For the past ten years marketing experts and the finance community have stressed the importance and benefit of having an “elevator pitch”. This is the term, originating from the US, used to describe very clearly and concisely your proposition or offering. The elevator pitch is commonly used in selling situations, increasingly it has become one of the key tools entrepreneurs use to raise finance.
The Dragons Den format has dominated investments forums in recent years and it seems to be these events where the elevator pitch has greatest application. Just how effective is this pitching environment? – on TV we have seen many individuals face humiliation in front of millions. Makes great TV (not for me, as I personally can’t stand the programme). These TV styled events have got boring, local entrepreneurs (business angels, devils more like) with ego’s the size of planets, sit there in judgement of nervous individuals struggling to get their message out in three minutes.
Well in my view anyone who can make a financial judgement based on a three-minute elevator pitch must be a genius. The sensible and ethical investors I have come across avoid TV style pitching formats and spend time trying to understand the idea, the proposition, the person, the market, and the numbers. It’s a considered response based on a least a couple of hours of discussion. How many ideas get lost or fail to see the light of day because an individual can’t get their message over within 30 seconds to 3 minutes. Does that make them a bad entrepreneur?
Two serious and successful VC’s I have spoken to (one in the UK and the other from North America) have started to do away with pitching type events – instead they want to get under the skin of the ideas and the people. How refreshing!
I have referred to this point in some of my recent blogs but I really do want to stress how important I believe the issue to be – I keep coming across the problem time and time again, both with SMEs and larger companies. The big assumption many sales trainers make is – “The business model, propositions, products and services offered by those being trained do actually capture the voice of the customer and align to needs”. This can be a dangerous assumption to make.
This very point came to light only this week when one individual I was talking to after an event said – “I just do not believe in the product and what it delivers” – a training course will not improve performance if this is the case. In my experience is that many large corporates fail to see this and when under performance kicks in managers go straight to HR to request a relevant sales course. How much money has been wasted on such occasions?
The very fact that someone does not believe in a product could be two-fold, firstly the because market does not want it, this results in constant customer knock backs or secondly the individual has a personal hang up with what is being sold. If it’s the former – a rethink of strategy, innovation is necessary so speak to the customers. If the latter then that could be one of many reasons ranging from lack of product knowledge through to personal motivation. Coaching from a respected colleague or manager can be a highly effective way of getting to the heart of the matter.
Some traditional sales philosophies tell us that we should keep following up leads, quotations and proposals till we get a “yes” or “no” answer. Similarly, we are advised that getting the desired meeting with a potential buyer requires up to nine calls/emails. My experience over twenty odd years of selling would tell me that if I have to ring someone more than three times they really don’t want anything to do with me. In selling it is so easy to cross the line from bringing value to being a pain in the backside. At the end of the day do any of us want to feel we are being a pest?
My preferred sales philosophy is based around embracing a mindset of bringing added value whether it be a request for a meeting or credentials presentation. If after three attempts to get a date in the diary no response is obtained I would rather move on. Why would I want to meet or speak to someone who does not want to speak to me?
It’s a bit like being in one of those awful networking sessions and you are speaking to an individual and they are totally ignoring what you are saying because they are looking for someone else they deem as being more important than you. Personally I would rather be somewhere else. Life’s too short to be spending time with people who are totally disinterested in what you have to say. Spend time with those where there is common ground – it’s far more satisfying, rewarding and indeed productive from a business development point of view.
Anyone involved in sales and marketing will know about features and benefits – a legacy of the 70’s/80’s and 90’s school of selling. Whilst the underpinning principle in my view is sound – today we find customers are more discerning, wanting for far more, often for less ! Over the past few years I have been exploring how the old school of selling (F & B) can be fused with a more powerful channel to communicating propositions – this has led me to adding impact and evidence to the old ways of doing things. I believe that when we combine F and B with I and E an extremely intense message is emitted to customers. Next time you are in a sales situation think about:
Impact – can you validate to customers: return on investment (ROI), cost savings, efficiencies, when you can demonstrate impact in terms of facts and figures the credibility of your proposition is just positioned on a new level – for example if you are an advertising agency, can you show the impact of your services on the clients budget of £X will give a return of £5X
Evidence – telling the customer that you are great is superficial and generic – in the case of the advertising agency the evidence should be – the names of three clients that have benefitted from the services and indeed the added value brought to bear. Such an approach to selling is clear – there is no ambiguity.
I have observed many businesses embrace this F.B.I.E model of selling and proposition marketing . It can be applied to telesales, web communications, pitches and any other form of business development. When you think in terms of FBIE your messages become crisper and to the point – more importantly they will resonate with the customers world – it shows you are bothered and its not just about getting a deal. Try it – it really does work!