by Kim Lavine
Whatever you do, MAKING SALES IS JOB ONE.
How to make a sale
It is obviously something not being taught in today’s institutions of higher learning. The world of sales-making has definitely changed with the advent of voicemail and emails, with a whole new book of rules and business etiquette that requires the salesperson to speak faster, get to the point quicker, and just show the buyer the money already!
The modern world, has succeeded in making us all busier with every shortening attention spans and ever lengthening to-do lists. The start-up entrepreneur has to understand the new and as of yet unwritten rules of doing business in a world where your wandering email or droning voicemail can be deleted with one sigh of exasperation and a simple push of a button.
If you’re going to succeed as a start-up entrepreneur, you’re going to have to master a few of the basic pitches for doing business. All of them present separate challenges and protocols, which, when mastered, will return you heart-racing success and million dollar prospects.
Shaking hands is a skill especially in need of teaching to women, who are relatively new to this old-boy formality. The first thing to do when greeting a new business acquaintance is to extend your hand with the statement,
“Hi, I’m Kim Lavine. It’s nice to meet you.” Look them in the eyes and smile. Make sure your hand is far out in front of you, and your voice is prominent, so it’s clear that you are in the lead and demand a response—don’t ever wait until someone offers his or her hand first unless you are being being formally introduced by a third party.
The more confident person is always the person who extends the greeting first
Push your hand firmly into the other person’s hand until your thumbs lock, grasp the hand with enough of a squeeze to imply confidence and self-assurance, then shake it up and down counting “one thousand one, one thousand two.” Disengage and move on to the next person, asserting your presence with a big smile to each member of the group until you’ve mastered them all.
Don’t ever give them the “Bill Clinton,” which is accompanied by the other hand on the back or arm, unless you’re in Clinton’s class of schmoozing, of which he is the undisputed king.
The Elevator Pitch
This pitch is basic to all pitch-making, and once mastered can be used in a multitude of situations, including introducing yourself at business meetings to answering your curious neighbor’s or doctor’s inquiries as to “What is it that you do?”
This pitch should never be more than thirty seconds long. Try timing yourself while speaking, and you won’t believe how short thirty seconds is and how few words you’ll get to utter before your microwave timer beeps. Remember you have to start with the handshake, so there goes five of your thirty seconds. In the remaining precious seconds, always finagle a business card out of your day planner while seamlessly speaking your twenty-five second pitch. It should go something like,
“Hi, I’m Kim Lavine, President of Green Daisy, manufacturer of the newest retailing phenomenon the Wuvit, $2 Million dollars in retail sales in just over two years on a product I made as Christmas presents for my kids’ teachers! Could I please have your card? I’d love to send you some samples!”
Mission accomplished. You introduced yourself, exuded confidence while firmly shaking her hand, showed her the money, and asked for the sale, all in the time it took to ride the elevator up to the seventh floor. No matter that they don’t know what it is you actually sell at the moment, they’re mesmerized and impressed by your confidence and will hand you their card.
The Cold Call Pitch
Here is the real art of the deal. I have gotten million dollar accounts from cold calling.This is an upgraded version of your elevator pitch, spun with a lot of old fashioned charm, hereafter defined as schmooze.
Since you are not face-to-face, you have to improvise new techniques to establish a personal connection with that busy switchboard operator on the other end of the phone who may or may not be having a good day. You have to get her attention and get her to give you precious information, usually within a minute’s worth of time, maximum. Fortunately for you, she’s familiar with this process.
You’re not the first person to cold call Macy’s after all. Whether you succeed where others have failed, all depends on how good your pitch is.
The Email Pitch
If you’re lucky enough to get somebody’s email address, don’t waste it by writing a long, boring email. The most important element of any email pitch is the subject line, which the recipient sees displayed in her inbox. Most buyers get countless numbers of emails a day. You have to make yours standout and provoke her enough to open yours and read it.
Show her the money, while saying something clever. When writing the body of the email, never make it longer than what you see displayed on your screen. Try to use bullet points or bold typeface to focus the attention on the key things you want to emphasize.Always end your email by asking for the sale. An example might be, “what would it take to bring this great product to your stores for a test?”
The Voicemail Pitch
This is a world dominated by voicemail, so you have to perfect this pitch. Rule number one, it can’t be more than thirty seconds long. Nobody likes to hear long voicemails that drone on repeating the same information. Rule number two, make sure you introduce yourself first by name, along with the name of your company and your phone number, said slowly enough that the buyer can actually write it down.
One of my pet peeves is people who say their phone number so fast I have to replay a message three times to get it. In fact, never talk to anybody on the phone without first introducing yourself with your name and your company’s name. Leave your short message, using your elevator pitch as the basis, then repeat your name, company and phone number again at the end so that they can write down the information they may have missed the first time.
The Airplane Pitch
I was once on a flight to New York, sitting next to a man whom I had ignored the entire time. It was only after we had landed, when we were getting ready to get off the plane, someone casually asked him what he was doing in New York. “Oh, I manage a capital investment firm,” he answered. “We’re pretty big, based in Westchester County, New York.” I immediately took out my business card, gave him my ten second pitch while he stared in amazement, taking out one of his cards at my request and handing it to me.
“That was the best pitch I’ve ever heard in my life,” he said. “I gotta hand it to you. On an airplane—never had that happen to me before. I specialize in life sciences exclusively. But if I didn’t, we’d definitely be talking.” Believe it or not, there were even bigger fish whose cards I would soon extract using the same stealth mode.