I have created many guidelines, rules and useful concepts for myself and my marketing teams over the years. In this posting, I’ll list 4 useful tools that help me cut through the fat and make the best decisions. I have associated them with fingers to make them easy to remember. Keep them “handy.”

1) One Finger

In many sales situations, especially in the test equipment field I held up one finger and gave this pitch, “There’s one reason that you need to get our equipment. That’s right—the pointing finger. When there’s an operational bug, software engineers point to the hardware guys. They point their finger back and blame software. Your customers don’t care about the pointing. Your CEO doesn’t care about the blaming. They just want the problem to be fixed and get the product working and shipped. This tool will tell you where the problem is so it can be fixed without the delay of pointing fingers. Ship a great product and everyone will be happy.”

Another application goes something like this: “I don’t care if you can point at someone else prove to me that it’s their fault. We still have to fix the problem. Stop pointing, and start working on a solution.”

2) One Thumb

In advertising and promotional work, whether online or in print, I always employ the “rule of thumb.” If the product shot can be covered up by my thumb then it’s way too small.

3) Three Fingers

When selling technical equipment for development or operations, customers can get bored and confused by sales pitches that focus on stats, or what we used to call “speeds and feeds.” I took a different approach, “When you make your purchase decision you only really care about three things: will this thing work well enough so that I can get my work done quickly and go home on time? Will it help me finish the project on time so I can take my vacation when I want? Will it help me meet the company goals so I get my annual bonus?” They don’t care about the equipment so much as they do these three questions. Show them how your product answers their questions and grab the purchase order. If nothing else, they’ll remember that you care about what they do, and that may be enough to win the business.

4) 5 Fingers

A customer can only remember five things about your product—if you’re lucky. You’ve got to deal with that. Only focus in on five things or less in your promotional materials and demonstrations. Sure, answer their other questions without being defensive, but when you make your pitch stick to five things or less. If you’re selling a CRM system, don’t bother talking about how the information is stored in a secure database. They all are. Don’t say that it’s easy to use or has an intuitive interface. They all say that. Select the things that your product does that the others don’t, or that it does significantly better than the others. If there are only two of those things, then your pitch should just focus on those two things: “It’s a quality CRM system with all the bells and whistles that you’d expect, but we have Feature X and Feature Y. No one else has that.” On your website, don’t have the headline “Industry leading CRM that fits your needs.” Headlines like that usually have paragraphs of details and fluff that no one will remember or even want to read. Your audience won’t care or remember that. Say, “CRM with Feature X and Feature Y. See the Demo now!”

If the unique features or specs are not necessarily compelling, then your challenge is to identify and describe the limited number (5 or less) of benefits that your product provides that your customer can recognize that are difficult to recognize in your competitors.

People who have worked for me over the years probably get tired of me sticking my hand in air to emphasize the one finger rule, the rule of thumb, the three reasons to buy, or the rule of 5 things, but these useful finger-based concepts have proved to be very successful in multiple companies, countries, and product categories.