A lot of you guys make your living selling technology in the advertising and marketing technology space. It’s a great and noble occupation, but not for everyone. Our industry moves very fast, and software is always a stutter step behind. We are trying to solve problems for big brands and media companies, and a lot of what we sell sounds pretty much the same as the competition. Even if you truly have the best product, it’s really hard to get people’s attention. When you finally get it, it’s very hard to truly differentiate yourself and your products. In first meetings and big pitches, you have to leave the meeting accomplishing three basics: your potential customer should like you enough to work with you, trust you to do the work, and believe that your company can solve their problem.
In first meetings and big pitches, you have to leave the meeting accomplishing three basics: your potential customer should like you enough to work with you, trust you to do the work, and believe that your company can solve their problem. Like, trust and belief are pretty simple asks—but very hard to establish in meetings.
Does your typical one-hour meeting look like this?
- Get the monitor set up and internet access established (10 minutes)
- Go around the room with introductions (5 minutes)
- Salesperson introduces the meeting and explains why you are there (10 minutes)
- Salesperson gives the standard “about the company” pitch (15 minutes)
- Subject matter expert talks about some use cases and benefits (20 minutes)
- Demo (0 minutes. Oops. No time left for demo).
I have been in many of these meetings as a potential buyer, and I have also presided over quite a few of these meetings. Some are better than others, but for the most part, they are pretty terrible. Here are four things you can change up for your next meeting.
Stop the Slides
Here’s what happens when you deliver a slide presentation. If you show a slide with text on it, your audience will start reading it. In fact, they will finish reading it way before you stop delivering the content, and then they start thinking about what they are going to do for lunch. Maybe you think you’ve built the most perfect slide ever…full of compelling content and gleaming with ideas? Well, perhaps you have but you’ve alienated half of the room; the slide is the perfect level for the folks who already get it, and way too technical for the newbies (or vice versa). The approach here is to use a good headline and a gigantic picture of something interesting. Show a hammer, elephant, or a guy jumping out of a plane. The internet is full of great options. “Why is there a picture of a guy jumping out of a plane?” your prospect wonders. Your potential client will listen to you until he figures it out.
Grab a Marker
In the technology space, we sell a lot of complicated stuff, and we have a lot of ‘splaining to do in meetings, to borrow the popular Desi Arnaz phrase. Many of our potential customers don’t really know how the Internet works, and that’s okay. A 23-year old media planner at an agency isn’t immediately required to grok the differences between data integration types, but they still have influence over considerable budget dollars. What they need is some education, and that’s where your friend the whiteboard comes in. Why do mediocre actors salvage their careers on the stage? Because it’s harder. You have to know your material, deliver your lines, and there’s nowhere to hide. People respect that, and they will respect you when you close your laptop, pick up a dry erase marker and start explaining what your technology does, why it’s different, and how it will solve a problem. Plus, the element of theater is fun. People know exactly what you are going to say when you deliver a slide, so you will likely be judged on your delivery and the cut of your suit. Pick up a marker, and you will be judged by the size of your brain.
Show, Don’t Tell
Similar to the educational nature of whiteboarding, there is magic in a good software demo. After explaining all of the wonderful problems you are going to solve over 40 minutes, you will likely have a highly skeptical audience. Every other vendor has rolled in and also promised to solve the age-old “right person, right message, right time” conundrum, and you are just the latest in the pack. Whenever there is an opportunity to go into the software and demonstrate exactly what you are talking about, you should take it. “Did you ask about my integration with Amazon? Great, let me pull that up in our UI and show you exactly what to do.” As an industry, we also seem to suffer from using solutions engineers as a crutch. Guess what? If you need a highly technical person to walk through a few screens, then your client just found out that you have a product that only his most technical people can use. That’s a gigantic loser. If you sell software, you should be capable of giving a basic UI demo.
People are people, and they communicate best with storytelling. You don’t need to be a latter-day Walt Disney at your next meeting, but you do have to be able to tell a story similar to this: “Ron from Big Company has the same exact problem you guys are having. We worked with Ron and his team for 18 months and figured out exactly how to solve it. Ron is now an SVP. Hey, we should get you out to lunch with Ron, and he can tell you all about it.”
An old boss used to tell me that a sale needs to get your client “paid or made” We can certainly help people get paid by saving the money through efficiency, and “make” their careers with a successful implementation. People love to hear that similar people are having the same issues, and they don’t want to feel left behind. By golly, if this was good enough for Ron at Big Company it’s good enough for me. A good story should be realistic, inspire, differentiate your technology—but also be referenceable.
Because they will call Ron.