A Tale of Two Pitches

I spent two days in Seattle a few months ago for a business trip, and as I walked to the rental car desk I had a realization. I have no pitch materials. No deck, no slick flyer, and no demo. I had five great meetings scheduled and no shwag to offer.

My co-founder had just heard an earful from a client for this type of informal pitching. He was told it was unprofessional and we should always show up with a plan. Was I making a mistake? In this post I pose the question, what makes a great sales meeting? Should it be a pitch, where the prospect knows he’s getting the dog and pony? Or should it be a discussion, without fancy slides and slick demos?

In my experience, less is more. However you should always be prepared. For these particular meetings, I had a few simple questions written in my notebook and relevant writing samples, and I studied their company prior to the meeting. When I arrived, we shook hands and I started asking a few relevant questions:

  • How do you use content for marketing?
  • Who writes it?
  • Do you test it? How?
  • How much do you estimate your content costs?

At this point in the discussion, I’ll be able to gauge how interested they are in Scripted. Granted, the people I met with were already warm, referred in from friends and colleagues, but they didn’t necessarily know the value we provide. Likewise, I didn’t know what their budget is for content production. Asking open questions like these helps me learn and keeps the conversation going.

I think that it works. Of the five meetings I had, one has already replaced their current content vendor with us and one is currently in an extended trial to see if we can help them scale without hiring more writers. No demo. No deck. Just two people talking about content marketing. I’ll turn on the sales heat for my follow ups so the conversation stays fresh, but I like setting the tone from the beginning that this is just as much their idea as mine. It makes the close that much easier.

Sometimes this informal approach can backfire. It needs to be followed up with professional, best-in-class service and delivery once the deal is closed. But that’s true no matter what. If you’re not the best at what you do, why are you selling?

My takeaway: don’t be afraid to have a discussion. Go in naked; don’t use props as a crutch. Sales is about connecting, and who will you trust more, the guy with only answers, or the one with mostly questions?