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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Know the competition and key decision maker before your next pitch

My tactor is GREEN and the others RED.  That is just what you need to improve your business!

Planning a business and developing a sales pitch for customers, partners, or investors is part of the startup effort.  The advantages of the technology or products become part of the CEO’s pitch to show the listener how they will benefit from an engagement with the startup.  Everyone is aware that competition exists.  However, it is not always so easy to determine whether competitors known or unknown visited your audience previously. 
Sometimes a listener asks about your awareness of company X that has similar technology.    On other occasions, they may ask how you differ from other technologies in the same field.  Every entrepreneur believes his or her technology is unique and special.  They cite the advantages and special considerations of why they are the preferred business.  However, many times the CEO and team are not aware of all of their competitors or what the competitive pitches. It is surprising to hear that competitors are claiming to have all they key advantages of your products and team.  It is hard to counter this comment when nothing is known about the competitor.
A great technology has features that separate it from the others.  The benefits are important to define and describe to the listener.  It is critical the listener see how the technology will benefit the customer and how the company will drive use of the product.  Demonstrating these factors is what most CEOs do in their pitch.  The question and answer segment that takes place after the pitch is where surprises can occur.  The following is a summary of a session that stumped the team:
               Customer:  “We love what you have and immediately see the benefits.”
               Company:  “How can we partner to advance the technology?”
               Customer: “You should adjust your pitch to include info which we described as important.  Then plan to give your pitch to person Y. 
               Company:  “Great we will do just that.  Keep in mind the advantages of our technology and   how much it will benefit you.”
               Customer: “You should know there have been a number of companies making a nearly identical pitch and stating they have all the same advantages.  Just keep that in mind when you speak with person Y.”
What happened in this discussion were two very important things; 1) the people the team thought were the decision makers were NOT, and 2) the company was not aware of stealth companies pitching nearly identical technologies.  This happens more than one would like.  It is not enough to have a green tractor while everyone has a different color.  You must have and describe real advantages you bring to the relationship.  This includes a differentiation of your technology from that of the competition.  It is not possible to show how your technology is the best if you have not identified all the competition.  There are unknown competitors, so do not act surprised when someone tells you about them in a meeting.
The key is maintaining a constant vigilance for the competition.  Create a slide as part of your pitch and highlight how and why your technology is better for the listener than others they have seen.   Expect to find someone bring up a company you never heard of or a vague reference to undefined competition.  Make every effort to learn more about the competition and modify your presentation accordingly.  You may get the opportunity to send the listener a follow up email or phone call to describe what you have learned.  If you have the incorrect decision maker, establish whom the best person would be to make a follow up presentation.  Most often, the listeners will provide the info if you ask politely.