From the May 2002 issue of Startups

In January 1848, James Marshall had a work crew camped on the American River at Coloma near Sacramento. The crew was building a saw mill for John Sutter. On the cold, clear morning of January 24, Marshall found a few tiny gold nuggets. From those first few nuggets came one of the largest human migrations in history as half a million people from around the world descended upon California in search of instant wealth.

The excitement surrounding the discovery of gold grew quickly. By the summer of 1848, outlandish stories about fabulous discoveries came back to the East Coast from the gold mines at Sutter's sawmill. In fact, everybody was buzzing about "Gold! Gold!" The buzz got so bad that soldiers began to desert their duties. Ordinary citizens were hitching up their wagons and loading up their pack mules to go to the mines.

What was it that caused people to act so decisively, to pack up and travel from one side of the country to the other? It was a single bold idea-a BIG FAT CLAIM!

Selling your products and services requires that you make some claims that engage your visitors. In last month's column, I talked about using the SCREAM PIGS theory to grab the attention of your prospects. After you've grabbed their attention, they need to know logically why they should give you anymore of their time. So how do you engage them further? How do you make sure they will continue to give you their time? Make some big fat claims!

A big fat claim is engaging because it builds an image in the mind of your potential customer. They actually see and hear themselves living as if the claim were true. If you have some good big fat claims, they'll want to find out more about what you have to say. They're hungry to hear and see more.

LEARN MORE
What have you done for your marketing lately? Find time for it, or you'll kick yourself later.

Now I'm not talking about an "elevator pitch" or features and benefits at this point. The claims that you make highlight specifically how you can provide value to your customer. Increased sales, reduced cost, saved time, higher productivity and reduced workloads are all examples that might interest your prospect. For every product or service you offer, you're going to say something like this:

  • "We can reduce the time it takes to complete your payroll each week by 20 percent."
  • "I can show you how to save 50% on your ..."
  • "We can increase the number of leads you convert to sales by 25 percent."
  • "We can reduce the time you take administering your computer network by 20 percent."

Make sure, however, that every claim you make can be backed up. Did you get that result from a previous customer, or are you making an educated guess? If you can't back up the claim, don't make it. Some common big fat claim mistakes are:

  1. Trying to close the sale in your big fat claim. The purpose of the big fat claim is only to create interest. You want the prospect hungry to hear more of what you can do for them. If you try to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are the only solution for them, you'll lose them.
  2. All features, no benefits. What's in it for them? A claim doesn't make reference to the features and details of your product or service. The claim contains the biggest potential benefit specific to the prospect you are talking to.
  3. No meat. A claim with no substance will fail to create any interest. And no interest means your visitor or prospect will tune out or click away from your site. The meatier the claim that you generate, the more interest and more qualified the prospect becomes.
  4. Making the wrong claim. This mistake is easily preventable by knowing your audience. The wrong big fat claim simply won't work. The key is to know your market and how your product or service represents the ultimate solution for them.
  5. Making a generic claim. Making a claim that's big, meaty and meets the requirement of your market isn't enough. If your competitors can make the same claim or if your benefit is readily available, you're wasting the customer's time. Make claims that include uniqueness, and you gain a competitive advantage.
  6. Unreal or general big fat claims. The tabloids are filled with them. So is the spam e-mail you receive on a daily basis. "Make a fortune" or "earn six figures" overnight. Instead of creating the intended interest, these claims trigger doubt, disbelief and inaction. Once bitten, twice shy. If you are going to make a bold claim that you may think is questionable, you can create interest by being specific, with actual numbers that also appear to be more realistic.

Too many salespeople make the mistake of failing to solicit interest. They try to present a solution before they have really connected with the customer. Remember, a tiny claim doesn't get the attention of the customer. A wild claim with no proof gets thrown away. A proper big fat claim has to be big enough to get attention and have enough valid proof so that it's believable.


James Maduk is one of North America's leading sales speakers. He is the creator and publisher of more than 80 online sales training courses, and he broadcasts daily on VirtualSelling Radio. You can reach James at (613) 825-0651 or visit his Web site at www.jamesmaduk.com.