I was talking to a friend the other day, and he happens to be a CIO of an $8B company. He was bummed because that day he was tricked in to sitting in a vendor pitch for some software he didn’t need. “It’s a shame that you guys haven’t figured it out,” he quipped. “The good ones you can tell within 5 minutes. But for the guys that get it, you pay for the sins of your peers.”
Reality is, most software sellers get the pitch wrong. Way wrong. It’s really not our fault…well…kind of. I remember joining a very well-known software company in 1999 and it was required that each sales rep memorize a 90 slide corporate overview before you were allowed on your first meeting. Yep…word for word. So, what do you think would happen when they got their first meeting? You got it – we pitched our 90 slides. Sooooo bad….
I’ve become very passionate about pitch execution, but not for the reason you might think. It’s less about the culmination of discovery, a chance to differentiate, and an opportunity to touch senior executives. I’m a fan of this event because it can make the difference as to whether or not an executive will spend more time with you!
Here are the top 10 best practices over my 20 years in software sales:
- Ditch the “who we are” slides. Founded in 19XX, # employees, # customers…blah blah blah. It’s Jr. varsity bro…usually no relevance to the business problem you’re solving and your unique value.
- Opener should never be longer than 15 minutes. If you’re selling apps, perhaps even shorter as the audience wants the demo. The closing should be less than 5 minutes.
- Always introduce your team and why they are there. Never let your pre-sales person introduce themselves…their version is always boring. Even better, have a printed BIO page with each attendee and their relevance to the company you’re selling to.
- Whatever your slide count is, divide it by 4. You always have too many slides…
- Within 5 minutes of your opener, you should have a “why you.” This should be a slide (if not your only slide), it should be simple, and it should be related to their business. One time I was pitching to a restaurant and had a printed custom menu with an acrostic spelling out my win-theme with these letters: E.A.T.
- Your other presenters should be repeating your win-theme early, often, and then summarizing their section with that message.
- Repeat what you heard from specific individuals (with their permission of course)…in addition to making it personal, it shows you are listening and mapping your solution to their pain. Consider having this on a slide or better yet, have it on a print out.
- LESS IS MORE. If you have 90 minutes, prepare 45 minutes of content. In a competitive selection, sometimes branding yourself as the vendor who always finishes early will win hearts.
- Do something memorable. Printing a custom menu with my company’s unique value in the form of a clever acrostic won the hearts of a few members of that selection committee. All solutions can look the same in a long complex selection.
- Have functional differentiation as well as company differentiation and delineate clearly between the two.