Over the past three years, I have spent countless hours meeting with startups and emerging media players across ad targeting, next gen video, set top box providers, software, hardware, social, mobile, semantic systems and gaming. Different tech companies have different perspectives and approaches, but here are a few key best practices that I have seen blossom or implode.
- The Intro - Cold calls should have died in the 90s. Get on Facebook, get on Twitter, get on LinkedIn and find someone you both know. Find a shared passion and make sure it's real. If they blog, read it. If they are senior and have a public passion (sports?), find a ball game or a major conference and invite them to join you. Start the relationship out right. Only cold call if you are a pro, and even then, avoid it like the plague. Do not, ever, send a meeting invite before introducing yourself.
- The Players - Who makes the pitch is almost as important as how you make it. Don't bring in your principles unless they are very experienced in sales or are very big names. Principles have invested so much blood, sweat and tears into the product, that they want to share their accomplishments. While your accomplishments are nice, you are here to sell, not to read your resume.
- The Materials - Powerpoint isn't evil. Come in with a pitch, a product to sell, and a catalyst for a conversation. Bring structure to the meeting.
- The Pitch - Make your key points clear in the invite and your opening sentence. Set the tone for the meeting in your invite and your introduction. If you want to mind-meld and pick people's brains, set expectations in advance. We respect your tech and we may have ideas for how to bring it to us, but the conversation needs to start with a value prop discussion. Come in with focus and prepare to be flexible.
- The Tone - You are likely here to generate leads. Take feedback. Don't worry about your Powerpoint. Listening is just as important as talking. Get your sales leads talking and get them smiling. Get your key points lined up in advance and get them across in your opening. Do not focus on your materials. They are necessary gravy. Expect nothing.
- The Place - Whenever possible, meet in person. If the timing is right, bring lunch or offer to take someone to lunch, especially if they are more senior within their organization. If you present via WebEx or the like, schedule a follow up in person next time you are in town. Nobody buys off a WebEx.
- Follow Up - Do not add us to all of your email lists. We don't care about every press mention. Do not stalk your leads. One or two follow up emails and a phone call or two is it. If you aren't getting a response, it's likely because they weren't wowed or don't have a live opportunity for you. Unless you made a strong connection, you probably shouldn't send Facebook requests after just one meeting. DO NOT ask for a sales lead to send you an email about anything. Don't ask them to send you a client list, don't ask them to write up their ideas for your business, or requests for consultation. They are your customers, not your consultants.
- Keeping in Touch - We are responsible for our own businesses. Keep it real. Reach out when you have real opportunities or something really new to share. To be totally honest, we love to see great things, but we may not care to join your developers for drinks on a weekend in your office building.
- Advisory Boards - If you have a relationship with someone, respect their opinion and honestly believe that they believe in your product, they may be able to help advise on the future and direction of your organization. Remember, your decision to invite them is about your business, but your invitation and communications are all about them. There are three reasons why east cost agency people join advisory boards. Agency equity (reputation, networking, access), personal equity (reputation, networking, investment shares) and client equity (working on behalf of a client).