Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things Media

The 5 Mistakes You’re Still Making When Pitching Me

I get cold/blind pitched. I get cold/blind pitched a lot. Actually, when I first started at Campbell, I was even pitched by investment companies, who had read the press release announcing my hire and assumed that I negotiated a better deal than I had :)

Apparently, your name in a press release means you just earned million-dollar-a-year job. Yes, I’m serious.

Also, having worked agency side for nearly a decade, I’ve done a lot of pitching. Pitching and being pitched are simply part of the business we’re in. It’s a fact. It’s been that way for decades. It’ll continue being that way for decades.

Sold

I get it. Really, I do. But, just because I accept that pitching is part of the way of life for our industry, doesn’t mean I enjoy it. The problem isn’t pitching. It’s not. After all, we’re all in the business of persuasion. And persuasion is an art. It’s not a science. There’s no perfect formula for pitching perfectly. If there were a formula, we’d all be applying it at our organizations. And while there is no formula to guarantee success, I can attest there are things you should stop doing, if you want to even have a chance.

  1. Stop Using LinkedIn Requests As A Sales Tool: This one is simple right? Maybe, I’m not judicious enough about who I connect with on LinkedIn. Maybe, I’m at fault here. I accept some blame. But, last time I checked, when you send me a LinkedIn request, it doesn’t say, “By, accepting this request, you agree to letting me bombard your inbox with messages about how my company can help your company.” My acceptance of your LinkedIn request does not mean I want to hear your pitch. The LinkedIn connection acceptance is as passive as putting my business card in your fishbowl for a chance to win a free burrito. It is. I’m sorry, if you think it means more. It doesn’t. When you try to take our “relationship” to the next level, by calling or emailing, it just makes me wish we hadn’t even gotten connected in the first place. If you want to follow-up with an email or message that says: thanks, glad we’re connected, if you’re ever interested in connecting in-person, here’s my info; that’s totally appropriate. But, delivering me your form email with mis-matched font style, size and color, is a complete fail for me.
  2. Don’t Assume Things Are Simple: It’s all about timing and context. For example, let’s say you’re a SaaS provider who has the most amazing social media blah blah blah tool, that I absolutely must have. And, for a second, let’s assume I agree with you. Great right? Here’s the thing, I probably already have an incumbent that I’m somewhat happy with and contracted to work with for some duration of time. So, I’m probably not looking to make a change. Not just because of the pain that comes from switching partners. That’s actually the easy part. But, if, I’ve assumed a budget of 100K for XYZ type of partner and you want to unseat them, not only do you have to have a better product/offer, but you need to price you platform in a way that allows me to switch at no incremental cost. Here’s the problem with that for most companies who are pitching. Let’s say your platform is not only the most amazing platform out there, but it’s 50% cheaper than my incumbent. Great in theory, except, I still need to terminate my existing contract, which probably has a 30 or 60-day out clause. I also can’t afford a service interruption. So, I’m probably going to need your platform running at the same time as my incumbent, while we transition. If you charge me for that, which you should, you’re no longer 50% cheaper, are you? I haven’t even gotten into the teams that need to review things. We have legal, procurement, finance, the people using your platform and other stakeholders – all teams/people who need to get involved. In a non-SaaS world it’s even more complex. Not only do you need to have a better offering, but there needs to be a real project with a real budget to work on. It’s not like, in a span of a few days, I can simply tell one agency and the internal teams working with that agency, you’re no longer working on X; this new agency is. Be realistic.
  3. Stop Spamming My Organization: Yes, I said SPAMMING. When you send the same UNSOLICITED message to a litanie of people…who by the way, just end up forwarding all the emails to me for follow up, which fills up my inbox…it’s SPAM. Here’s what I think when I see this happen: wow, this company has zero ethics. And if you have zero ethics when you’re pitching, why would you all of a sudden gain ethics when we’re doing business together? When you do this, I simply put you on “ice.” What does that mean? It means I email you, to let you know you’ve crossed a line. Then, you go into a folder, where I ignore your requests for 6 months to a year. If my direct message to you about crossing the line, doesn’t stick, and you continue emailing, I forward your info to our procurement team and indicate your organization does not meet the ethical standards we have and as such should be disqualified from future opportunities, until we believe you do meet our ethical standards. In one such situation, while employed at a previous company, we had to go so far as to suppress all emails coming from a company’s domain.
  4. Stop Trying To Go Above Me Or Around Me: This is a slight variation of the “Stop Spamming My Organization” section, but it’s an important one. We believe that this is a business of relationships. I get that. On many levels, it is. But, never make the mistake of believing that your relationship with someone in my organization is stronger than the relationship I have to the key decision makers or my organization. It’s counter productive for you to call upon your friend/buddy/former client/etc. and request of him/her to have me review your organization. I know how this works. You’re making the assumption that now that you have your foot in the door and the opportunity to “pitch,” I’ll be so blown away by what your saying, that I’ll of course want to work with you. Unfortunately, you’ve made a critical error with this thinking: I’m taking the meeting with you, not because I’m interested, but because it’s a courtesy. That means, my mindset is to get in, get out and get back to the real work that drives meaningful growth for my organization. Net-net, you’ve just made me waste 2 hours and that doesn’t exactly make me want to work with you.
  5. Don’t Exaggerate: Here’s the thing; this is a small world. It’s really small. It’s made even smaller, every day, by platforms like twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. When you’re in a role like mine, you have a long and diverse “rolodex” of people in similar roles, at other companies, who are generally willing to share knowledge. We’re a tight knit community and I’ve found we usually try to help one-another out. If you tell me your doing ABC for company XYZ, it better be 100% truthful, because inside of 24 hours I’ll be able to connect with someone at company XYZ who can tell me the truth. The number of times, I’ve read an email from someone pitching how they are the company who did ABC for client XYZ, only to find out that they only played a bit part and clearly exaggerated, is too many to count. Be real. Be honest. Be candid. If you don’t, I’ll eventually find out, which doesn’t help you in the short-term or long-term.

Look, I don’t envy people who have to pitch or sell their company. It’s a tough job. Incredible tough. But, I promise you, you’re just making it tougher on yourselves and your organization if you’re doing any of the 5 above. Time is money. In this business, it really is. Don’t waste my time and I won’t waste yours. Deal?

  • http://twitter.com/nickcicero Nick Cicero

    I agree with the LinkedIn advice…I’m so sick of getting pitch requests through LinkedIn. 

  • http://twitter.com/rileygibson Riley Gibson

    Adam – really appreciate your honest thoughts on this.  I am guilty of a few of these, and it puts things in perspective and helps me to empathize with what you are up against.  I am a founder of a startup and do not have a lot of pitching experience, so it has been a long learning process.  Do you have some thoughts about companies that have approached you in the right way?  Does it just come down to you hearing about technologies and vendors from your network?  

  • http://www.thekmiecs.com/ adamkmiec

    Riley-

    Thanks. I’ve worked with a lot of startups in the past and currently do. Curalate, Unmetric, PageLever and EdgeRank Checker are just a few. I can tell you that repeatedly, those that have asked to share their product for feedback…not for the purposes of selling it as is…have been ones who have broken through.

    Adam

  • Ashnika

    Insight

  • Ashnika

    Insightful. Def tips to take into account as a startup. 

  • Rich West Blatt

    Well said, Adam.  Probably most of these things could be at least partially mitigated by remembering that there’s a human being on the other end of these interactions as you’re hoping to make your pitch.  Empathy and a bit of life experience goes a long way.

  • Scott MZ Taylor

    Adam well done! I’ve been on the pitching side my whole career and it’s rare to hear this type of perspective. I think most buyers think it but never express it. If you give someone a clear rubric on how to succeed (or in this case how not to) the smart ones will follow it. Thanks for your thoughts.

  • http://twitter.com/rileygibson Riley Gibson

    Thanks so much for the reply Adam! – this is a very helpful insight.

  • http://twitter.com/TedRubin Ted Rubin

    Build relationships for relationships sake… the business will come when the time is right.