Saturday, June 11, 2022

How to Win Arguments Without Making Enemies

This is a terrific #lifehack.

Instead of creating negative vibes and lengthening pointless debates, here's a way to get your team onside and make better decisions, together.

This tactic won't just help you win debates. You'll get more robust discussions, and ultimately better outcomes.

Here's the secret, in 17 words: Make the best points you can for your opponent's case, and then undercut it with logical clarity.

A great article from Inc. magazine: 

"How to Win Arguments Without Making Enemies"

"To convince people they're wrong, you must first explain why they're right."




Wednesday, May 25, 2022

It’s all about the benefits: Communicating for Results

How does your product or service help your customers win?

I’ve been doing some marketing consulting with a client lately. When I asked them to describe some of their business-oriented products, I was taken aback when they quoted a litany of specs and features.

So I had to tell them they were putting the cart before the horse. This was a marketing opportunity, and they responded with random product details instead of customer benefits. 

The next time they're asked to describe their products, I asked my client to take a Benefits-First approach. Such as: “Customers like you are usually looking to get more done faster. Our product/service will help you get better results 20% faster, at half the cost of the process you're using now.”

And then, instead of droning on, I suggested they ask their prospect the all-important question:  "Would you like to hear more?" or "Can I tell you how it works?"

(I learned this long ago from Tom Stoyan, Canada's Sales Coach. Don't talk too long, and always ask for permission to keep going. Otherwise, how do you know you are answering the questions the prospect has in their head?) 

This process enables you to assess the client's interest level before you head too far in the wrong direction. You’ll get important feedback, whether the prospect says “Yeah, that sounds really interesting,” or, “No, that not what I need.”

Either way, you get to lead with HOW YOUR PRODUCTS and SERVICES CREATE VALUE FOR CUSTOMERS, rather than “here's how our products work.” Because no one cares how a product works until they believe it can help them.

BBF. Benefits before features.  

GET TO THE POINT!

Why is BBF so important? 

Because business communication is simple, yet also really, really hard. The simplest part is the challenge we start with: managers and executives are smart people, but very busy and time-challenged. That often turns into impatience. If they don't understand a message, they are more likely to ignore it and forget about it than to take the time to do more research or ask questions. 

So it's essential for business communications to speak plainly and establish genuine connection as quickly as possible. Few business decision-makers have the time to offer you a second chance.

The hard part, then, is to find the right words with which to engage business buyers. Your language has to be simple and comfortable, yet put together in a novel, disciplined way that makes them insightful and compelling.  

The pressure is always on business leaders to accomplish more with the same resources (or less). So they are ALWAYS looking for better ways to get results. But experience tells them that most vendors add zero value, so they work hard to screen out every marketing claim they hear.

So our job is to establish credibility, impress people with our talent and potential, and give them a precise estimate of the benefits they can achieve by working with us. To break through those screens, quickly and memorably. 

The most valuable benefits most business leaders seek are usually cost savings, higher sales, performance improvements, or some combination thereof. 

So every client/prospect communication has to be about customer benefit: how much we can save them, or how our products/services can increase their effectiveness or capacity or profitability. You do this with a complex, ever-changing blend of research, rules of thumb, stories and anecdotes, customer testimonials, and so on. 

It takes preparation and discipline. Product knowledge is important, but customer knowledge is crucial. 

Until we’ve engaged prospects with our benefits promise, they're not even listening. Because they are always busy thinking, “Get to the point. What's in this for me?”

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Your Future, Your Choice

 I wrote the words below in an email today to a friend in business.

Then I realized it could be a blogpost. Maybe the most important post I've ever written.

It's about the green energy transition. It's about your future, and mine. The  future of business, the future of the planet, and the stark choices ahead of us.

Transformation is always hard. But what people don't realize is that the transition has already begun. You can embrace it now, or watch the tide sweep away the wasteful "old world." 

Here's my email.

I believe the climate issue is about to become BIG.
Because it's not just about fear any more. It's about action. It's going to be more and more about heroes, not villains. Financiers and funds, entrepreneurs, environmentalists, technology geeks, authors, promoters, pioneers, champions. Building new systems and technology, creating jobs, saving the planet. 

THIS is what we've been waiting for. Action on every front. Doing, not undoing. Change rooted in passion and invention, not regulation.
It would be a shame if we're not ready. 


Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Your story is your future

I just finished a major journalistic project that involved writing brief profiles on 50 exciting up-and-coming companies.

My job was to explain what each company does, who its customers are, and what has made the firm successful. 

Our timeline was tight, so we we made hasty arrangements for interviews with some of the CEOs, but we depended wholly on the web for much of our information.

That means not just scouring companies' websites for information, but also reading annual reports, financial statements, press releases, past interviews in print and on YouTube, customer reviews, industry reports, and whatever else we could find.

The disappointing part, and the concerning part, was to see how bad almost all of these companies are at explaining to a general audience what they do.

Sorry, "award-winning world-class solutions at scale" just doesn't cut it.  

Yes, a company that sells sophisticated electrical equipment needs to be able to communicate with sophisticated buyers of that kind of hardware. 

BUT, they also need to be able to communicate what they do to everybody else who might be interested in their story: employees and future hires, journalists, potential partners or investors, their local communities, possible suppliers, and all those potential customers who don't really understand which products they need.

If you can't communicate with a general audience at an engaging, Grade 8 level, you're not communicating at all.

My colleagues on this project were as surprised as I was by how bad most of these companies are at explaining what they do. Trying to understand their products, their strategies, or the needs of the marketplace is really difficult when companies talk only themselves in industry jargon.

How can you tell if your company is guilty of selective communication? 

Look up all the "About Us" information on your website or in your reports and sales materials. This includes company histories, "What We Do," mission and vision statements, and so on. Then round up your friends, your spouse, golf buddies, second cousins, any average group. Ask them to read this material, and then restate, in their words, what your business does. 

Ask them, too, what benefits you provide, how you do it, and who your audience is. 

I predict you'll find that your explanations are nowhere near as clear as you thought.

How do you fix this problem? 
Find someone on staff who can write, and challenge them to tell your story better. Hire a marketing student, or an ex-journalist, or even a PR firm, to tell your story. Let them ask all the questions they like. Start with a blank slate, and you'll be able to see your company clearly for what it does, not what it looks like from the inside.

These are the sorts of questions that your "About Us" company stories need to answer:
  • What does your company do? 
  • Who are your customers? How do your products or services help them achieve their goals faster, more economically, or more powerfully?
  • What's your one-sentence mission statement?
  • Does your company have a purpose higher than merely selling more goods and services?
  • How are your purpose and mission aligned?
  • What's your best customer story?  (A customer story explains how your products and expertise helped a client achieve its goals or exceed expectations. It's powerful because it explains what your company does from the customer's point of view, not yours.)
  • What's your vision for your industry? What are your own company's goals within that context?
  • What are your plans for making your customers experiences and outcomes even better in future? 
When you answer these questions (and better still, engage all your people in discussing the answers), you'll be miles ahead as an organization. You'll have renewed purpose, and incredible alignment around what you do and your common objectives. 

And you'll make customers a part of your journey and your future success. Not just puzzled outsiders, scratching their heads as they try to figure out what your world-class solutions can do for them.

Further reading: 

Me mocking silly vision and mission statements, part 1
The 9 Worst Mission Statements of All Time
17 Best Mission Statement Examples (+ How to Write Your Own)

Thursday, April 07, 2022

The 2030 Challenge: Prosperity or Despair?

Society is reaching a tipping point.

By 2030, we will have decided whether to embrace life on this planet, or death. We will have decided whether we support global growth, peace, equality, freedom, health and education, or a dog-eat-dog world where the "haves" choose to let half the world live in poverty and precarity.

This is a time when leadership will matter in every sphere: business, politics and community. As a leader, you must decide whether you stand with empathy, love and opportunity for all.

2030 is the turning point. 2030 is “The Year” that the United Nations has targeted for achieving its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It's also the year that countries and organizations are expected to achieve tangible progress in their plans to become carbon-neutral by 2050 - to save life on this planet from accelerated global warming and extreme weather events.

2030 is also the year that the last of the baby boomers reach retirement age - giving businesses and other organizations a chance to reset their leadership visions around more contemporary values such as creativity, collaboration, and serving all stakeholder communities, not just dividend-hungry shareholders. 

2030 must be a time when we celebrate the actions we have taken to clean the planet, encourage global growth, and end war, inequality, poverty, hunger and disease.

And as someone reminded me the other day, 2030 is just 400 weeks away.

Now is the time for business leaders to call a fresh start. How can we stop polluting the planet, and make it a better place? How can we evolve from serving customers to enhancing human life?

It’s not just about climate/sustainability, but building a more just planet.

A number of the UN's SDGs aim straight at business: 

Goal 7: Affordable and clean energy

* Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.

* Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.

* Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities

* Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.

From now on, every decision you make should be looked at through the lens of 2030. Are you contributing to a cleaner, freer, more prosperous world? Or are you just acting in your own self-interest? 

Because organizations that serve only themselves will increasingly be shunned. 

A recent “HumanKind Study” study by marketing firm Leo Burnett uncovered profound disconnects. In a poll of 4,633 Canadians, the study found that half of respondents are concerned they are “wasting their life” doing “unfulfilling work.” A full 76% of Canadian consumers said they don’t believe brands understand their problems.

Tahir Ahmad, Burnett Canada’s chief strategy officer, says employers and brands need to address these disconnects. We must find “a way forward that focuses not solely on profit or product, but on people, and how we can lead more fulfilling lives.”

PwC found similar disconnects in its 2021 Global Culture Survey. For instance, 63% of Canadian business leaders say their organizations have developed a distinctive culture that sets them apart from their competitors – but only 41% of employees share their belief.

Compared to American workers, the survey found Canadians have much higher doubts about their employer’s ability to adapt to change, set a positive “tone from the top,” or “act as role models for their organization’s purpose, values and culture. 

Companies that choose not to prioritize ecosystem interests, including the SDGs, will increasingly be seen as problems in a world desperate for solutions. Which side will you be on?   

Now is the time for leadership. Executives must develop clear plans for their organizations, and for their employees, products, and customer relationships. They need to reconnect with their communities (not just “stakeholders”). As PwC reports, Canadians want to see their leaders setting a clear path towards building trust by giving their people a shared sense of purpose, while also making sure they feel valued, connected and visibly supported.”

For business leaders, 2030 is a global target date for achieving more human-centred workplaces, more responsible production and consumption processes, and more sustainable and inclusive growth. That means more innovation (in products, services, and business methods), "decent work," and partnering with other companies, around the world, to create more win-win relationships. 

Consider Tesla, which became the world's most valuable automaker simply because it saw the need for green energy sooner than its more established competitors around the world.    

This is a manifesto for a new way of doing business – and new ways of thinking about business. Redefining relationships with shareholders, employees, customers and communities. Finding cost-effective energy solutions, decoupling growth from environmental degradation, providing productive employment for all, building better cities, and uplifting marginalized communities so all can share in the bounty of this planet. 

The Government of Canada puts its 2030 mission this way:  “Leave no one behind.”

As the boomers' "greed is good" mentality fades from the boardroom, what values will replace it? How will your business get ahead of this transition? How can you find, attract and motivate new leaders who understand these transformative times and your changing customer base? 

2030 is not just a deadline – it’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity.

By embracing change now, organizations will be in better shape to lead this transformation, become role models, and take advantage of all the new opportunities, relationships and regulations that will emerge as we move closer to 2030.

2030 is not not just about the SDGs. It's about choosing community over self, long-term thinking over short-term, stakeholder rights rather than shareholders' rights, and prioritizing human need over greed.

And it starts with us all, right now.



Monday, February 21, 2022

What items can YOU put in your Proof Book?

To sell more, you need third-party cred. Who have you (or your products/services) most impressed, and how?

The best way to build trust is to have a mittful of testimonials or case studies. In my experience, however, most companies (or salespeople) mismanage this process. They don't keep a record of positive client feedback they've received, and they don't develop customer success stories that they can insert into sales conversations at the drop of a hint.

How do you get better at this? My friend and mentor Tom Stoyan, “Canada’s Sales Coach,” has an answer: Pull out your Proof Book.

Stoyan says: “Since most of us don't like to buy on unsupported facts or claims, develop a resource that can be used to prove the benefits of your product or  company. This could include testimonials, media articles, charts, statistics and   brochures.”

When prospects ask tough questions or express some doubt, hit ’em with your Proof Book: the body of evidence that says you consistently create value for your clients and your community.

What items could you include in your Proof Book?

Think back on all the evidence you've earned overt the years: emails, letters of appreciation, awards, positive media appearances, social media post, speaking opportunities, etc. Whatever documents your products success, or your own stature as a leader in your field. 

Then, ask yourself, what additional stories could you tell if you went back to satisfied clients and asked them for anecdotes or testimonials about your relationship together?

Extra Bonus: If you're looking for a chance to do more work for past clients, contacting them to ask for a testimonial, or some other evidence of the benefits you've generated, may be your secret weapon in rekindling that relationship. 

One more note: sometimes customers have trouble describing their satisfaction, or quantifying the value you've created. Or maybe they're just too busy. Jump on this opportunity! Offer to write the testimonial for them, and say you’ll run it by them for their approval.

Then write something up that you’d like them to say about you. Try to write in their voice, from their point of view. Keep it simple and jargon-free; customers use different language than you do. Be concise. Use strong, upbeat and professional language that will show you and your client in a good light.  

Your contact will appreciate you doing the work for them, and will likely approve whatever text you show them. Confirm that you have permission to reprint this testimonial – and then stuff it into the front of your Proof Book.

 The Voice of the Customer is golden.

Wednesday, February 02, 2022

The Secret of Networking.

I belong to a pretty unremarkable online group on Alignable.com called "All About Networking."

The reason I call it "unremarkable" is that the members display very little interest in networking. And almost no curiosity about how to get better at it. 

People join the network, tell us about what they sell, and then forget they were there. If they do remember, they will probably just conclude that since no one offered to buy from them, networking doesn't work.

So I fired off a post to try to inspire them to aim higher.

And I want to share it with you, too.... 


I am seeing lots of people joining this group to network and learn more about networking.  

​So let's talk about successful networking.

​Networking isn't selling. It's not even prospecting. It's not about telling a group what you do and waiting for someone to call.

​Networking is about getting to know people. Not as prospects or customers, but as people. 

​If you want to sell, get a targeted list and craft an incredible offer for them.

If you want to network, demonstrate a genuine interest in other people and their welfare. 

Tell us more about you, not your product.

Tell us about your interests, travels or hobbies, and let people know you would enjoy sharing thoughts and experiences with like-minded people.

Or offer to help. How could your expertise (or interests) benefit others in this group?​​​ 

Either way, get some great conversations going. Ask lots of questions. Let other people shine.

You'll find yourself meeting cool, interesting people with infinite potential to enhance your life. 

Networking is so much cooler than selling. 


Bottom line: ​Before you "get", you have to give.

​Let people know you care about them, their problems, and helping them succeed.

​That's the secret of networking.



Saturday, November 27, 2021

Keep it simple. Keep it short.

 I had a great coaching call with an entrepreneur yesterday. As he talked about some changes he's making in his business, I began to worry that he hadn't thought his new plan entirely through. So I asked him a question about how he intends to reach his new target market.

I wasn't interested in his detailed marketing plan. I mainly wanted to know if he discerned the same big differences that I did between his former target market and his new market. I feared that retooling his marketing strategy and messaging would be a bigger, more expensive chore than he was planning for.

But it took me a long time to make that point. Because the entrepreneur mistook my question about his marketing plan as a request for more details about the plan. I tried to interrupt a couple of times when he was too deep into the weeds, but he was just getting started and didn't want to stop.

Eventually I just had to say "Whoa." 

You're missing the point, I said. By going into such detail and never once pausing for breath, I said, he was missing a really important learning opportunity.

In all future business conversations, I suggested he start using a trusty best-practice sales tactic: when a prospect asks you a question, don't set off on a long explanation. Give the shortest, simplest explanation you can, and then say, "Can I keep going? Is it okay if I tell you more?"

That's the only way to be sure you're meeting your prospects' needs. Monitor their interest in what you're saying by asking for permission to tell them more. If you're off track, they now have a chance to say so (without seeming rude).  And that gives you a second, better chance to engage them and make sure you're answering their most important questions.

Every entrepreneur knows time is a resource. Few prospects ever give you enough time to say all you want. In fact, the bigger and more important they are, the less time they will likely have for you. So you have an obligation, to yourself and to your prospect/client/
potential ally, to keep your messages as short, clear and simple as possible. 

When you're talking, you're not listening. And the most important part of any sales conversation is what your prospect wants to tell you about their problem or your solution.

Keeping it short - and asking permission to keep going, if you truly think your answer deserves more explanation and context -- is the best way to make sure you address all your prospects' questions and concerns in the short time you have together. 

I've been on both sides of the sales dynamic, as seller and buyer, when the pitchers run out of time. It's always awkward. Prospects get frustrated because they haven't had a chance to express all their questions or concerns. Pitcher find themselves trying to save the situation by either suggesting a follow-up meeting or attempting to close too soon. Such blunders rarely result in successful deals. Mainly, they call into question the professionalism of pitchers who prefer hearing their own voice over that of their customer.

Keep it simple. Keep it short. Check in often to make sure you're on the right track. Ask questions like, "Is this the sort of information you're looking for?" "Can I keep going and tell you more about this, or do you have other issues you'd prefer to discuss?" Questions like these, that ensure you're having a conversation rather than presenting a pre-packaged pitch, inspire confidence and build trust.

My entrepreneur friend was taken aback when I called him out on for excess talking. I had interrupted our pleasant conversation to pull rank and point out where his chatter went off the rails. At first I think he was shocked that I was being so tough on him. But he was professional enough to realize I was trying to refocus him for his own good.

So I was quickly able to steer our conversation back to my main concern: the difficulties of adopting the entrepreneur's new marketing strategy. This time he gave me a concise, professional description of the potential pitfalls. And then, to my delight, he said, "Can I tell you more about how we're going to address these issues?"

Maybe listening isn't a lost art after all.

Friday, August 27, 2021

Social Skills are the Root of Business Success

I was once asked: Why should students learn social skills?

I just rediscovered my answer. It's still worth reading, I think. Especially in these days as more and more people hide behind their phones and Covid has turned going out and meeting people into a lost art.  

Social skills are essential to anyone who believes that interacting with others will be important to their personal or financial futures - which is just about everybody (except maybe lighthouse-keepers).

I define social skills as the behaviours and attitudes that help people interact with each other. This includes showing interest in other people, knowing how to conduct pleasant (and productive) conversations, and understanding social norms (e.g., don't talk with your mouth full, hold the door open for people coming in behind you).

It also includes body language (smile more, slouch less), adapting your behaviour to your setting (e.g., you likely act differently at a business meeting than at the bar with friends), making people feel valued, and finding congenial ways to express your opinions or disagree with others without eroding your personal relationships.

Social skills are essential to success in your career and your personal life. If you go around being rude or missing social cues, you can't expect many friends to hang around. If you are good at getting along with a wide variety of people – colleagues, bosses, subordinates, customers, suppliers, etc. – then you can expect to thrive in most professions.

Indeed, those who master social skills are likely to find themselves more popular and more successful than those who practice these skills half-heartedly. It’s the thoughtful gestures – offering to help someone, sending a thank-you note, or making people feel welcome in new environments – that get you noticed as a leader.

Based on old Hollywood movies, you might think that most business leaders succeed through greed and cunning. In truth, most people advance to the top by displaying social skills – acknowledging individuals’ contributions, making people feel part of a team, and continually extending their network of contacts.

Social skills alone won't get you to the top. But you’ll never get there without demonstrating empathy and respect for others.

Open your eyes, open your heart, and always open doors for other people.


(See also: "Every person is an adventure")

Thursday, August 12, 2021

How to be entrepreneurial

Entrepreneurs aren't just business owners. They actively seek out opportunities to create something better. That might be a new pizzeria, an innovative product line, or a new digital service that will save time and money. Entrepreneurs are society’s most positive change makers.

In fact, social progress depends on entrepreneurs. It wasn’t a corporation or university that developed the telephone, but inventor Alexander Graham Bell. A century later, neither Bell, Kodak nor IBM developed a digital platform for exchanging personal photographs – but a few energetic Harvard undergrads built an online student directory called Facebook.

Going forward, the world will need even more entrepreneurs. They are essential problem-solvers. 
A century ago, cars, airplanes, mines, steel mills, chemicals and expressways became essential elements of daily life. Now we know many of these systems to be toxic. We must swear off of high carbon fuels, unsustainable lifestyles, and unhealthy foods. We need new solutions fast. Big businesses can fund it, big government can regulate it, but only entrepreneurs can come up with speedy solutions at scale.

And not just business needs entrepreneurs. Science, medicine, education, governments, communities and non-profits all face huge challenges today. They all need entrepreneurial leaders who can boost efficiency and develop creative solutions to common problems. Those that embrace innovation will thrive.

Whether you're a leader or a worker, a teacher, student or volunteer, you can contribute more by embracing entrepreneurial approaches. 

How do you start? 

Here are five ways to hone your entrepreneurial edge.

1.    Be curious. Notice how things work. Track the things that irk you and your friends/coworkers. Things that frustrate and peeve are opportunities in disguise. Consider Pierre Omidyar, who wanted a more efficient way to sell his old Pez dispensers, and created eBay.

Flaws in service and product quality may be your best business opportunities. Start with the question, “What if we could…?”

2.    Practice a pro-active mindset. Entrepreneurs are notorious for tackling problems with gusto. (An old joke says that the entrepreneur’s motto is “Ready. Fire. Aim!”) By all means, plan your work before you begin, but chase your ideas with energy and tenacity. If it’s just a side hustle, find time to work on it every day. If you're not sure what to do next, just roll up your sleeves and start doing; a path will emerge. Develop a bias for action: no problem can survive an all-out assault. 

3.    Be a research fiend. If you think you spot an opportunity, don't just start building a new product or service. Research the heck out of your idea first. Find people who are likely prospects for your innovation, and relentlessly ask them how they feel about the current conditions/marketplace. What bothers them most? What would make them buy something new? How much would they pay? How often will they buy? What other solutions would you be competing against? 

Like any good researchers, don't just pay attention to positive evidence. Listen carefully when people pour cold water on your idea. Keep asking what they would buy. Chances are, your first idea won't be the best solution. Winning innovations evolve, over time, based on evolving experience and market feedback. When the research points you to a new path, follow where it leads. 

4.    Build your network. No entrepreneur succeeds alone. Engage with other people to find friends, partners, allies, resources, prospects. Share your ideas with everyone you meet. (Secrets are for the weak). Seek mountains of feedback. 

      Socialize with active, dynamic people who appreciate your passion and energize you with their own. Stay in touch – never let valuable contacts lapse. Create ongoing value for the people in your network – often, the best way to do that is to introduce them to each other. You never know what will result.

Business is primarily about people – and success comes from hanging with the right ones. 

5.    Think bigger. It takes no more energy to pursue a big dream than a small one. Today’s information technology makes it possible for individual and small groups to tackle huge problems. Once you have an idea, "embiggen" it. How can you boost its impact? Look for ways to tweak your innovation, add new features, serve new audiences, and otherwise expand its reach. If you face direct competition, the winner will be the group that scales it ideas to help the most people and create the most value.

 As author, poet and statesman Goethe has said: “Dream no small dreams – for they have no power to move the hearts of men.”

 Good luck in your entrepreneurial pursuits. Let me know how they go.

rick@rickspence.ca

Thursday, May 20, 2021

How to cut through the fog and deliver a winning pitch

This week I was asked by an entrepreneur friend to review a recording of his pitch, along with his PowerPoint deck. I thought his presentation was terrific. But it could have been better.

 When you’re pitching to raise funds or attract customers and supporters to your dream business – one that can benefit many, many people – only the best will do.

So I thought I would share my comments with you. I don't have the entrepreneur’s permission to disclose his details, so I revised my notes to speak to generalities rather than specifics. I hope you will find them useful the next time you go out on a limb to present your dream offer, venture or opportunity.

1.    You rushed right into the presentation without introducing yourself properly. Don't just give us your first name – give us your full name. (Maybe someone in the audience will know your cousin. Bingo! You have a new contact.)

 2.    Most important, tell me more about you. Why are you here, why do you identify with this business or opportunity? Start telling a story. And the story should start with why this project is the most important thing in the world to you right now.

3.    Start early to build your audience’s confidence and trust. As part of your intro, let us know a little more about your background, skills and experiences. Keep it short – but prove to me why you are the ideal person to be promoting the product/project.

4. Be very clear about the problem you're solving. Who will benefit from your solution, and how will it benefit ME? (My friend was actually very good at this. I just added this note now, because it’s such a common problem. 

5.    Can you explain your revenue model better? What is your price point, and how many customers/how much market share will it take for you to break even, or start making a profit?

6.   You mention some quite diverse customer segments. How have you tested these markets to suss out their potential? If you haven't done those tests yet, why do you think this will work? Are there similar products/solutions that your target market already supports? There should be no untested theses in a pitch like this! No one cares about your guesses.

7.    You mention you will be launching in a specific test market. Please explain why you chose this market, and what makes it the best place to start. I want to know you’ve put a lot of thought into this plan.

8.    What is your plan for expanding beyond that first-mover market? When, where, how? (This demonstrates your confidence, as well as good planning skills.)

9.    You briefly mentioned the names of some potential partners. The names alone mean nothing to me, and likely nothing to most of the people you are pitching to. Please give us a few words about each of them to explain why they would be such valuable partners.

10. Plus, tell us how these talks are going. Even if it’s just, “They seem very eager to work with us, as they see that we have the same goals and offer very complementary services.” Not telling us something like this makes me think your negotiations are not going well – or haven't even started. If you haven't begun talking with these partners yet, why are you pitching now? Start building those relationships, then pitch – when you have something other than hopes to go on!

11. You mentioned the names of some important advisors/supporters. You didn’t have time to tell us who they are and why they matter – so why tell us at all? Every aspect of your pitch should add value or position you as a winner who works with other winners. Please give us a few words that show why these people deserve my respect.

12. I think I get what you do and why you're doing it. But I sure would like to have heard a short, punchy mission statement that sums it all up in 10 words or less. Not only does it demonstrate your marketing savvy, it will cut through the clutter like a hot knife through butter.

13. You communicated a lot of good information in just a few minutes. But one thing I missed was “the voice of the customer.” Give us some idea of the feedback you've received so far. (It turns out my entrepreneur friend has done lots of interviews and collected some great quotes. Hopefully he will incorporate them into his next pitch. A solid testimonial is gold. Commitments to buy are even better.

14. (The presentation I saw was recorded on video, with a voice-over by the entrepreneur. Because Covid presents us from meeting in person. But it also puts an additional barrier between you and your audience. So this was my final note:)

Finally: in future videos or presentations, please work on putting more animation into your voice. You're a strong, passionate person, with a big heart. This video is very good, but it doesn't reveal the real you. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse! And smile more often while you’re speaking. Even if people can't see you, they can still hear your smile.

Feel free to share your best pitching tips in the comments below.


Tuesday, March 09, 2021

PitchSolutions: Your source for pithy pitching advice

Does your startup have just too much information to jam into one short pitch? Let me help you nail it!

That's not really an ad. It's the premise of my new focused Twitter channel, PitchSolutions. (Which Twitter of course decided to call @SolutionsPitch.)

Follow PitchSolutions for regular content on developing your startup pitch: who you are, why your business exists, what it's trying to do, how it's gonna get there, who's helping you, and why you are all going to win.  That's a lot of stuff to cram into a five- or 10-minute pitch, but as a lifelong writer and editor (I was  helping my mom mark high-school English papers when I was 13), I know you can get it done.

My tweets draw on my own experience as well as popular experts, book and articles to bring you the most useful intel. To get you fully up to speed, here are some of PitchSolutions' pithiest tweets since its launch last month:


@SolutionsPitch
9 Top Pitching Errors 1 Have no plan. What will you do by when? 2 Exaggerate financials 3 Forecast growth without evidence 4 Say you have no competitors 5 Ignore gaps on your management team 6 Focus only on positives 7 Dwell on problems 8 Read your slides 9 Care only about money



An elevator pitch is a longer, multi-sentence version of your basic short value proposition. Seth Godin: "The purpose of an elevator pitch is to describe a situation or solution so compelling that the person you're with wants to hear more even after the elevator ride is over."


PitchSolutions
Solid thread on getting your positioning right. Read it all. "Your positioning should clearly define your differentiated value and your best-fit customers. Once you know that, you know how to frame the problem your product solves better than anyone else, for your ideal prospects."
Quote Tweet
April Dunford
@aprildunford
·
Sometimes weak messaging comes from a poor framing of the problem you solve. If your definition of the problem isn't rooted in your differentiated value, then you are likely framing the problem incorrectly and could be playing directly to the strengths of your competitors. 1/

One of the most challenging parts of pitch-writing is clarity. Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, emphasizes the importance of clarity: "If I can't get to an investment statement that's statable in 3-7 bullets, usually I won't invest."

From The Startup Pitch, by Chris Lipp

“Build a strong foundation for your presentation by asking three simple questions," says startup guru Guy Kawasaki.

* How much time do I have for my pitch?

* What are the three most important things I can explain?

* Can we hold all questions till the end?

Source: https://t.co/Hkj22IsZyb?amp=1


"Impress potential investors by coming well-armed with details about: * exactly how their money will be spent; * a complete budget of expenses; * and projections that include not only what return they can expect, but over what timeframe."

Be thorough.
Be rigorous. "The more you’re able to show you have a very well-thought-out business plan, the greater your chances of success."

Source: https://quickbooks.intuit.com/ca/resources/funding-financing/small-business-stand-out-pitches/


How to Pitch a Startup, by Martin Jones coxblue.com/17-things-you- Keep your pitch simple Manage the timing of your pitch Tell your story Stay focused Convey the unique value of your startup’s product or service Let potential investors experience your product first-hand (Part 1)

How to Pitch a Startup (part 2 of 3) Be clear on who your target audience is and why Know your numbers Be prepared to support any claims Be passionate and enthusiastic about your startup opportunity Make sure you have a strong close Present a solid startup pitch deck
How to Pitch a Startup (part 3 of 3): Understand how to market your startup’s social value Build a strong support team Practice, practice, practice Hire a professional to help you refine your startup pitch and presentation

The most effective pitches begin long before you start talking. Start by knowing everything you can about your prospect.

Who are they, what are t

heir goals, how fast and how boldly do they move? What kinds of questions do 

they ask? 
If you don't know all this, you're not ready.

PitchSolutions Retweeted
Fundraising? Make a doc for investors, organized by how VCs "de-risk" startups. In each section, derisk your startup! -Founder Risk -Market Risk -Competition Risk -Timing Risk -Financing Risk -Marketing Risk -Distribution Risk -Technology Risk -Product Risk -Hiring Risk


When pitching your startup, be truthful. Sometimes the questions from investors or juries are to assess your credibility, integrity and not your skill or product. Don’t lie. Even on what might seems like very small stuff.

The seven elements of a great pitch: * A plan. * An attention-getting introduction. * A story. * A testimonial. * A surprise! * A call to action. * A memorable finish. If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right.

You have just one chance to make a great first impression.