Nailing Your Intro: How to Craft a Strong Sales Pitch
If you’re a startup founder, your sales pitch (intro, elevator pitch, whatever you want to call it) is the foundation of your sales efforts. You may have the best product in the world but that doesn’t matter if you can’t explain what it is or why it’s valuable.
Everyone you encounter in the life of your startup, from angel investors and early customers to venture capitalists, is going to want to hear some form of a sales pitch. It helps, then, to write a strong one as early as possible.
I know that the majority of you are either startup founders or salespeople working in a startup environment. I can imagine, therefore, that many of you are spending your days making cold calls and sending out emails to prospects you’ve never met.
If that’s your case, my recommendation is this: put down the phone for a second and make sure that you have your pitch in order. Here are a few things you need to have in order before you send out that next email.
1. Know and Understand Your Customer
Unless you know who your customer is and what’s important to them, you’re going to have a tough time getting through to them.
Spend some time researching your customer. Think hard about their job. What is their day like? What are their top priorities? What is the problem they face every day that makes their life difficult?
Your cold calls and emails should include concrete data (summarized in less than a sentence) that lets them know you can fix their problems.
If you’re able to connect with them and show them that you have a solution to that problem, you’re going to be in good shape.
2. Map Out the Organization
Whether you’re selling to a small company or a large one, it helps to have an intimate understanding of what the organization looks like. You need to know who the decision makers are, who else is involved in the decision, etc.
As you start to figure out what the inner workings of a company look like (and, if you have a solid ICP, they’re most likely going to look the same), you’ll start to get an idea of who works for who.
This is helpful for your sales pitch because, well, we all want our bosses to be impressed with us. When you can convince someone that they’ll be a hero if they bring your software in (without saying that directly, of course) you’re not only more likely to get a response but you’ll also have them on your side as the deal moves forward.
3. Pitch to the Right Person
Never just log onto LinkedIn and start looking for people to blast with emails. The Head of IT at IBM isn’t going to respond to your email if you’re selling CRM. The Chief Marketing Officer at IBM might not even respond to your email if you’re selling CRM.
You know who might read your email though? The folks who work on a lower level of the marketing totem pole. The executives, managers and assistant managers who use your competitor’s product on a daily basis and know its flaws are the people you want to talk to.
These are the folks that you can reach out to and say, “Hey, look, I know that you’re currently using such-and-such CRM software. I understand that you’re probably having such-and-such a problem with it. Here’s my alternative and how it can make your life a whole lot easier”.
Once you know who the customer is, who they work under and what their responsibilities are, you can start cold-calling or emailing again.
Implementing Your Sales Pitch in Emails
As I’ve pointed out above, some form of your sales pitch is going to be used in every interaction you have. You’ll use it as a rough script for cold calls, you’ll use it to explain what you do at networking events, and you’ll most definitely use it as a guideline for building your VC pitch decks.
Perhaps most often, though, B2B startups get the majority of their accounts through emailing. Don’t get me wrong, you need to have solid communication skills all around, but getting good at emails is a great place to start.
Any good cold email sales pitch will include the following components:
Introduction: Who are you and what is your company?
Specific Customer: Who is your product meant for?
Specific Problem: What problem do your ideal customers face?
Specific Solution: What does your product do to solve that problem?
Specific Method: How does it deliver the solution you’ve outlined?
Specific Offer: What is the next step that the recipient should take?
So here’s an example of a not-so-good pitch email:
Hi, my name is Ryan from RyansSoftware.com. Our company helps small businesses invoice with clients and accept payments without a professional bookkeeper. Our real-time dashboard allows businesses to send and track invoices, keep track of essential customer data and see what they’ve been paid.
Do you have a few minutes available to talk in the near future?
Thanks for your time,
Why is this a bad sales pitch example?
There are a few things missing from the example above. It has an intro (Hi, my name is Ryan…), It has a specific customer (small businesses), and it even has some specific solutions and methods (real-time dashboard…).
One of the biggest issues, however, is that it never explicitly states the problem. It implies the problem, but a strong sales pitch email will always let the recipient know how bad the problem is.
Let’s try that first paragraph again…
Hi, my name is Ryan from RyansSoftware.com. Our company helps small businesses invoice with clients and accept payments without a professional bookkeeper. 90% of small businesses today lose track of the money they are owed by customers. This costs the average business $600,000 per year. Our real-time dashboard allows businesses to send and track invoices, keep track of essential customer data and see what they’ve been paid.
See what I did there?
By including two short sentences containing data points, I’m immediately letting the prospect know how bad their problem is.
My recipient may already know in the back of their mind that they’re constantly losing track of which customers owe them money, but they most likely don’t understand what the problem is costing them (otherwise they would have fixed it already).
These data points also show that I know something about the industry and that I’m someone they should probably get in touch with.
If they only knew how…
The second, glaring problem in that email is that there’s not a clear offer. I haven’t given them a clear course of action to take. Do I want them to visit my website? Do I want them to get lost in the labyrinth of links I’ve included?
No. I want them to call me and I want them to do that as soon as possible. I need to make it clear that that’s what I want them to do.
So here’s what my final pitch should look like…
Hi, my name is Ryan from RyansSoftware.com. Our company helps small businesses invoice with clients and accept payments without a professional bookkeeper. 90% of small businesses today lose track of the money they are owed by customers. This costs the average business $600,00 per year. Our real-time dashboard allows businesses to send and track invoices, keep track of essential customer data and see when they’ve been paid.
Do you have some time for a call tomorrow at noon?
Thanks for your time,
By providing them with a clear, concise course of action, I’m far more likely to get a response from them. Even if they’re busy during the time I’ve offered, they now know that I have software that could potentially save them a lot of money and may be interested in speaking with me.
The Importance of Expertise
Obviously, you’re not going to give the same sales pitch in every circumstance. Your conversations at parties aren’t going to sound like email pitches (at least I hope not). However, experimenting with your written sales pitch will help you to speak more effectively about your company.
You also may need more than one introduction, depending on how many different types of customers you have. Everyone has different problems, so catering your pitch to the problem you know that a certain customer really cares about will give you an advantage in your conversations with them.
The most important thing, though, is that you become accustomed to talking about your product and why it’s important. In my experience, about 60% of sales come from referrals from the people that you know. No matter who you are, there is someone in your network that could refer you to a valuable client (or refer a valuable client to you). If you can’t tell that person what your company does, though, there’s no way they’ll ever be able to help you.
When you’re able to deliver a strong sales pitch—explaining what your product is in a concise but memorable way—your prospects will know that you have the solution they need and your friends will know you’re the go-to person for a certain problem. As you start to get better at it, you’ll find that more prospects return your pitch emails and that referrals start heading your way.