The Red Pen / Green Pen Test

The Red Pen / Green Pen Test

As I’m sure is the same with you, I get a lot of emails and phone calls from sales people looking to sell me the next great thing.

Just the other day I received a call back I had been expecting from a sales rep with a technology firm.

Immediately after we exchanged pleasantries, he jumped into a long spiel about why they were a great tech company, and why their product is amazing, and why they were far superior to the competition.

At no time did the representative take the time to ask any specific or direct questions as to how my company specifically might be able to utilize their technology.

It was about eight minutes before I could get a single word in, but I had already tuned out after five. He took eight minutes to talk about himself before spending thirty seconds to ask about me.

After pondering the call for a while, and in the spirit of Christmas, I’d like to introduce The Red Pen / Green Pen Test. 

The red pen / green pen test is simple.

Think about any time you’re communicating with prospects and customers. For example, sales calls, customer service calls, website copy, social media, emails to prospective clients, proposal language, RFPs, etc.

Now review some of those communications with a red pen and a green pen.

Any time you use language like “I,” or “we,” or “our,” circle it with the red pen. Any time you’re speaking in a way that’s beneficial to you but not the customer, you want to mark it red.

Next, look for the areas where you use language like “you,” or “your.” Look for all the times when you communicate in a way that’s beneficial to the customer – where you add value, and mark those green.

If you see more red than green, then you’ve got some work to do.

Here are a few examples from different industries. If you want a specific example of how you might do this for your company feel free to contact me, but for example:

If you’re a tech company or an early-stage startup, spend some time going through your pitch decks and look at how they’re structured and how they’re ordered. Ask yourself, at what point do you start talking about how prospective clients might use your technology or how current clients have used your technology?

If you’re in the banking or wireless industry, look at your customer service procedures. How often do you say things like, “it’s our policy,” or, “we can’t do that” instead of saying something like, “I understand why you want this to happen, and it’s impacting you in this way, but unfortunately here’s why we can’t do that because of…”

If you’re company is a sales-driven organization look at the sales scripts, listen to a few customer conversations or prospect calls, and pay attention to every time they use words like “I”, and “we,” and “our,” and “us.”

For just about every other company, think about your overall marketing messaging. If you send regular communications to your customers, look at how many times you’re talking about you, versus talking about them.

Whenever you’re saying anything to customers, in any format, in any medium, always remember the red pen / green pen test.

Today’s Challenge:  Try the red pen / green pen test on recent customer communication. You might review your “About Us” page on your website, or you might review the last email you sent to a client, or you might decide to listen in on a couple of customer service calls today.

Whatever you decide, the next few days are the best time of the year to stock up on red and green pens.

But don’t let this be a once a year thing! Unlike December 25th, this simple rule can make it seem like Christmas all year round in your company.

Now that’s the essence of Evergreen!