From Scot MacTaggart, creator and host of The Pitchwerks Podcast, The Werkshop helps readers to scrutinize and practice a different skill every month, focusing on pitching and presenting to new customers or investors.
(Photo by Eric Rothermel)
When you first start working with a prospect, they typically don’t know a lot about you. This leads them to scrutinize whatever exposure they get, because it’s the only way they have to learn about you. They read the details of how you approach them, how you manage your process, and whether you deliver on what you promise.
If you keep your promises, prove that you value their time, and give them a clear and simple yes-no decision where anyone can understand your meeting proposal, you’ll see your batting average go up. More of your prospects will turn into clients. When you earn buyers with a professional approach like this, they will tend to come back. No one likes having their resources wasted, so they circle back to people that conduct themselves in a frictionless, transparent manner whenever they need an expert.
When I first got started, I was 22 and didn’t know what to do other than just blurt out a request and then show up. It was bad. So how do I do it now? I start with the mindset that they would prefer for me to speak in terms of their benefit, and demonstrate that I’m able to give them a professional experience. I tell them exactly what to expect, what I’m going to ask for, and how long I’m going to need.
How can you get there? Try this outline, and while you do it, I encourage you to anticipate their questions, concerns – even their suspicions – and get the hard parts out of the way first.
For the purposes of this outline, let’s assume it’s an email request, but it works just as well with a LinkedIn message or phone call.
Set a goal. Tell them what you are asking them to approve. Again, you have to make it a yes / no decision. Anyone who can actually give you what you’re looking for is likely to be busy and doesn’t want this to take a long time. “Can we meet?” is a solid opener for this.
Immediately justify the goal. Don’t wait. Jump into a statement that supports the goal right away, and if you can, try to indicate the confidence level that you have that you can fix a problem for them. “I have a new product, and I’m 90% sure it will drop your production costs if you start using it.”
Draw up the agenda. Again, don’t waste time with fluff between these steps. It’s OK to be direct – you have permission because it’s in service of respecting their time – and after a sufficient number of repetitions, you’ll realize that you prefer it over the more cumbersome approach that many beginners employ.
A multi-point agenda can almost always be expressed in a one-sentence story structure. “I need about 10 minutes to do our demo, a few minutes of questions to confirm that this will work for you, and maybe a few minutes to see your current setup if you’ll allow it.”
Ask for the time you need – but no more. “In total, I only need half an hour, and that gives you time to ask whatever questions you might have.”
Propose some days and times that work. Spare them the friction of going back and forth. I know some of you use Calendly or similar services for this. Those aren’t my cup of tea, if only because I prefer a more human touch, so I offer a few days and times over a two week window. “I have time next Monday afternoon after 2pm, the Wednesday after that before 10am, or you can have pretty much any time you want the week after those.”
Bring it all together, and you’ve got a strong, concise message that keeps the work day moving for both parties. Have your own tips that work for this? Want to dig deeper? Tell us on Twitter! Tag me at @pitchwerks and use the hashtag #SNPwerkshop so others can follow along!
SCOT MACTAGGART – Contributing Writer
Scot has been a sales rep, a marketer, a manager, an executive, a consultant and a corporate advisor over the past 20 years. He is currently the creator & host of The Pitchwerks Podcast and the co-founder of KRNLS (growth strategy company for startups and small businesses). Over the past two years, Pitchwerks has released 120+ episodes, and built an audience of thousands of listeners around the world.