We spend so much time crafting the perfect slide decks, marketing copy, and optimizing our sales pitch. However, selling your product is so much more than a fleeting make or break moment where you only get a short amount of time to convince someone that your product is worthy. Yes, cutting through the noise is important, but you need to think about how to craft an experience that helps people buy into you and also into your product.
Robert: In this episode Scott and I will be talking about how selling your product is more than just a perfect pitch.
Scott: This is the Stretch Goals Podcast where each week we’ll share insights and lessons learned based on our experiences as entrepreneurs. We’ll challenge you to create ambitious goals as you start and grow your business. I’m your host, Scott Davis.
Robert: And I’m Robert Dickerson. We spend so much time crafting the perfect slide decks, marketing copy, and optimizing our sales pitch. However, selling your product is so much more than a fleeting make or break moment where you only get a short amount of time to convince someone that your product is worthy. Yes, cutting through the noise is important, but you need to think about how to craft an experience that helps people buy into you and also into your product. So Scott, I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately as I’m creating some demo material for a trade show I’m going to. Do you think about this a lot when you get on the phone with someone or you shake someone’s hand for the first time? Do you think about, how do I pitch myself to them?
Scott: Yeah, well, you know, I think a lot of it goes back to what we talked about in episode 13, which was how to connect with people. There’s this dynamic that you learn to adapt to when you’re talking to somebody. It’s, is this a corporate person? Is this more of a line worker? Where do they fit? Who are they, right, and how do you talk to them? When you’re trying to think about how you’re going to pitch, a lot of that comes into play. At least for me, it’s just a very organic and natural thing. I like to know who I’m talking to, and that’ll even come down to what you’re wearing. Maybe you’ve got an assistant with you. If so, I know I need to be very brief with you because you’re just wanting the answers to your questions. It’s a very targeted thing. Can you give us a little bit more about the trade show you’re going to?
Robert: Yeah, so the trade show I’m going to is the Council for Entrepreneur Development. It’s a life science conference here in Raleigh. I’m going to be showcasing for MapOut some of our digital health apps that we’ve been developing, and really they’re targeted around patients, helping patients manage their care and really make informed decisions about their treatment options. If you think about cancer patients or people with chronic illnesses, how do they get information to really help them over their journey of getting care? That’s the product I’m going to be demoing. I’ve been thinking about, as I was applying for the conference, what type of materials do I show them that will get them interested? There’s a wide range of people that are going to be at the conference. There’s going to be investors, there’s going to be companies that are in a life science field. Like you were saying, all those people are coming at this from a different angle, right? Some people are coming at it from the patient perspective, if they’re a health care organization, or they might be coming about it from the doctor perspective, educating doctors about, if you think about pharmaceutical companies, right? They want to educate doctors, and also patients, about their products.
So, just kind of thinking about all those things, I think about if you just start your company out, and even myself, I’m just starting into the health care space, you’re kind of unsure about what your pitch is going to be. How do you figure that out starting out, right? As you go along, as you get along further in time with your company, it becomes more clear of what your pitch is, but when you’re just starting out, I think it can be difficult to figure out what do you say to different people, and kind of propose what your company does and get them interested.
Scott: Yeah. I think there’s a couple things. Number one, you’ve already identified, just a minute ago, some of the potential customer types that are going to be there, or some of the potential foot traffic you’re going to get. You’ve got investors, you’ve got doctors, you’ve got people who are interested in the space. One thing you have to really remember, especially in the medical field, is there’s a lot of money involved in that space. Because of that, that drives a lot of things, but that should also tell you that probably 50% of your audience is going to be people who are investing in or managing budgets and things like that, so you really got to hit those sweet spots with them, right? That’s the thing, right? You kind of know your audience, and you kind of know what to expect, so maybe you start thinking about it now ahead of your conference, what’s most important to each of these demographics and how can I pitch it on the fly?
One thing you can do, and it doesn’t always work, but one thing you can do when you’re at a trade show, somebody comes up to your booth, a lot of times they’re going to kind of hover back and just look at it, because they don’t want to get engaged in a conversation with a salesperson. But once they come up, they’re going to be either looking at some type of paperwork or a banner or something that you’ve got. They’re going to be looking at something, and at something that caught their eye. You can automatically gage right there, “Okay, this person is interested in this one particular piece.” That gives you a little bit of information. But then they’re going to ask you a question. They’re going to say, “What does your product do?” Or, “Can you give me some more information to take back to my bosses?” Boom, right there you know this guy’s not a decision-maker, right? Those little things, those little cues will lead you into the conversation that you want. They all happen instantaneously. You just have to pick up on it and trust your gut. It’s like playing poker with somebody, right? Just watch for those little cues.
But a lot of times, people are not going to tell you who they are. If they have their badge on and it’s faced the right way, I always turn mine around so people don’t know who I am, but if it’s faced the right way, try to quickly read their title and their name and their company while they’re looking at your stuff. Once they start talking, don’t look down at their badge, because it’s rude. Keep eye contact, but try to figure out who they are and what their role is, and that will help you with your pitch.
Robert: I think you can ask them probing questions, too.
Scott: Absolutely, absolutely.
Robert: You can ask them questions to figure out what their interests are before you start down. I like in sales that you ask more questions and you just talk, because then you can figure out what their interests are so then you can go down the right path, right? If I just blabbed out everything that I did, people would get bored or they’d be confused, right?
Scott: That’s always important, too, to match the energy level of the person you’re talking to. If you’ve got someone who’s laid back, don’t come at them all hyper and energetic like me. It doesn’t work. Don’t ask too offensive probing questions, like what size pants do you wear? But you do ask little questions. You say, I don’t know, “What’s important? What are you guys doing this year? What kind of apps do you have?” Or something like that. All of those things create this picture, this puzzle that you’re putting together about who they are and how you can benefit them. Look, it’s not all about selling your product or making a great connection. You at least want to have a good experience for them while they’re there. You don’t always have to make a sale, because you might make a friend out of it, right?
Another thing about the trade shows, and you’ll definitely see this at that trade show, is you’re going to make a lot of connections with the other vendors. Find some time to walk around, maybe identify a couple that you’d like to talk to, even scope out some competition and go ask questions and talk to them, get to know them, and you might pick up business there too.
Robert: No, that’s a really good point. Back to your other point to, is that even if you find someone that maybe is not a good fit for your product, they might know other people, either at the conference or otherwise that they can connect you to.
Scott: Absolutely, yeah. I highly recommend that. I got just as much foot traffic in business from other vendors pointing them in my direction than I did just organically.
Robert: Yeah, I think the other thing to think about too, as I’ve gone to different conferences and different meet-ups and things, I use trial and error, because I know that my pitch is always going to be changing and I’m always going to be refining it. Even though I have the core of what I do, it’s helped me to go pitch to different audiences and try different things, and then get feedback from those audience. I went to a networking event, I guess it was a couple months ago now, and I tried to pitch, it was for businesses, and I was pitching more towards the training aspect of what we do. We help businesses create training materials for employee onboarding, and really to help them grow their business for their sales teams and that sort of thing. But when I started talking to people about training, they just got these weird faces, like “Oh, I hate training. Oh my gosh, I just had to go through this hour-long training. I couldn’t access the training. It was horrible. They made me sit there and click through this button every ten minutes to make sure I was sitting there.” That was really good feedback for me, as I pitched it as a training aspect, is I got a really negative response to that.
I guess that could be good, because people don’t like the training platforms that they’re using, but it’s also bad because people have a negative connotation of training, is that it’s not really helping them. It’s just something they have to do to continue on with their job, right?
Scott: Yeah, it’s like paying taxes. You don’t want to do it, but you have to.
Scott: Yeah, so one thing that I learned about trade shows specifically is that visual for your booth, right? How it looks, is it engaging? Is it bringing them in, right? Is it going to make them want to come talk to you? Have some good materials. I forget the lingo, I haven’t been to a trade show in a while, but those big, tall banners that stand up about eight, nine feet, they pop out of this thing and slide up. I had one of those with a couple pictures of key, big mobile apps that I’ve done with a small list of features at the bottom, but it was mainly based on the visuals so they could see it down a row. I angled it to where all the foot traffic was coming so that they could see that from the main aisle.
Secondly, I had toyed around with a one sheet about what my company did. I don’t know, there’s too many words, right? Instead I created a tri-fold. The tri-fold actually forced me to be more brief and create bullet-point lists, but it also allowed me to put a lot more information, because some of those flaps have two sides. Also, they’re smaller. They fit right in your bag or in your pocket. I put some tri-folds right next to my business cards. My business cards actually used to look like an iPhone. I had a little glossy material. It was shaped like an iPhone. I had a home button on it, something different to differentiate me so that they could remember who I was and what I did. But all those things are visual, right? All those things drew people to come into the booth. I didn’t have to ask them to come to the booth. I knew what they were there for, because they saw it and they walked up to me. When you’re designing what your booth will look like in your head or on paper or whatever, start thinking about that. What’s important? What do you want to bring people in? Try to create the best visuals possible.
Robert: Yeah, the pop-up banner is something actually I have just been working on. Actually I was working on that yesterday, and so that’s kind of what got me thinking about this episode. I was thinking about what do I put on there to attract both people interested in patient education but also interested in marketing and informing physicians and doctors and stuff about their product? How do you attract both of those groups of people, and also investors? How do you attract all those groups of people is to say, “Hey, that looks interesting. Let me go talk to him and get some more information.” Then I can use the tri-folds. I can use the one-pagers to give them more information on the specific area of interest for them. It’s getting people to the booth and then getting them more targeted information. Then, also using the website as a way to get even more information, right? I can only maybe give them so much in a tri-fold. I can send them to the website where I’ll have blog articles and other materials that they can read through to gain a better understanding of what we do.
Scott: Yeah, a lot of times too, at the trade show you’re not making a sale right there, so you don’t want to inundate them with information. You want to give them just enough so that they know who you are and know you can do exactly what’s important to them, because they probably asked, and then that lends the way to a conversation when you follow up with them a week or so later. I think you hit it right. The pop-up banner, you want to make sure the visual applies to many different demographics. Don’t try to put too much information on it, but you want something that’s going to pull them in, maybe a visual of one of your apps or something along those lines.
Robert: Let’s talk about, for a minute, when you’re pitching someone. I’ve been doing that recently as well. You set up a meeting with a customer, whether it’s a web-based pitch or you go in and meet with them. You got to put together a set of slides that talk about what you do. That can be difficult as well. I think it’s important that you understand what the interest of your prospect is and your customers are before you go in so you can tailor those slides. That’s what I’ve been doing a lot of, is before I sit down with people and give them a demo, I’ll figure out, okay, what specifically are they interested in? What the market are they interested in? Then I’ll take my core slides and really whittle those down and tailor them to meet that specific customer so I’m not presenting them a 100 slide deck of everything that I do. Maybe it’s just a handful of slides. It’s really talking points that I can go through, kind of sets the track for me, right? But also it is able to get the point across to them. How have you pitched when you went in for your apps and stuff? I know we talked a little bit about that before.
Scott: Yeah, well, one thing it’s important to know when you pitch, you’re not going to hit everybody at 100%. Everybody learns differently. Some people are visual, some people are auditory. Some people, they’ve got something else on their mind. They’ve had a bad day, whatever. There’s so many different facets to who’s going to be in the meeting when you pitch to them. Number one, don’t be discouraged if you don’t hit everybody. To go back to your question, my experience is, I often knew a lot about who I was pitching. When I did, I went in with full confidence that I knew that I could achieve what it was they were looking for. Not necessarily a sale, but I knew that I could achieve what they wanted out of it. That was always my goal. Not to try to make the sale, but at least try to give them the information that they need so that they can make their decision on whether they’re going to use my service or not. If you’re pitching an investor, your perspective is different.
If you’re just pitching someone who wants to become a consumer of your product, like you said, just narrow down, try to figure out who they are, what they are, get that focus that might be applicable to them, but don’t plan on that being your only path in the conversation. They might ask for more details. Always be prepared to have some more details, like maybe visuals even, available for them. The thing about what I used to do is that everybody hates slide decks because they’re boring. If you’re going to do a slide deck, make it engaging. Make it fun, make it visual, keep it brief, and then talk about it, because they’re going to see stuff. Give them a high level, make it ten slides or less, and then let them ask questions, because the questions they ask are going to be more valuable to them than what was on the slide deck.
Robert: Yeah, you want to let the customer help drive the conversation, right? You don’t want to be just inundating them with information, that you just start talking, you don’t stop until the hour is gone, and you’ve really got no feedback for them of what their interests are, what they think about the product. If you can ask probing questions to figure out what they want, what they’re interested in and what their problems are, you can use that as a guide to then go through your slides, talk about things. Sometimes I like to go in with no slides, because I want to sit there with you and I want to have a conversation face to face and really look at your expressions, get your feedback of what you’re trying to do, and then we can go from there, right? We don’t really need slides to do that.
Scott: No, I agree. I prefer to have a conversation about it. But when you get in that corporate world, like that very stuffy Fortune 1000, Fortune 500 corporate world, they expect slide decks because that’s what their management team expects, right? But I’m with you, any time you can have a conversation it’s more beneficial to both parties. You learn what they need, they learn what you provide, and what you can provide if you need to make some adjustments, and everybody wins. The slide deck is a very old and antiquated form of presentation. It still works. Apple still does it every year, but screw Tim Cook. It’s time to get past the slide decks and get on to some other presentation mechanism.
Robert: A lot of their slides, too, they’re just bullet points, right? They’re not a bunch of text on a slide, right? It’s just more of a-
Scott: It’s an outline.
Robert: An outline, yeah, exactly. I think you touched on a point that’s really good before, is that you mentioned having confidence. I think that’s really important as you go in, that you have confidence about what you do, and also to tell a story about what you’re trying to do to get people interested, right? A lot of times people are more interested in you, they’re buying into you, not just your product, but they’re buying into you. If you can tell them a story that aligns with their business and their problems, then that can really resonate as well more than just a slide deck or your pitch or whatever, just telling that story and weaving it into their interest. I’m not a sales guy. I’m a conversationalist. Let’s go in, let’s have a chat. Let’s see if I can build something for you. That’s who I am. That’s how I sell products. I’m not a sales guy. If I have to put on a sales guy hat, I become very uncomfortable, because my whole thing is just organic, natural, let’s have this conversation. I think people feel better in that scenario too.
Scott: Some people you can help, and some people you can’t, right? It’s important to also differentiate, “Hey, I’m not the best fit for you right now. Here’s somebody else.” Or, “Let’s talk down the road.” Whatever it may be, so it’s important that you distinguish that as well. You don’t keep trying to get someone if they’re not a good fit for you.
Robert: Sure, yeah. No, the other thing too is you want the information you give them to convey everything that you’re talking about, too. Make sure your website or your blog conveys that same sense of product and personality that you’re bringing to the table. It’s obviously easier in a smaller organization when it’s just you and some other people, but if you’re in a larger company, it’s kind of hard to convey that same message across multiple medium.
Scott: Cool. Why don’t we wrap this episode up? I think this has been some good talking points. If you’re getting out there and you’re pitching your products, we talked about a couple different ways, going to trade shows and really engaging the audience, using trial and error to refine and perfect your pitch. It’s something that you’re going to be working on all the time. Then, really have confidence when you go in and you pitch customers and don’t use a huge slide deck, please.
Robert: Slide decks are dead. Just kidding, they aren’t. They have their use, but I’m just saying, we need to make them more fun.
Scott: Yeah, make it fun, make it a conversation. Don’t make me listen to a hundred slides.
Robert: Thanks so much, guys. Give us a shout on Twitter, on iTunes, on SoundCloud. Let us know what you want to hear about in the podcast. We’d be happy to address it. Thanks.
Scott: Thanks, see you next week.
Robert: Thanks for listening to this episode of the Stretch Goals Podcast. You can access the show notes for this episode and listen to other episodes by heading over to stretchgoals.fm.
Robert Dickerson is the Founder and CEO of Mapout a mobile learning platform that uses video courses to educate customers and train employees. He helps companies develop and launch their products.
Scott Davis is the Founder and CEO of MobX, a mobile development software agency. He has 20 years of experience developing software for Government, Finance, Sports and the Telecommunications industry.