Journey of a Serial Entrepreneur

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How to get from where you are to where you want to be

The Sales Pitch

“It takes one hour of preparation for each minute of presentation time.” Wayne Burgraff

We have all,over time, been pitched something or the other. Some pitches have been good, others could have been better, and some had you looking for the nearest exit. The sales pitch is the amalgamation of your collected information and value proposition in less than 60 minutes. First impressions are critical and in most cases, the deal closers or breakers. Think of the times when you were pitched something, be it a business idea, a product or a service. What were the factors which influenced you into making the decision to buy?

Two steps need to be taken to get to that buying decision. The first is a pre-demonstration pitch, this is where you break the ice with the customer and build rapport. This is a technique all great closers use as it lowers the internal barriers we put up when someone is pitching to us. Building rapport is an art which is learned over time and is a skill which you continuosly need to hone. Once you get good at it, you will be able to shift the customers mindset to a more accepting one, to a point where you are more likely to close the deal.

The second step is when you actually begin the sales pitch. This is when you show the customer what it is that you are actually selling and how it is going to help them. All the information you gathered about the industry and the client must be reflected in your pitch. An attention to detail will help create a much closer connection with your prospect. This allows both of you to look at the concept from the same wavelength.

This is when you arrive at a point when the customer is faced with a buying decision. If you have showcased your product/service confidently and have clearly shown how it is going to add value, closing will be much easier. Whichever method you use, whether it be a power-point presentation, a story board or a simple discussion, remember, keep your pitch simple and to the point.

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The Customer

“A professional salesperson’s most valuable asset is reputation.” Zig Ziglar

Once you have identified an industry and collected as much macro information about it as possible, you begin the process of focusing in on specific companies. To funnel down to this stage, it is helpful to identify those companies with whom you have existing links or can gain easy access to through your professional network. Many entrepreneurs and sales individuals get stuck at this stage. This is primarily due to the fact that we do not focus on continuously building our professional network. This topic will be discussed about in much detail in the coming weeks. If you lack a wide professional network you will have to work on developing leads through traditional lead generation methods, these require a lot more  time and effort.

Once you have a primary list of companies, you must study them intently through their press releases, websites, annual reports, new products and any advertising they may be involved in. This will help you get a pulse on how the company is positioning itself in the market, who their target customers are and what products/services they are focusing on. It will also help you gauge who their competitors are and how they differentiate themselves from them. This will provide you critical insight on how to position your product/service to the prospect.

You will have to show how your product will add greater value to their company, whether it be through greater efficiency, increased ROI, wider exposure, customer acquisition or brand awareness etc. You must do your best to outline measurable results that will be produced through your product/service. If developed correctly you will surprise the customer with your in-depth knowledge of the industry, local market place, their current strategy and their current pain points. Along with an attractive NABC value proposition you will have developed a very convincing argument.

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Industry Identification

“We miss 100 percent of the sales we don’t ask for.” Zig Ziglar

Having a product or service to cater to a host of industries is always a good thing. It gives you the ability to scale your business across several industries in the future. However, where do you start a web development company where just about anyone could be your client? What has worked for me has been to firstly identify an industry to which I have the strongest links and relationship and then do some in depth research about this industry. This process helps bring focus to your business and allows you to become an expert in a particular domain, in which you could then leverage to reach out to other domains in the future.

Think about it, if you are a web developer and Toyota saw that you had created web identities for 3-5 major automobile brands successfully, they would be a lot happier working with you rather than another developer who had created all sorts of websites. By becoming an authority in a particular area, allows you to expand your business in a more structured manner which is essential for early stage companies. Focus is a key aspect for any company whether you are a single person entity or a multinational company. You will be able to create sustainable competitive advantages which will help you fend off new entrants in your space and help expand your business at a much faster pace.

When I am looking at a particular industry I look for any data I can find on the trends taking place in it. This involves a lot of research and reading to bring yourself up to speed with who the major players are and the strategies they are employing, as well as give you an idea of how the smaller players are positioning themselves. When you have sufficient data on the industry as a whole you can successfully zoom onto the companies where you can leverage on your network and build stronger value propositions for them.

The next time you are deciding whom to market your product/service to, look to your personal network first and do your homework on the industry where you are the strongest and have a higher probability of closing the deal.

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Closing the deal

“You don’t close a sale, you open a relationship if you want to build a long-term, successful enterprise.” Patricia Fripp

Closing a deal just seems to be a whole lot more satisfying when you are running your own show. There are very few things which compare to the euphoria of signing the document and getting the sale. Undoubtedly it takes a lot of hard work, patience, persistence and a little luck, but it is definitely worth it. The process of closing a deal is however one which is severely under estimated by most individuals.

It starts with  proper identification of your target customer and collection of as much data about your prospect as possible. Once you have this, you work towards developing a value proposition for your prospect, present it to the prospect and then you finally reach a point where you need to close the deal. When done correctly you have a much greater chance of success through this process than by just picking up the phone and going through a list prospects who you think “may be” interested in whatever it is you are selling.

Sales, is where you need to show your prospect where and how you are creating value for them. It is not about volume discounts, collaterals or last minute deals to get a buyer. Trust me, I have been down that road and price wars are just about the worst place you want to be as an entrepreneur. It is a game where there are no winners and the entire reason why we set out to do business is lost. Over the next week I will talk about certain topics on how you can do a better job with your sales cycle and get that “yes” with  much greater frequency.

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