I really thought about writing this post when I was on Quora and I saw a question where someone asked why he was getting rejections when he was pitching a free service to NGOs. It really took me back to my time in sales and the depression that came with rejections when I was working on commission. I later learned that pitching isn’t black and white, I mean a good or great product won’t necessarily just sell itself because it’s good. There is the human element that is good to know when you wanna know how to pitch to potential customers.
In the sales job and in my first startup (which got this really cool investment review) what frustrated me, in particular, was the fact that I was selling a wonderful product but people were not breaking my door down to grab it. Every time someone said no I felt like slapping them and knocking some sense into them. It was because I believed in the product that I looked for a solution to my rejections. The problem was obviously me, I had to change.
Pitching is a process of sorts, there are things you need to learn to make a part of the pitch process.
Stalk The Audience
If it’s possible to find out about the person you are pitching to (if you’re not cold calling) then find out as much as you can. This will help you know how to deliver your pitch. You can’t pitch to everyone the same way; a standard template is needed but you need to be able to provide a certain level of personalization to your pitch. If the person on the receiving end feels they are getting a product made for them they are more likely to listen keenly.
Solve a Problem with Your Product
People gravitate a lot more towards products that provide a solution to a problem they have. You can’t just approach someone and tell them how great your product is. You need to show them how great the product is for them.
Know Your Product
I love the campaign that Hootesuite Academy is running with the pay-off line [#KnowYourSocial] know your shit. Know your social. Before I spend my money on something you suggest I must be sure that you are sure of the product. The last thing I need is for you to be clueless about the product. When pitching be able to tell the customer every single thing about the product and be able to answer any questions they may have. The sooner you have the answers the faster you can close. You don’t want to give them time to think about if they really need your product because you didn’t have enough product knowledge
It is possible that even though you are offering a free service maybe you are not offering or showing the value added for the people you are pitching.
Sometimes the assumption is that if it is free then there are no questions on the side of the recipient. We assume that they will say yes immediately. It’s free after all right? Wrong.
Prepare your pitch to give a value proposition. What problem are you addressing them with your service/product? How will your solution benefit them? If you can answer those questions you may have greater success or at least more people listening to you.
Ultimately ask them why they chose to say no. It will help you.
You Don’t Have to Do All The Talking In A Pitch
Pitching doesn’t mean it’s just you and your product. You have to learn to listen to the customer as well. Each and every conversation gives you insights into what you can do for the customer. Learnt to hear the little things and build your pitch around that and you will always see great results. Pitches should be dynamic, changing to fit each and every scenario. Each person is different and would like to be approached differently.
So if you are not solving anything for the person you are talking to then they have no reason to listen to you. You cannot assume what the problems of your potential customers, you need to hear them speak and learn what they need. When it comes to the word assume I think of one training I was in. We were told not to assume things and our trainer broke down the word
So when you assume things you make an ASS of U and ME
Find Out Why They Said No
This is the one thing that we never do with pitches. Caught between the heartbreak of a No, the desire to go sit in a bar and drink your I-have-no-commission-this-month stress away. If you can, give yourself some time to calm down and then after some time, go back to them and find out why they said no. Sometimes you find out that your pitch was perfect but it was the wrong time. Sometimes you will find out that your product doesn’t satisfy certain things for them. Most of the time I learnt that people listened with perceptions and those would cloud their ability to listen to the pitch. Sometimes it was actually a case of my pitch not explicitly addressing the potential customer’s problem. So I would start restructuring my pitches to be clear on the value proposition and erase any preconceptions. There so much to learn from feedback.
Maybe your potential customer is your boss and you are pitching ideas for use in the workplace. Read this article on how to pitch an idea to your boss. I found to be really concise and helpful. Just as extra information, it helps to make sure your product can survive the 5 Whys test in this article.
There are a lot more things to consider when pitching. Knowing some of these fundamentally is a good place to start. Let us learn the skills we need to build our brands and build our startups. Let us continuously improve. #kaizenYOU