The First 100 Days

Tech Startup Day #1. Terrified of cold calling. Read Dan Pink’s book instead. Here’s what I learned…

To sell is human

It’s day #1.

I’m starting a software company, but I don’t know anything about selling. I don’t know anything about marketing or how to find customers either. I’m good with people but I hate the idea of cold calling people, so I’ve spent the day procrastinating. It’s now late and I am tired.

I’ve set myself the target to contact 50 businesses each week to try to understand their problems and offer my services. I’ve been in software development since the year 2000 – it’s an industry all about solving problems – so I’m confident that I can help businesses with their IT problems given a chance. Whether you’re writing apps that run on million pound mainframe computers or smartphones, it all the same underneath really. All I need are some businesses to help and I’ll be away.

So… rather than diligently cold calling businesses I decided to read Daniel H Pink’s book, “To Sell Is Human”. Well I say read: I read the intro, saw that the first two sections were about understanding how the sales landscape has changed and the sort of person you now need to be to survive, and I skipped on to “Part Three: What to do”.

Part Three is broken down into:

  • Pitch
  • Improvise
  • Serve

The Pitch describes the modern variations of the elevator pitch – the classic, “You’ve got 10s to describe your business and make me want to buy something.” Daniel outlines six different types of pitch for the modern era, and its these that I’m going to explain and try to apply to my own business. Please let me know what you think.


The one-word pitch

The first pitch is the one-word pitch. Its the essence of you company distilled into a single work. Think “search” think Google and the other way around. Daniel suggests iteratively distilling your message down until you have just a few words. In there somewhere should be your one-word pitch.

TeamUp’s one-word pitch: Together.


The question pitch

Can you afford to not have a question pitch in your sales repertoire? See what I did there?

The research says that posing questions causes people to think more deeply about your offering. If your offering is strong then this is a good thing and the person will be more likely to buy your product/service etc. For weak or ambiguous arguments however do not pose the question pitch as it has the opposite effect.

TeamUp’s question pitch: Do you want to be left behind, when your competitors are innovating and breaking in to new markets?


The rhyming pitch

Rhymes stick in the mind and carry more weight. If something rhymes we are more likely to think its true.

“A stitch in time saves nine” seems fairly obvious, but “Beer before wine, always fine” is a bit more controversial. Always? Really? Anyway, you get the idea.

TeamUp’s rhyming pitch: TeamUp are the ones to trust. The others will be left for dust.

Sorry, its late and that’s the best I can do 🙁 Please chip in of you have anything better.


The email subject line pitch

This is basically the art of clickbait. There is science behind his advice, as studies have shown that email subjects that suggest something is useful, are specific and leave you wanting more info do lead to more opens.

TeamUp’s pitch: Discover the 4 ways to solve your IT headaches and grow your business


The Twitter pitch

Similar to the one-word pitch in that the restricted nature of the format forces you to be concise. Daniel recommends keeping your tweet to 120 characters, so that there’s space left for people to re-tweet you.

TeamUp’s pitch: We take ownership of your IT headaches so you can focus on growing your business, finding new customers and innovation  (118 chars)


The Pixar pitch

The final pitch is the Pixar pitch. Storeys sell is the basic message and Pixar are pretty much the best when it comes to storey telling. A former Pixar employee, Emma Coats, cracked the formula of how all Pixar films are structured:

Once upon a time___________________________. Every day_________________________________. One day__________________________________. Because of that_____________________________. Because of that_____________________________. Until finally_______________________________.

Just fill in the blanks and you have your very own fairytale. Simples.

TeamUp’s pitch: Once upon a time a small to medium sized business was just about fed up to the back teeth with their IT systems. Every day someone would have to restart the server, or manually copy information from one system on to another, which took time and was very frustrating. One day the boss said, “Right, enough is enough. We need to look at streamlining and automating what we do”. Because of that they searched for local IT service providers and tried to find someone they could trust. Because of that they brought in TeamUp and worked with them to make their systems more reliable and better connected. Until finally their systems were humming away nicely, nobody had to restart anything and they could spend their time thinking about how to grow the business and innovate. The end.


Applying this to your business

My advice would be to read “To sell is human” (I’m not on commission) and then give the 6 pitches a whirl. If you have a marketing team it would be a great exercise. Better still you could send out a challenge to your whole company to come up with the best storey or rhyme pitches.


Well that’s it for tonight. I will try to ring some businesses tomorrow. The bad news is that I have four more books on marketing and business startups to read, which I may find distracting. Either way I will blog anything I learn that’s worth sharing.


TTFN. Dom.

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