A friend of mine recently emailed me three questions she is struggling with about pre-pitching and I thought I should share the answers here as well.
The three questions were:
"1) Finding the right person and right level: I have a general idea of the department of the person I want to speak with, but how do I figure out if it is the right person?
2. Appropriate method of contact: If I do find them, do I send a LinkedIn message? Or use a sales program to obtain an email address?
3. Pricing: Competitors do not publish their pricing online, so it is difficult to know if we are competitive or how others price. Any insights on how to remedy this?”
For the first question I responded:
I usually think about who would need to be involved in the conversation to get the deal done. Sometimes it is the business team but other times it could be the product or engineering team. I would walk through the selling process and see who needs to be sold on the idea to make it happen. That’s usually the right person to begin with.
For the second question I responded:
I would shy away from blind reach outs. I would use your network to get in front of the right people. It will save you time and rejection. I would use LinkedIn to identify the right person or someone connected to the right person. Then I would find the mutual connections, ask them for an intro (while giving them context) OFF of LinkedIn. Then get a warm intro in. If not possible, then short, blind reach out is ideal.
For the final question I responded:
This is tough. Something we are dealing with now at SocialRank for some more premium stuff. For this I would ask the company you closed (note: the friend had stolen a client away from a competitor but more by chance and was trying to replicate it). I wouldn’t put it in an email, rather I’d get on the phone or meet with them in person and ask what the industry pricing is. Let them know that this is so you can offer a more effective and cost-saving pricing and want to know so you don’t over-price. If they have worked with competitors then they should know, right?
I think these types of things should be shared. What would you have answered?
Now that the cat is out of the bag about my next steps, I have a question that I want to bring up on my blog.
But first a few thoughts. I think Twitter is the most interesting consumer company of our time. I have met some great people, contacts, and eventual friends on Twitter (it’s also a dark-horse professional network). I think Twitter does a poor job of telling me more about the people who follow me. I know very little. I think it would be very interesting to find out more information about my followers. I personally have a long list of things that interest me in finding out (it was one of the reasons Michael and I built MVF way back when). But I’d like to hear from all of you.
What do you want to know about the people who follow you on Twitter? It could be anything from what country they are from to what industry they are in (some of this is covered in twitter ads analytics but not everyone has access to this). It could be to find out who RT’s you the most and who is your most engaged follower. Whatever interests you.
I can’t guarantee that the thing you want to know will be in the final product. We’ll definitely have people’s MVF’s plus a few tangential data points. But if it is something cool we might just knock it out and share it with you.
Hit me up in the comments section or email me at Ataub24@gmail.com.
Two skills learned in college can be honed for the startup workplace. They are, in no order of importance: how to ask good questions and how to effectively communicate.
Asking Good Questions
I am constantly impressed with individuals who ask the right questions. With every field there are thought-provoking questions that the other side can ask showing that they “get” it. In college, ask many questions of your teachers, peers, etc. It’s awesome because you can ask a lot of stupid and wrong questions and it won’t affect anything material. When talking to people I haven’t met before, there can be a question or two asked that helps me see that I’m going to like this person. I’ve written before about the best interview questions a candidate can ask. I truly believe good questions are what sets candidates apart at later stages of the interview process, because at that point everyone is qualified for the role. That it is time to weed out the people who think/question better. Use college as an opportunity to get better at asking questions.
When I think of effective communication, I think of writing and in-person speaking. If you learn how to properly express yourself and your thoughts, there is no more powerful tool. In the startup world, effective communication is key to a successful founder/team member. If you can’t get your ideas on paper or understood by others, it doesn’t matter how cool/smart/innovative your ideas are; they won’t go anywhere. In college, start writing and take some speech classes. Speak publicly as often as you can. The only way to get better at talking in public is by talking in public often. College is a great time to master the art of communication.
While these are two skills you can learn in college, if you haven’t mastered them by now, go for it. Start writing, speaking publicly, and asking everyone around you questions. It is never too late to improve these necessary skills. And once you are good, they will surely come in handy.