Back around 2007, I remember being thoroughly underwhelmed by the CEO of a multinational company our startup competed with. Our companies were summoned by a client in a joint meeting to compete for a bid.
I distinctly remember telling Pao: “The guy didn’t say anything and just wrote down notes. He was so unimpressive.”
Little did I know that not saying anything and taking down notes were quite strategic in one on one sales, so much so in B2B sales. Stubborn that I was, it took me a year or two to incorporate the same strategies in my own sales meetings.
Back then, whenever we did sales pitches, people would always react at how young we were – and this always felt like a hurdle in the selling process. (as the years went by, losing hair and gaining pounds remedied this – ah, the perks of baldness!) This, plus our being rookies in the industry, made me feel a gap in credibility.
So in the back of my mind, whenever I’d go to pitches, I thought – “I have to prove to this person how capable I am.”
So my pitches early on became exercises in hearing all about how great we and our products were.
One BIG problem: clients don’t care about how great you are. They only care about how you can help them out.
I remember seeing this in their faces before: they WANT to say something but I was so busy wanting to blurt out my “piece” that sometimes I didn’t let them get a chance to.
The whole pitch has to be about the client. How can the product help them out? What’s in it for them? It only becomes a great product if they can see how it helps THEM to be great.
Listening and writing down notes are great visual indicators that the client’s needs are precisely what you are prioritizing. I’m not talking about putting on a show though – you really have to listen. Authenticity is pretty easy to sniff out. The client’s needs HAS to be first.
A client who is excited, talking, and feeling good about herself and her company is a much more likely sale than the one who is repressing herself to listen to someone saying how great they are.
Putting themselves first is a great temptation especially for new entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs are entrepreneurs precisely because they have a lot of confidence in themselves. They also usually have a chip on their shoulder – a great need to prove something to the world. Inviting them to talk about their passions could easily turn into a couple of hours of monologue.
Overall, this is a good thing. Entrepreneurs need this to go through the roughest cycles of the job.
Just remember to rein it in sales meetings: just give a concise, well-thought pitch…
And then shut the hey up.