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Reaching customers is easy. Getting the message across is harder than ever.

There’s a scene in the 2002 movie Minority Report that blew me away.

John Anderton (Tom Cruise) is nervously pacing through a shopping mall and personalised holographic adverts are throwing messages at him left, right and centre. Literally, offering him services by name as a scanner reads his eyeballs.

“John Anderton!” one yells. “You could use a Guinness right about now!”

Of course, the last thing that John needs is a Guinness at this point in his life. Or a Lexus, or a new Amex card, as he’s on a mission to prove his innocence of a future crime. These ads are just plain annoying.

And while salespeople might not be scanning eyeballs (not quite yet), they are scanning cookies to target messages to a specific audience.

Again, most of these online sales efforts end up as nothing more than an annoyance to consumers because it’s almost impossible for them to address specific issues or problems facing a customer.

For years, marketers & advertising gurus have been sending us generic sales messages.

Rather than creating specific targeted audiences and sending the appropriate message to them, marketing has been a bit of a hit and miss affair. The saying “If you throw enough mud at the wall, some of it will stick” rings true here.

Before digital marketing, salespeople would try to create value for clients through print advertising, networking and demonstrations. But now, buyers can find all the information they need online, so the methods that sales people use for presenting their value proposition must change.

This is easier said than done, and the inability to communicate value messages is one of the biggest inhibitors to attracting new customers and achieving sales success.

Modern-day buyers are only interested in how a product can benefit them.

The features of a product might be interesting, but if it’s not going to provide a direct benefit and help them achieve their desired outcomes, then they’re simply not interested. In a world where consumers have all the information they need at their fingertips, selling has become harder than ever.

Value messaging needs to change to keep up with this evolution of the buyer. Selling a product is no longer about the product. It’s all about the buyer.

Making a purchase is now a journey that involves emotions, feelings, goals and solutions. And a salesperson can only facilitate this journey if they know their customer well. They need to have conversations and truly get to the heart of their problems.

Sales message dynamics. Value messages need to follow a process that changes and meanders with the customer’s buying journey. There is a definite beginning, middle and end in the sales process, and salespeople need to help customers understand their own challenges (because often they don’t) and provide a solution that will achieve a desired result. A proper conversation with a customer opens the lines of communication and can address a problem the customer wasn’t even aware they had.

Creating new business. The inability to communicate value messages effectively not only inhibits sales success, but also impedes the ability to attract new leads and clients, and expand existing ones into more valuable clients. This makes sales messaging even more important when it comes to successful business.

Customer-centric messaging. It’s imperative that sales people know how to plan, construct and present their messages effectively. We need to focus more on the customers’ pain points and explain the value they will get from the product. This is where personalised, one-on-one sales techniques make a difference.

What’s the best way to begin the process of communicating value messages that will ensure that the right people sit up and listen? Attract, train and retain exceptional salespeople.

Great salespeople engage prospects and build trust. While many lead generation methods and sales processes involve online communication methods, salespeople provide what digital marketing can’t – a human connection and an ongoing relationship.

Take digital retargeted marketing, where sales messages are shown to people who have visited a certain web page in the past. Often there was a valid reason the customer didn’t buy from that page. They may have found a better product elsewhere, couldn’t find what they were looking for, or decided not to buy after all. The real reason for the lack of sale is lost in retargeting, to the point where continuing to show advertisements just irritates the customer.

What bridges the gap?

A human conversation to determine the needs of the customer and find a solution.

In other words, digital sales tactics will only get you so far, and so will scanning people’s eyeballs.

For 15 years, the mall scene in Minority Report has been held up as an example of what brands can achieve when technology, media and sales combine. Now, in many ways, we are coming close to this futuristic reality – but countless sales opportunities will be lost without any genuine human interaction.

Those ads in Minority Report certainly do their job in speaking AT John Alderton, but they don’t open a conversation with him to find out what he needs to make his life easier. If someone actually bothered to ask John what he wanted, they would probably have discovered that fugitives will pay through the nose for a change of clothes and a good, old-fashioned beard and moustache disguise.

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