Do you have your elevator pitch down?
We live in a digital world, and it’s easy to rely heavily on digital marketing tools to raise your business’s profile. Yet, when we focus too heavily on digital solutions, we can sometimes forget that person-to-person interaction remains one of the most impactful ways to form new connections and gain business. Concise and meaningful talking points that easily communicate your unique value proposition can be an important tool for making the most of these critical in-person interactions.
What are talking points?
Describing what you do isn’t always easy, especially when you’re on the spot. Sometimes, it’s hard to predict when you’re going to have a key conversation with a potential client. That’s why it’s always good to have talking points in your back pocket.
Talking points are short, succinct statements that describe key aspects of your business and the work you do. Often, talking points cover the services you deliver, what your company’s culture is like or how you work with clients to achieve their goals. In short, they are a series of brand promises that help audiences quickly get up-to-speed on how your business operates.
Best practices for developing talking points
Unsurprisingly, one of the best practices to keep in mind when developing your agency’s talking points is brevity. There is a lot more that goes into it, however, such as:
- Key messages: Before you can create talking points, you first need to know what your business’s main messages are. These messages should reflect your firm’s top priorities and goals.
- Integrate customer needs: Your company’s key messages and eventual talking points must address the needs of your ideal customers. To do this effectively, you should first understand who your customers are – both demographically and psychologically. And how do you do that? By building out buyer personas! Check out our earlier blog for more on building these personas.
- Create a logical flow: Although talking points can touch upon different or disparate aspects of your business, they still need to move easily from one point to the next. Flow is important. You don’t want to confuse your audience.
- Be benefit and customer-focused: When you are talking about your agency, try to put the focus less on you and more on your target audience. You will want to convey how your products or services will improve their lives.
- Show your passion: Imbuing business communication with emotion can be tricky, as you run the risk of coming off as unprofessional. But the truth is people are emotional by nature, and your audience will want to feel your passion. You can accomplish this by discussing not only what you do, but why you do it.
- Prepare for rebuttals: As you build and deliver your talking points, you may occasionally experience pushback from an audience. Objections are a fact of life, and it’s always best to be prepared to address counterarguments. Spend time thinking about potential weak spots in your business narrative. By doing so, you can be ready to rebut the rebutters!
Best practices for delivering talking points
Once you have your business’s talking points fleshed out, it’s time to sit back and relax. Just kidding! Getting these messages written out is only half the battle. You still need to practice and refine your delivery. Here is a good process you can follow:
- Practice makes perfect: There are no shortcuts to being a great speaker or advocate for your business. Instead, practice makes perfect. Practice your talking points in front of people you trust, in front of a mirror or even by recording yourself. Try doing this repeatedly until you feel calm enough to speak about your business in any context and at a moment’s notice.
- Stay loose: Have you ever heard that it is not really what you say that matters; instead, it is how you say it? Keep this in mind when delivering your talking points. This does not mean that you should be flippant or overly casual, just that you want to avoid sounding monotonous or like you’re reading from a script.
- Refine and edit: As you practice your talking points, stay open to constructive feedback. Think of your talking points as an ever-evolving process rather than something static and fixed. Accept feedback in good faith and use any criticism to improve the next pitch.
Be ready to pitch and reap the rewards
In today’s fast-paced economy, you need to be ready to pitch at a moment’s notice. By developing clear, concise and compelling talking points, you will be ready to spread the word about your business and position yourself to capture new leads and growth opportunities.
According to PositivePsychology.com, as humans we are innately wired to pursue instant gratification. It’s natural for us to want good things, and to want them NOW. In fact, the urge for immediacy surely benefited pre-modern humans as their very survival often hinged upon making instantaneous decisions followed by taking immediate actions (e.g. “there’s a Tyrannosaurus rex headed my way … I’d better run and take cover!”). Humans today are not so different from their ancient ancestors – we, too, want immediacy, especially when it comes to the acquisition of wealth – whether that translates into the speed with which we receive funds or the swiftness with which we get title to real property under contract.
A Catalyst Corporate Credit Union blog reported that recent studies have shown “[a] staggering 70% of consumers express that having faster payment options from their financial institution is an important driver of satisfaction.” Thanks to advances in fintech, we now have a payment rail with two trains riding upon it to deliver that instant gratification. These two “trains” are Real Time Payments (RTP) and FedNow. They both move so FAST (almost instantaneously) that you and your customers can enjoy the ability to transfer funds 24/7, 365 days of the year in real time. With no waiting periods to transfer funds, just imagine how much faster your closings can take place – they can occur on holidays, weekends, and anytime convenient for you and the parties to the transaction!
Since 2017, RTP has been operated by The Clearing House (TCH), a consortium of member financial institutions; TCH’s RTP Network lists approximately 373 participating Financial Institutions (FIs).
On July 20, 2023, FedNow – the Federal Reserve’s interbank, instant payment infrastructure – went live; it launched with 35 participating FIs, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service and 16 service providers, but it has the potential to service all depository institutions eligible to hold accounts at the Reserve Banks – currently estimated at more than 10,000 banks and credit unions! FedNow promises to be a real game-changer for the national economy, and especially for our industry.
Let’s talk about what FedNow can do for you. At this time, the FedNow Service supports account-to-account and consumer-to-business bill pay use cases. The maximum credit transfer amount is $500,000, but participating FIs have the option to provide a lesser amount (so you may want to check with the transferor’s FI in advance to make sure that you know its dollar limits). With FedNow, businesses and individuals can also request a payment (referred to as a RFP or “Request for Payment”) from a recipient. For example, with FedNow you can electronically send “Betty Buyer” a request for the balance of cash needed to close her transaction; there is even a “zero-dollar request for payment” pre-validation tool available to make sure that the end-customer has the ability to receive and act on the RFP prior to the biller actually sending one. We can anticipate that FedNow will be able to do even more in the future as its functionality is expected to increase in phases. To learn more about FedNow, and when and how it may be available for your use, please visit FedNowExplorer.org.
Lastly, if you want to know more about the BIG picture – RTP, FedNow, the Good Funds Laws, and Payment Service Providers (e.g. Venmo and PayPal) – and how these mechanisms and laws affect each other and work together, read our in-depth white paper, “Moving Money in a Real Estate Transaction.”
Remember, not all leads are the same.
Anyone who has ever dabbled in marketing knows how complicated it can get. From preparing campaigns to working on branding, sometimes it feels like you need a pair of extra arms to get everything done. Yet seen from another lens, marketing is also relatively simple, as these individual activities often revolve around a singular purpose: generating leads. But as you likely already know, not every lead is a good lead. Let’s look at how to ensure that yours are qualified.
What are qualified leads?
A qualified lead is a lead that has been brought into your ecosystem and evaluated by your sales team as being worth pursuing. Qualifying leads is important for any business but especially for smaller firms with limited time and resources. By applying the right amount of scrutiny, you can decipher whether they truly intend to work with you and where they are in the buyer’s journey. Armed with this knowledge, nurturing your leads and turning them into customers becomes much easier.
Map to buyer personas
One of the first things to do when reviewing leads is to determine whether they map onto your “buyer personas.” Back in 2020, we covered what goes into building effective buyer personas. Not only must you establish your target audience’s demographics, like gender, age, geographical location and language, but you need to also think about psychological factors like motivations, goals and frustrations.
As you can probably guess, a good way to determine if your leads map onto your buyer personas is to include the right information fields on your website’s lead generation form. For instance, if your ideal buyer persona is between ages 35-50 and is a tech-centered real estate agent, you need to request that information from anyone who is filling out your form.
Remember the buyer’s journey
It is not enough to have a lead map onto a buyer persona; it also needs to be in the right stage of the “buyer’s journey.” The different psychological stages a lead moves through include:
- Identifying that they have a pain point or problem (awareness),
- Researching potential solutions (consideration), and
- In the case of a real estate agent, eventually deciding to work with an agent whose services best fit their unique needs (decision).
Using your customer relationship management (CRM) software can help determine where your leads are in this process. For instance, if you have your email marketing software integrated with your CRM, you can easily check and see which contacts are performing which actions in relation to your marketing emails. If a lead has received your emails before but has yet to open them or interact with an element like a hyperlink, then they are likely not ready to enter into a relationship with you.
See, what’s likely happening here with these theoretical leads is that they are interested enough in your business to not unsubscribe from your mailing list, but are not actively absorbing what you are trying to communicate. Therefore, they likely do not have an acute pain point that requires an immediate solution provided by your products or services. When leads are in that state, they may be unlikely to respond to a hard sales pitch and will require further nurturing.
Lead qualification models
Once you ensure that your leads map onto the basic parameters of your buyer personas and are in the right headspace to make a move, you may want to apply additional scrutiny. You can accomplish this by deploying a lead qualification model, such as:
- BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timing)
- CHAMP (Challenges, Authority, Money and Prioritization)
- MEDDIC (Metrics, Economic buyer, Decision criteria, Decision process, Pain point identification, Champion)
- ANNUM (Authority, Need, Urgency and Money)
- FAINT (Funds, Authority, Interest, Need, and Timing)
Each of these models have their own pros and cons, but each can also help someone working on the sales side of things to make an effective and informed decision on which leads merit pursuit.
Your ticket to better leads
Let’s face it; few things are more exciting in business or marketing than the prospect of working with a new customer. A new lead kicks off this process, which makes it tempting to spring into action and do everything in your power to convert the lead.
However, it’s smart to qualify leads before you move forward, or you risk overextending yourself and doing a lot of work that will ultimately fall flat. A steady, strategic approach, where you leverage all available sources of information, is a better way forward. It allows you to better allocate finite resources and expand your client base as a result.
Creating superior experiences for your customers
Service-based industries live or die by the quality of their customer service. While other industries rely on their products or supply chains, service enterprises primarily differentiate themselves through the experiences they offer. Today’s savviest service-related companies are acutely aware of this. They also know retaining customers is much easier and economical than finding and converting new ones.
Recently, Missy Trubatisky, Alliant National’s Underwriting and Escrow Training Manager, called upon her years of title insurance experience to develop and present a training entitled “Customers for Life.” The presentation offered numerous examples of how title agents can build a superior customer service program and ultimately grow their businesses. Read on for some of the major takeaways.
It’s About Mindset
Perhaps the biggest thing to remember about creating “Customers for Life” and delivering superior customer service is that it is a bigger endeavor than any one action or campaign. Instead, it requires a complete shift in mindset. You must treat every deal like it is the most important of your career. Is this asking for a lot? Maybe. But it’s what your customers expect. And if you are in the services game, why would you want to do anything else? Missy says there are a few easy tricks to start shifting your thinking on this matter.
First, make every situation an opportunity to succeed, not an obligation to fulfill. Next, remember to present yourself professionally – every day and during every closing. Lastly, remember the golden rule, and then go one step further. Treat others not only as you want to be treated, but also as you would want your mother or children treated in the same situation, Missy says.
Opportunity vs. Obligation
You might be thinking: “Sure, it’s easy to talk about changing your mindset. Pulling it off is another thing entirely.” However, Missy says that when you start breaking it down, you quickly realize that it is not quite a Herculean lift. Instead of looking at it as a major undertaking, view customer obligations and opportunities as roughly the same thing.
We all know that working with customers entails at least some obligations. What matters, though, is how you choose to look at it. For instance, agents need to deliver the title commitment – typically within 20 days. Your obligation here is to deliver the commitment before the 21st day. Your opportunity is to deliver it in less than a week. In doing so, you demonstrate superior customer service; you provide the WOW factor. Making an obligation an opportunity isn’t as hard as you might think. It just involves a subtle shift in mindset, she says.
That’s Not Quite All
It would be nice if that was all it took to deliver superior customer service. But there is a bit more to it than that. Displaying ethical behavior, maintaining a sterling reputation, and engaging in effective communication also influences whether you can create customers for life.
How can you display ethical behavior in business? That’s a deep question. There are so many layers to ethical behavior, but for simplicity’s sake, Missy says you can boil it roughly down to integrity and character.
Your character is what others believe they know about the kind of person you are. Your integrity directly impacts how people view your character. It speaks to whether people view you as trustworthy. Trust is the basis of obtaining customers for life, Missy notes. When customers trust that you will do what you say, they will come back repeatedly.
Unsurprisingly, whether people consider your business ethical will determine its overall reputation. It will also dictate its longevity. When you are a service-based business, your reputation is all you have; you must protect it at all costs. This is where accountability comes in. It’s okay to make a mistake. We all do it. What’s important is how you address it. Here’s how you can go about making it right:
- First, own the mistake
- Second, figure out how to fix the mistake
- Third, don’t try to hide it or sweep it under the rug
- Lastly, learn from it, and don’t make the same mistake again
The final part of creating customers for life involves prioritizing effective communication with your customers. But before you can do that, you must first listen to their needs, Missy says. That means listening from beginning to end. We’re all guilty of formulating our side of the conversation even while others are formulating theirs. When we do that, we miss out on vital information that we need to know. We fail to understand what is important to our conversation partner.
Conversely, when you understand what is important to another person, you can show that you care about them. This creates the foundations of a trusting and mutually beneficial business relationship.
Alliant National: Committed to Building Customers for Life
Building a reputation for superior customer service takes real work, but when you are caught up in the day-to-day minutiae, it can be difficult to make needed changes. Still, there are numerous steps we all can take to improve our customer service and make our clients feel more appreciated and valued. All that’s required is going back to the basics. Missy emphasizes this when explaining the genesis of her presentation and how Alliant National seeks to help agents create loyal, lifelong customers. “Everyone needs a reminder from time-to-time on good basic customer service skills and the importance of developing those skills,” she said. “It’s critical for Alliant National to present these courses to offer a unique perspective to a vital skill.”
Want to learn more about creating “Customers for Life?” Check out Missy’s full presentation here.
Having well-organized data is the lifeblood of modern business. Do you have the right system in place?
Running a successful business hinges on data. Without it, you cannot gain a clear picture of your customer base. You can’t understand your sales productivity or optimize your team’s communication or collaboration processes. But it’s one thing to recognize the need for data; it’s another thing entirely to know how to organize and leverage it. Thankfully, a solution exists that can help you streamline your business, improve customer relations and successfully grow your revenues. That solution is a customer relationship management (CRM) system.
What is a CRM Platform?
A CRM platform is a technology solution that allows you to easily manage all interactions you have with an existing or prospective customer base. On a broader level, however, these platforms assist companies with streamlining processes and improving profitability.
Why Do You Need a CRM?
A good CRM can unify your business. By leveraging the solution properly, each department within your agency can gain real-time insights into your sales, business objectives and overall profitability. This solution also gives every department a clear view into your customers, utilizing data the CRM typically organizes into a customizable and exportable dashboard. You can optimize your marketing efforts with this information, harnessing data to implement better campaigns and make more sales.
CRMs have a role to play in customer service as well. We live in a world of omnichannel communication, which can often make managing customer interaction complex and arduous. CRMs, however, make it easy to engage with customers across multiple channels and ensure that each touchpoint is carried out perfectly.
Where to Begin?
Whenever you are making an IT investment, or any business investment, it’s always wise to begin with your goals. What exactly are you trying to accomplish? With a CRM, companies are often trying to accomplish a few different objectives, such as tracking leads, customers and sales; unifying operations; increasing productivity; and making data-driven decisions. Think about the features that are the most important to your organization so you can prioritize those during your CRM selection process.
Then start conducting your research on potential vendors you’d like to work with. There is a glut of information online that you can use to inform your search, with this article, in particular, giving a good overview of the best solutions for different types of businesses.
Understand the Process
Once you have some idea of what you need, you can begin working with a product vendor. This can be a complex and, at times, lengthy process. Depending on the size of your organization, your vendor may even assign you a project manager to keep the implementation of your solution on track. Be sure to rely heavily on the expertise of your vendor, and when you are trying out a demo of the product, make it a priority to test every function so you can obtain a clear and comprehensive picture of its capabilities and whether they align with your goals.
Implementation with your vendor should not occur in a vacuum. Your team needs to be involved in various capacities from beginning to end. Not only will your team ask pertinent questions that you haven’t thought of, but they are, in fact, the people who will need to use the solution going forward. It is crucial that you gain a sense of your CRM’s overall usability and how steep the learning curve might be upon adoption. Remember, staff training time will reduce their bandwidth to work on other projects.
CRMs Bring Positive ROI
Implementing a new system can be a unique challenge for businesses. Not only does it cost time and money, but benefits can feel intangible and unproven – at least initially. What’s important to note, however, is that a CRM can make a real, long-term difference to your business, both for your customer relations and your bottom line. For anyone operating in a customer-centric business, it can have a transformative impact by increasing customer lifetime value, reducing your operating costs and facilitating remote or hybrid work. It’s an important investment to make if you hope to streamline your current operations and succeed in the future of work.