Back in the day when I was running at full speed in the corporate hamster wheel, I used to get around 5-10 calls and emails per day from tech companies pitching their product. The vast majority of these never went beyond first contact, simply because many companies seen unable to clearly and concisely present their product.
Here are 10 tips from my own personal experience on how to get your company in the door.
1. Fix your web site
It never fails to amaze me how many start-ups have incredible products, but horrendously confusing web sites. Corporate execs are busy and will often visit a company’s site to get an instant sense of what it’s about. Cut the bloated fluff and just tell me in clear, simple terms what you do and why it’s relevant to me.
2. Speak to me like I’m a reasonably intelligent 15-year-old
You should know by now that big job titles don’t necessarily equate to big attention spans. No need to patronize, but tell me in plain English what you do and why I should care. If you begin using fuzzy speak like “leverage our enterprise class video distribution engine” then we’ll likely have a problem. Keep it simple and direct.
3. Don’t use my name repeatedly in every sentence you utter in an attempt to build rapport. It’s annoying.
4. Don’t add me to your company’s email newsletter list simply because I replied to YOUR initial email. Just because I work for a corporation doesn’t mean the concept of spam no longer applies.
5. Understand that I am under no obligation to reply to your initial email. I’ve seen biz dev/sales guys get snarky in emails if their repeated attempts to initiate contact go unanswered. Keep in mind that I have hundreds of things going on at any one time and – therefore – the onus is on you to make your product stand out from the crowd. I didn’t ask you to contact me and thus you shouldn’t feel entitled to a reply.
6. Luck plays a huge role
In many cases a vendor will – by chance – email me about a product at the exact time I’m thinking about an upcoming project for which it would be a perfect fit for. I’ve signed several contracts on this basis and it illustrates how persistence will pay off. As Gary Player once said, “The more I practice, the luckier I get”!
7. Hold off on the rambling voicemails. I often receive voicemails that are sometimes 3 or 4 minutes in length. Sometimes it seems as if the sales guy/gal is trying to tell me the company’s entire history and product offering in a single voicemail. My advice is to skip the voicemails and wait until you speak to an actual person – but if you feel really compelled to leave a message keep it simple, direct and to the point.
8. Case studies are critical. The majority of successful ideas are simply copied from other people and then executed or marketed slightly better. Same is true at corporations, which is why we’re fascinated by case studies. A good case study that is short and to the point is worth its weight in gold and can really help bring your product to life.
9. Don’t tell me you know how to solve all my company’s problems. We’ve been trying to solve them for months and years and we’re not THAT stupid. Lots of vendors come to the table with a blueprint that they believe can make you a shed load of money, re-invent your brand and attract millions of engaged customers. It’s important to believe in your product but don’t try to pull the wool over my eyes with unrealistic, fantastical projections.
and finally the big one…..
10. Know what your company’s unique value is! I understand that start-ups need to be nimble and often change strategies several times in their lifecycle. That’s ok, as long as when you talk to me you can articulate why your company is special. I get a LOT of calls from companies who pitch themselves as “full service agencies” or “digital marketing agencies”, which immediately screams of trying to be all things to all people.
As I wrote about in a previous post, focus really is critical for success at all companies – big and small. I used to work for a technology company that was one of the early pioneers in location based services. They developed some of the early property finder mapping solutions for real estate companies in both the US and the UK. Despite having an early leadership position in this space, the company decided to expand its range of digital services. Within two years they were offering a licensed CRM product and that was quickly followed by a video application, Flash games and a makeshift SEO group. By the time we parted ways they were essentially offering **any** service that a client wanted just to win business. By doing so they neglected their core product and any market advantage they once enjoyed in this space was lost.
Sometimes a company has to hustle to protect short-term cash flow, but ultimately this type of scatter gun approach leads down a road to nowhere.
As with most things – and as is a recurring theme on my blog – simpler is better when it comes to pitching yourself to potential clients. Know who you are, explain what you do in a simple fashion and demonstrate what unique value you bring to the table. While these aren’t guarantees of success, they’ll at least give you a fighting chance to stand out from the background noise.