When delving into the subject of pitching to your first client, it’s always helpful to hear from the experts who’ve perfected the art. Harvard Business Research has a great case manual for helping you close your clients better. Some of the best cold-callers, sales heads, and business development professionals are all about perfecting the art of the pitch. Steve Jobs’s relentless pursuit of seeing Steve Wozniak’s invention to the larger market is a case study and building the largest company ever made is a feat that’s unmatched. So, what does Steve Jobs say about sales?
Belief in the product/service
The audience at the Homebrew Computer club wasn’t really into the idea of buying printed boards without the personal computer hardware included in the deal. This was Steve Jobs’s niche audience. This was his core target demo, and even they wouldn’t have the product that would have changed the way they computed. Jobs hustled onwards until he found someone who was willing to pay $500 each on delivery.
Jobs needed a bank loan but nobody would give him one, and so he had to sell the idea of his company to a bank manager. He was finally able to convince the manager of Cramer Electronics to call Paul Terrell to confirm that he had really committed to a $25,000 order, which led to his first customer signup.
In essence, it wasn’t easy, and Job’s hustle and intent on the success of the product was what carried him forward. It’s a good lesson to learn from, and an important subject area of “believing in your product”. That’s the first step of pitching to a client.
Prospect your ideal customer
One of the biggest reasons why startups fail is poor product-market fit and timing. One of the deep-rooted causes behind that is bad brand positioning and marketing. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to get to your audience (like the big brands), and in fact all you need to do is to hyper-focus on who your specific client is, and then find out what they do, where they conduct business, and where they network. That is the process of prospecting.
Let’s look at “The Gentleman Grafter” Joe Ades, who died a millionaire by selling $5 vegetable peelers on the streets. Probably the best case study, right? But here’s his process. He prospected his target demographic. At the price-point of $5 and the gifting option at $10+, he made the buying process easier.
What made Joe also successful was that he found out where his target demographic had the most amount of attention span, and provided them a pitch that was convincing in action – a tele-shopping/QVC style presentation on the streets. Now he could have tried his hand at a local bar, or a meet-and-greet, but he decided to go where his audience was. His audience was chiefly young women who were heading back from their workplace during rush-hour. He sold them time and convenience when they really needed some. (Fun Fact: His daughter put herself through Colombia University using the same techniques of prospecting, tenacity, and patience.)
Focus on closing
Closing is a highly underrated quality and one that focuses more on negotiation rather than hard selling – focusing on the closure of the conversation, deal, or RFP is crucial. Alan Alford, the top salesman at Geico, says it best, “I generally have empathy about what you want to accomplish when you call. I use that to my advantage." He closes 12-15 insurance policies a day with this technique. Basically, sales is all about understanding the needs of your customers and closing a deal that works best for them and for your own self.