Sales people often find paperwork tedious, much preferring to be out selling to customers than writing up visit reports. But report writing is an essential part of the job and the reports you produce provide the management team with valuable business information.
You can help yourself, and your sales manager, by making sure that your visit reports are easy to read by paying attention to the following seven rules of effective written communication:
1. Make sure that your sentences are as short as possible. Between ten and fifteen words in length is a good average sentence length to aim for. Break any larger sentences up. Remember: short sentences are much easier to read and quicker to understand than long ones.
2. Avoid long-winded verbal and nominal expressions, or the use of compound prepositions. For example avoid phrases such as ‘with reference to’. Rewrite your report to remove these clumsy phrases.
3. Use short familiar words which contain as few syllables as possible. Do not write: ‘That is unequivocal’ (= 7 syllables); do write: ‘That is clear’ (= 3 syllables)
4. Avoid officialese as it does not, contrary to popular belief, make you sound more intelligent! Do not write ‘...for the purpose of examining the stock on hand’, instead do write ‘...to check the stock levels’.
5. Simplify phrasal and pre-positional verbs. For example, do not write “met with” or “try out”, but simply write “met” or “try”.
6. Shorten all the introductory phrases in your visit report. It is better to omit phrases like ‘It should be noted that the offer is valid until...’ Instead try writing: ‘The offer is valid until...’
7. Learn how to write in the active rather than in the passive voice. The passive construction is ‘We will be informed about the expected order date next week by the customer.’ The active version of this sentence is: ‘The customer will inform us about the expected order date next week.’ The active is a more effective written communication style as it is clearer and shorter.
Take a critical look at the last report you wrote, did it follow these seven rules?