Persuasive Messages: 7 Mistakes that Kill the Sale

In 30 years of sales and public relations I've observed that communication failures are only rarely caused by some esoteric mistake. Rather, the worst and most frequent failures are caused by breaking one or more core principles. Here are the Seven Mistakes That Kill the Sale. Learn to avoid them and you will find you will get more of the results you desire.

1. FUZZY RESULT. You don't have a clear picture of the result you want the communication to produce. It's hard to persuade if you don't know exactly what you want the listener to do. The more measurable the desired action, the better you will be able to create the right messages.

2. WRONG AUDIENCE. You can have a powerfully persuasive message, but if the audience is unable to give you the result you want, you're wasting both your time and the audience's. Convincing the guy who delivers your pizza that he wants to buy your Lamborghini may be easy. The likelihood he'll be able to is slim.

3. NO WHAM! FACTOR. If your message doesn't satisfy the question being asked by the listeners--What Here Applies to Me?--you won't have many listeners for long.

4. TELL EVERYTHING. As I frequently remind clients, "messaging is the art of sacrifice." There is almost always more to say than the listener wants to hear. Keep in mind Robert Greenleaf's comment, "Many attempts to communicate are nullified by saying too much."

5. TOO COMPLEX. This is closely related to Tell Everything and No Wham! Factor. Attorneys, engineers, academics, and computer geeks, and overly enthusiastic sales reps are especially prone to be ensnared in the web of complexity. Just because the listener asks the time does not mean he or she wants to know how the watch operates.

6. A PLETHORA OF GENERALITIES, A PAUCITY OF SPECIFICS. Generalities are lifeless, vague and somnolent. Specifics are lively, clear, and memorable.

7. SAY IT ONCE, THAT'S ENOUGH. Message without repetition produces frustration. Listeners may understand the first time, but they won't be able to remember, explain, or execute without repetition.

Lou Hampton is president of The Hampton Group, Inc., a Washington, DC firm specializing in media training, speech coaching, and message development. For tips, tricks, and techniques on how to communicate as a leader, go to Lou's blog: