As many of my innovative clients prepared to do their first customer pitches, I noticed something. These entrepreneurs did a good job talking about their product or service, but many of them really weren't able to connect with potential customers.
Their presentations focused more on themselves than on the needs of the customer attached to the would-be sale they were trying to make. Presentations can share something about a young company, but they should really be designed to enable a customer to see how a product and service will work for him or her.
So here are three suggestions to help you not make this mistake when presenting to potential customers:
- Get to know your potential customer in a real way. Do your research and figure out who they are and what's important to them. Get to know their vision and goals, any initiatives they have in place, their method of operations, their community outreach efforts, who's a part of their management, and so on. Spend some time on their website looking for general company information and reading their annual report; you may be surprised at what you learn. What's the point? You want to incorporate the "intersections" between their operation and yours into your presentation. Whenever possible, use their words to illustrate your points. Use your potential customer's words to explain why you will make a good partner for them.
- My second point closely follows my first: create a good business case for the match or partnership. If you cannot do this, perhaps they're not such a good potential customer for you. This is the classic "you-have-a-problem-and-I-have-the-solution" moment, but it is also more than that. You are uniquely equipped to solve their problem because you can demonstrate how you'll solve it with what is uniquely important to their company. In my experience, I have seen the impact of this strategy take entrepreneurs to another relationship level with companies. Suddenly, you are on their team because "you get it."
- Finally, know what you want. Be as specific as possible with your "ask." Don't go in hoping to create a relationship but not knowing what that relationship should look like from your perspective. Your perspective is now informed by the research you did and case you made in points one and two above, so your ask should be in line with your potential customer's expectations. This will give you a better shot at success.
Remember, as an entrepreneur pitching to potential customers, it is not about you so much as it is about your future customer.
Lamont Mackley is a Senior Advisor for JumpStart. Lamont spent most of his career in the banking industry, where he led three community banks as president and CEO. His ability to create environments of high achievement led to his selection as leader of two entrepreneurial businesses, providing him with insight into the challenges of managing such enterprises. These experiences fueled Lamont’s daily passion for working with and coaching entrepreneurs and their growing companies. He attended Boston University for his BS and Columbus School of Law, Catholic University, for his JD. He also has led a series of workshops and seminars on economic and business development.