Short Selling

By Jon KrausharCommunications Consultant

Especially during our economic crisis, just as you don't get a second chance to make a first impression, you often don't get more than a few seconds to sell your product, your service and yourself. Here's how to do it.

Try to summarize the unique proposition of whatever you're selling--define and differentiate your most powerful benefit--by writing it down in a space no larger than the back of your business card.

Can you do it? The best sales people or organizations can.

Google describes its mission or unique selling proposition (USP) as "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."Google has extended that USP to services besides its Internet search engine, such as e-mailing and web publishing.

Shipping and delivery giant FedEx's USP is "When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight"and its USP of reliability extends to other ways it describes itself, such as, "Whatever it takes," and "Relax, it's FedEx."

This idea of extending your USP applies when you have just a bit more time to elaborate, for example when you're up against the challenge of a "tarmac sale" or "elevator sale."

In a tarmac sale, imagine that you're allowed to deliver your USP, succinctly extended, to the biggest customer or prospect you can imagine, in the half minute it takes for the both of you to walk along a short tarmac to Mr. or Ms. Big's waiting airplane. In an elevator sale, you run into a prime sales prospect as you get on an elevator and in the trip up or down you get less than 30 seconds to give your USP and a quick explanation.

Let's use two examples from presidential campaigns of a successful tarmac or elevator sale. Here was Barack Obama's USP with an elaboration that took him about 30 seconds. He delivered these words one week before Election Day in various places, probably including a tarmac.

"Aftereight years of failed policies from George Bush...we are one week away from change in America... In one week, you can turn the page on policies that have put the greed and irresponsibility of Wall Street before the hard work and sacrifice of folks on Main Street....you can choose policies that invest in our middle-class, create new jobs, and grow this economy...[and] you can put an end to the politics that...asks us to fear at a time when we need hope."

One week later, Barack Obama was elected president and now walks the tarmac to board Air Force One.

On October 28, 1980, also one week before Election Day, Ronald Reagan used this closing argument (his USP plus short elaboration) in his debate with Jimmy Carter:

"Ask yourself, Are you better off now than you were four years ago? Is it easier for you to go and buy things in the stores than it was four years ago? Is there more or less unemployment in the country than there was four years ago? Is America as respected throughout the world as it was?"

Exactly one week later, Reagan's elevator took him up to the Oval Office and Carter's elevator went down to his defeat.

On the back of your business card, start writing your USP. Take a short tarmac walk or an elevator ride and start talking through your USP and its brief extension. Sorry, microscopic handwriting and speed talk aren't allowed.

How well have you defined, differentiated and distilled so that you have a concise, effective unique selling proposition with a short extension, ready for use on the tarmac, the elevator or anywhere else?

What's the best USP or the best tarmac or elevator sale story you've ever heard? Tell other FOX Forum readers about it with a comment.

Communications consultant Jon Kraushar is at www.jonkraushar.net.

Communications consultant Jon Kraushar is at www.jonkraushar.net. He is a consultant to corporate and political leaders including Steve Forbes.