to write business cases vs. proposals.  It’s a better document for the buying process.  Let’s first start by defining the difference between a proposal and business case.

Proposal – A proposal is a selling document.  It’s your document to explain the key features of your solution and why what you offer is different from other solutions.  Most Importantly, It’s a document that is written in your voice.  It typically gets one level above where you are engaged in the account.

Business Case – A business case is a buying document.  It’s the customer’s internal document justifying why spending the money is important.  All the value points in the document are focused on how the customer benefits from spending the money.  It’s written in the customer’s voice not the seller’s voice.  It typically gets two or three levels above where you are engaged and moves horizontally into the hands of the internal departments who may benefit from the solution.

Keys making a business case effort pay off:

  1. Do Your Homework – Do the deep discovery to find out what’s going on in the customer’s business and make sure your solution is aligned to their important initiatives.  (Preparation is the Key to Business Value.)
  2. Have a Sense of Your Value – Once you’ve done your homework.  Build a quick version of a value proposition that articulates how your solution helps.  This quick value proposition will help you secure executive support in further developing your business case.
  3. Gain Executive Support – Once you have your value proposition developed, use it to gain executive sponsorship to build the case.  Typically this sponsorship will provide you access to others in the organization to gather input and perspective, gather more information and data, and establishes an interest with the executive to see how the final case turned out.
  4. Build an Executive Summary – No matter how long your business case ends up being you need to make sure it has a one page Executive Summary (NO MORE).  The people reading the business case are even busier than you are so don’t expect they have the time to read through a long document.  Get the point across clearly and succinctly in the executive summary.

The real value of being able to provide a business case is that it tends to get distributed through your customer’s environment and it’s an excellent way to have access to people without being there in person.  With out one, you’re left to depend on the skills of your key contact to secure the budget to buy.  In today’s world, a business case is a big differentiator because most sales teams aren’t selling this way.

Discover the "Lost Art" and use it to impress your customer.