Making Your Pitch to a Company for the First Time
Our guest blogger Roger Brown is a freelance Inventor who has successfully marketed tools, toys and a kitchen utensil. You can see some of his inventions at www.rogerbrown.net. He has graciously agreed to share with readers of AmericanInventorSpot.com some valuable advice on how to prepare for your pitch.
Here's his article:
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It is surprising how much thought and time an Inventor will put into their idea and how little time they will put into how they are going to pitch it to a company. Your pitch matters as much as, if not more than the idea. If you can’t convey your product's benefits in a short and concise manner, you can kill your chances with a company.
I have been approached numerous times by Inventors seeking help with an idea. Once a nondisclosure has been signed between us, I would say tell me about the invention. 98% of the time they are still trying to get the idea across to me 12 minutes later. They stammer and forget what they were saying and have to start over. Now, I am not trying to be cruel here. I am just relaying cold hard facts. Do not pitch your idea to any company unless you can explain your idea in one minute... two minutes tops. Time is money to companies seeking new ideas to expand their product line. The longer you take, the more reluctant they will become.
As I have always said “Would you rather read a pamphlet or a novel to understand someone’s idea?” Think about it, for the majority of Inventors, most of your contact will be over the phone with a company. I have products with companies where I have never personally met anyone. I have been only dealing with them over the phone and email.
So, you have to have a plan of action before you pick up the phone. How many times have you picked up a phone to call someone, dialed the number and then forgot who you called? Do you think that gains you any points when the person answers and you don’t know their name?
What I am about to say may sound like common sense but you could fill a stadium with the amount of people that don’t think to do this. Keep a legal pad beside you when you call a company. Especially the first time you call asking for the contact person in their company that handles outside Inventors. You will most likely be speaking to a receptionist or operator. If they know the right department, most of the time they will say” I’ll connect you” before you know who they are connecting you too.
This is awkward when that person answers and you have no idea who you are talking with. If I get a receptionist or operator I always say “Could you give me the name and extension of the person who handles outside Inventors? This prompts them to tell me who I am getting and now I can call them directly if they don’t answer their phone.
I found this technique out the hard way. The operator put me through to someone, they didn’t answer. So, I had to call back later and ask again for the person who handles outside Inventor. The receptionist said "Didn’t you call a little while ago?" Save yourself the embarrassment and look more professional by knowing who you want and being able to ask for them by name. Check out their website before you call. Sometimes they will have a listing of employees you can scan for the right person.
You can also get the receptionist or operator that wants to filter their boss’ calls who will ask you “What company are you with?" That is not the time to go, uuuummmmm UUUhhhh. That person will consider you a nuisance and the chances of your call going through are extremely low. Haven’t you known people that just seem to be able to get into any party or walk into a crowd and people don’t question them being there? Why? Because if you act like you belong, people assume you do. The same applies over the phone. If you speak like you know what you are doing, people assume it is true.
You don’t start the conversation saying “Mr. or Mrs. ______ doesn’t know me, but I would like to speak with them.” Instead try “Could you connect me to Mr.or Mrs._____ please?” If you have called before and didn’t get them because they were in a meeting you can use “Is Mr. or Mrs. ______ out of their meeting?” That let’s you know if he or she is in or not. Plus, the receptionist assumes you have spoken with him or her before because you asked if they were still in a meeting.
Here is a list of items you should always write down about your idea and have by you when you are on the phone. You may never use it, but it is always there is you go blank.
- Your product's benefits (What makes it stand out over what is already on the shelf? Etc...).
- Your target market (Make sure it is a market they attract. Don’t pitch something that is for newborns to a tweener company).
- A fax number so they can fax paperwork to you.
- Your email address (You wouldn’t believe how many people forget that when they are nervous).
- Have a list of some of that company's products listed. They like to know you researched them and are familiar with their line.
- Their time zone versus yours. You don’t want to call a place in California at 10am Eastern time. It is 7am there. The same goes for calling New York from California just reversed. If you call at 3pm Pacific time. You would be calling them after they went home.
Write down as much info as you need to be prepared. Just make sure you can read it. Practice your pitch. See if it sounds dumb to you or like you know what you are talking about and have done this before. Remember, if you don’t have confidence in your product why should they?
Good luck pitching! : )