Tellin' Ain't Sellin'

Communication feels like an art - they way in which you phrase something can have profoundly different outcomes.

I've been doing mass amounts of outreach for my company (EquitySim), and I've learned quite a few things regarding what effective communication looks like, and what it doesn't look like.


1. Paint a sense of urgency

Essentially, EquitySim's product is a financial markets simulation where users manage a portfolio of securities. 

Our product team is developing Version 2 of the simulation, and we crafted an email to be sent out to current users asking them to beta test it for us. 

These users would complete tasks on the simulation and fill out feedback surveys. I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty bland. 


In crafting the email:

  1. I wanted our users to feel more excited than obligated, I wanted to avoid making the email seem like a job description.

  2. I wanted it to sound like a personal ask so that the people receiving the email felt like I was talking to them, I wanted them to feel unique and special. I didn’t want it to feel like they were only one of the many people on the email list from a company they may or may not care about.

  3. I wanted to paint a sense of urgency to onboard as many interested users as possible, as soon as possible.


It was Friday evening, and we needed to acquire 50 users by Tuesday morning. After realizing that we didn’t have enough advance notice, we changed our target head count to 15 users.


I took a stab at refreshing the email template by doing the following:

  1. Keeping it lighthearted, telling them how exciting & unique the opportunity is, they’re getting in on something exclusive. (Excitement/Engagement)

  2. Saying “I” instead of “we” or “us.” (Personalization)

  3. Setting a timeframe. (Urgency)


Check out the template below.

Screen Shot 2018-07-07 at 1.09.52 PM.png

In under 24 hours, we had 49 people volunteer to beta test.

We saw some really powerful results from those 3 little tweaks.

And best of all, we accomplished a goal that we didn't think we could.


2. Ask, Don't Say

This section is regarding sales emails. When I receive responses from people who...

  • aren't interested

  • are too busy

  • have any other "no" reason


I've started asking, “What would you need to see to make this a good fit?" OR "What would you need to see to make this interesting?”

Every. single. time. I've asked this question I've received a meaningful response that allows me to play the long game.


In their responses they've told me...

  • what features need to see to make the product useful (most of the time we already have it, but there was a misunderstanding)

  • what features they need to see to make our product better than a product they currently use (we may or may not have it, either way it's great user research)

  • concerns they have regarding our business model or product


I've been able to open up conversations addressing the root issues using simply that one question, instead of guessing at why they're not interested and throwing a value proposition their way in the hope that they'll bite or give me information I can make use of.

By asking short, purposeful questions, you're able to develop a deeper understanding of what exactly is going through someone's head so that you can appropriately address their concerns, rather than spitting a value proposition and hoping that it's the "right" thing to "change their minds."

"Tellin' aint sellin'."

People don't like being talked at, they enjoy being heard and feeling like they have an equal part to play. 

My boss noticed the same thing, and his advice was...

When we run into someone who is unsure, on the fence, or not completely convinced, we tend to go into hard sell mode.

It’s almost like a “fight or flight” type of response, trying to close this person by railing off as many values and benefits as possible. Sometimes it works, sometimes it fails, but I believe I’ve truly found what is better.

Instead of railing off values, I think this is where we should put our inquisitive hat on and PQ (Precision Question) them.

By doing this, we’re really warming up the conversation, demonstrating care and awareness of the problems they’re seeing.

I find that just by asking these questions, you are building a much stronger bond with them, and gaining a lot more of their trust than you would by just trying to convince them with the hard sell strategy.

When they sees how next level your thinking is, I think that is truly where you earn their respect.

This style of communication isn’t abrasive or commanding, it is calm, inquisitive, and personal, and it's shown some awesome results.