Most sales pitch one-liners are ineffective, and how to fix it

You need to craft a compelling message that grabs the attention of your buyer, and once you have their attention-- drives them to respond.

Highlights covered in this post include: 

  • Why most company’s one-liners are ineffective and what you can do instead. 
  • How to craft a compelling one-liner for your target market. 
  • How to stand out even when you’re selling a commodity product. 

Let’s face it--most company one-liners are boring and ineffective. So what exactly is a one-liner? It’s a tagline or unique sales proposition for your company’s product or service. It’s typically one to three sentences in length. 

Over the last few years, I’ve received thousands of cold emails and InMails from sellers, and I am absolutely amazed how bad some of the “one-liners” are. Below is an example:

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“We help companies in the B2B tech space drive a lot more revenue by increasing efficiency in their go-to-market strategies. We offer a low-cost training course and online resources that will help you get there. Our initial package is $999 per month, with a 30-day money-back guarantee.”

Really?? Wow

I’m absolutely amazed how boring and useless most company one-liners are. In my opinion, you may as well not even send the email-- it’s a waste of time and server space. How are you supposed to stand out from the crowd if you are basically including your company name and over-used and generic value prop that doesn’t have any substance?

However, the issue is that an occasional prospect will respond to these types of emails being sent and a meeting will be set. These occasional responses (likely a .3% response rate) are what keep these cold emails being sent in mass. If the response was 0% then sales folks would stop sending these emails. 

It really drives most sales leaders insane-- because they know they need to keep forcing these types of activities, although non-profitable and ineffective because it’s what’s left. 

To stand out from your competition, you need to craft a compelling message that grabs the attention of your buyer, and once you have their attention-- drives them to respond. Don’t leave anything to chance. Know exactly what you want your one-liner to achieve and the exact action you want your prospects to take.

Most companies, startups, in particular, don’t have a reason to exist. Every prospect constantly asks themselves, why should I buy from you rather than from the competitor I found on G2Crowd

“Well, my company doesn’t have any competitors?” Ok, I’ve read Zero-To-One by Peter Theil too. It’s very rare that a company doesn’t have any competitors or at least adjacent competitors. Right now, I am speaking to the 99% of companies out there that have direct and/or adjacent competitors. 

You want your prospects to think about you differently than your competitors-- something that positions you differently against your competitors. If you’re the same as your competitors then it all comes down to pricing, and if that’s the case, you’re dead. 

What you need to do is learn from your prospects what they really want. Put yourself in their shoes. If, for example, you sell marketing software and you used to be a CMO then this should be easy. If you’ve never bought software in the category that you are selling into then this becomes a bit harder-- but not impossible-- just set up a bunch of calls with potential buyers and ask. If you listen closely enough, they’ll tell you exactly the “job they are looking to hiring you for” (check out: Thrv). 

Let’s use the Salesforce CRM vs HubSpot CRM example: 

The Sales Leader

Most startup sales leaders are wearing many different hats. The last thing a sales leader wants to deal with is pulling reports. In Salesforce, this is a heavy process and takes a lot of time to set up. In HubSpot, there are simple and elegant pre-built reports. 

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The Salesperson 

Most salespeople who use Salesforce’s CRM use it as a necessary evil. They manage their opportunities inside of Salesforce for forecasting purposes, but use spreadsheets, note-taking apps, and email (or tools like Scratchpad) to manage their day-to-day business. 

HubSpot one-liner targeting salespeople:

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These taglines hit home for each target audience. It definitely did for us-- we moved off Salesforce and jumped onto HubSpot because their messaging and product spoke to us.

Can you explain your company’s USP (unique selling proposition) in one to two sentences in the simplest form possible? Some companies think that by confusing the customer that they’ll view their solution as more complex, and complexity wins the sale. Wrong. Even if your product is very technical and complex, you need to keep it simple. You’ll lose interest fast if you don’t. People are too busy to wade through your jargon to understand your USP. 

Keep in mind, a bad one-liner is focused on your product and your company. It’s boring. A good one-liner is focused on your prospect’s “job to be done”, the problem, your solution, and social proof that it works. 

In order to stand out, your product offering needs to be compelling. For most startups, this can be a big and scary business model or product change. If you’re lazy and offer the same product and messaging as one of your larger competitors you’ll always be chasing market share. 

What is your target buyer really purchasing from you? For instance, sales leaders don’t buy Gong just to record sales calls. They buy Gong for peace of mind that their sales managers are actively involved in up-leveling the skillset of the sales reps when it matters most-- on live sales calls. 

What is the intriguing story that you can tell? In the USP if you can tell a story based on your experience the USP is going to stick. For example, when my co-founder Brendon Cassidy talks about the difficulties that he’s faced at every company he’s worked at in driving demand and cold outreach-- it resonates. 

Use words and phrases that are in your own voice. Let’s face it… people buy from people. If you use words that you wouldn’t use in real life, then you will come across as disingenuous. People are craving something new, different, and entertaining. Give them this. 

Reid Hoffman would always say that he liked businesses that pushed the hot buttons of one of the seven deadly sins. I agree. Your messaging should pull from one or some of these: pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth.

Before you spend any time working on your USP / one-liner, you must intimately understand how your target buyer thinks, talks, and evaluates their “jobs to be done” in their day-to-day. And it’s a process-- I know today, at CoSell, we are in the early days of figuring out our marketing and sales messaging. It’s an iterative process-- you need to test it in the wild.  

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