Brendan Dell, a freelancer, author & public speaker, joins our host, Camela Thompson, in this episode of the Revenue Marketing Report. Brendan shares his insights on how the right pitch can influence an organization, how to find the perfect buyer, and what marketers should focus on to grab the attention of their audience.
Brendan works and lives in Bend, Oregon. He has been working in the tech industry for the last 15 years. At the moment, Brendan runs an early-stage growth accelerator called Tech Accelerate. Brendan and his team help B2B SaaS companies grow beyond initial product-market fit to build scalable go-to-market engines. At the beginning of this chat, Brendan explained in detail how the right pitch can influence an organization as a whole.
How can the right pitch influence a company as a whole?
“I think about what you are trying to do as a marketer. You are trying to create demand for a product, right? You are trying to create some emotional resonance with a group of people. Whoever your ideal customer is and having those people believe that your product is the right thing for them. Ideally, the upstream of doing that sort of bottom funnel. Like the analysis of this feature or that feature. And there’s actually plenty of good data around this. There is a study called The Long & the Short of It. They looked at what drives effectiveness in B2B marketing. What kind of marketing drives the biggest results of different companies at different stages and so forth?
“What they found was that essentially optimizing for fame in B2B is what drove the biggest results. So what does optimizing for fame mean? It means somebody thinks that you’re the category leader, which means you are the best choice for them. The pitch is the unit you can use to scale that positioning. You want to be known. We take a company called Check which is a unicorn. They recently raised their Series C. They positioned themselves as a go-to-market security. This was a category they created. It’s not something that existed before. By unifying the whole organization around one pitch, one idea, and one story, they’re then able to create consistency and create mindshare in that market.
“As a marketer, you are then succeeding and doing your job, which is to have people coming in who are in a buying cycle who already believe you’re the right choice for them.”
I had somebody boil this down really succinctly. So basically this person said messaging the pitch. Basically, you are trying to evoke an emotional response from someone who has zero context about who you are and what you do. The reason why many companies struggle with creating a concise and accurate pitch is that they’re really close to the product and what they do as an organization is they already have context. Brendan agrees.
“I absolutely agree with that statement. I think it’s very astute. And the other reason that companies struggle is they lack clarity about their buyer. They see a lot of opportunities and use cases for a given technology and they don’t want to focus and they’re uncertain of exactly the pain they’re solving in many cases. Somebody told me something on my show Billion Dollar Tech the other day. He is the founder of Oyster HR, another unicorn company.
“ He was saying that too many organizations out there have solutions looking for problems and it is his job to focus on what the problem is so he can create a suitable solution. I thought that was very astute. I think that bleeds into messaging as well because people have created this thing they think is cool. But they haven’t figured out who is the person with the problem that they’re solving. Of course, it is very, very difficult to be relevant and create that emotional reaction if you don’t know what that thing is.”
How do you dial in on that perfect buyer?
Brendan discussed how companies may be able to find that perfect buyer.
“This is an easy answer. There is a variety of ways that you can do it. It depends on the stage of the business. When you’re early, I think to the extent that you almost can’t go too narrow. One of the commonalities I have heard many times from founders is they tell me, we started off with clarity about who we are selling to. We tried to go broad and we lost our way. We lost our focus and had to come back and refocus. It really slowed us down to date.
“I have yet to hear someone tell me, we started too narrow in who we were trying to target and it shot us in the foot. So to the extent that you can get super-clear about who this person is and what the shared pains are. That bottom-up approach to defining an ideal customer.”
I’m not a pitch expert, but I have seen quite a few pitches fall flat before they are even delivered. We are in a downturn and we have to focus on saving people time and money. Those are the things many companies are always harping on. Brendan explained why it is hard to just come to somebody and say, we save you time and money.
“There is a well-documented phenomenon and I am going to lapse on the name right now totally. But essentially, when people hear the same thing over and over again, they measure what’s your response to that language. You can even think of a fan. The noise of a fan disappears into the background. The same thing happens with language and with marketing. When people make similar promises, they start to get tuned out because the question becomes how and if you don’t have a unique or novel thing, people don’t actually believe that you can deliver on the thing you’re promising. Therefore, if it doesn’t seem unique to them, if it sounds like something they’ve already heard, they just move on. Everyone’s default response in a world where everybody has heard the stats. You get whatever the number is now. Thousands of media hits a day are your default to ignore. So to the extent that you can ignore something, you will try.”
Let’s boil down to the pitch. What should we be focused on and how do you grab someone’s attention?
“The framework that we use is based on the notion that in the modern landscape, you have to be a must-have, right? You can’t be a vitamin. You have to be a pain reliever because there are too many vitamins out there. And especially in the space in which we operate, which is in tech, everybody’s “over-teched.” There is too much stuff and everyone can’t tell the difference. Everything seems the same. So the framework becomes what’s the status quo right now? This is going to sound a bit convoluted, but we can get into examples of this. How do you create an imperative for change? Because if you look at people’s sales history and look at the reasons for closing or losing or basically the reason they didn’t go closed.
“No decision is the most common reason. It is actually that people just did nothing and they continue doing whatever it was they were doing. It wasn’t that they chose a competitor for some other reason. Therefore, you are trying to overcome that inertia first and foremost.
You do that by highlighting change, by showing in some necessary and ideally stirring way that something is different in the world right now that’s creating an imperative to do things differently. That really resonates because any of us who has been at a company in an operations role in particular knows, people aren’t interested in changing how they do things unless there’s a problem. So there has to be some sort of pain or motivator. There has to be a reason to want a pain reliever. They are not going to take the vitamin since changing what they do today if things are working doesn’t make any sense. They don’t want to break what works.
“If it’s helpful, I can give examples of what they might think. It is like beginning a deck. We are a pitch and you could think about this in terms of this isn’t a novel idea. But essentially you are thinking about an inciting statistic. The challenger sale was one version of this, but how do you help illuminate a problem that people don’t realize they have? I will give you two examples of this from actual companies.
“So for Gong, the revenue intelligence firm, the first slide in their deck is it’s something like 55% of your winnable opportunities will not close. If you tell that to a sales leader, this immediately becomes, well, why? That’s a scary idea that over half your pipeline that you should be winning is something you’re not currently winning. It creates an imperative saying, okay, is there a new way that is going to allow me to address this unseen problem in a new way?
“A second example is somebody I am currently working with. They work in the healthcare space. It is a healthcare tech firm in an environment where 50% of their market is currently still using paper-based processes. They sell a solution that automates the tracking of certain kinds of instrumentations. There are many markets surprisingly out there that are still like this. That are still heavily reliant on paper.
“So what their pitch reads like today is first of all very convoluted. It is difficult to understand, but it’s very aspirational. It says things like, we are going to advance you into the future and so forth. The problem is these people have been operating on paper since the beginning of time and they know it sucks and they know it’s painful. Therefore, you have to create a scenario in which they can see the sense that this makes right now. What we are working with now is they have statistics on how long should it take you to process a given instrument and with what error rate.
“The first slide in our deck reads out it should take you 17 seconds to process it. On average, it takes you 17 seconds to process a sterile instrument with an error rate of less than 3%. So what is is your error rate now or how long does it take you right now? Right now, they don’t know the answer to that. In a world where they’re under cost pressure, their inability to answer that immediately sheds light on a huge problem for these people that all of a sudden creates an imperative to change. It has been very successful for that company.”
So let us tie this together a little bit. We are talking about identifying your ICP. I highly recommend that people don’t just ask their sales team and the executive team for the ICP because it’s recency bias. We are just going to remember the biggest idea or the last one, not necessarily what makes up the majority of our business. So use a little bit of data. The other thing I would say is it’s not enough to come up with a stat or reason you think they want to buy. You actually have to ask them questions and talk to them. Brendan has seen a lot of people forgetting to take that step of doing opportunity interviews and actually talking to their audience.
“Most companies don’t and I think it’s the single most important thing that you can do. That goes for established companies, early-stage companies and across the board. They will give you the words and there is balance there. You have to bring some of your judgment to this stuff. But yeah, I totally agree. One of the things this is especially true for younger founders who I think are trying to build companies in which they haven’t necessarily operated in that space. Don’t talk to 5 people, 10 or 20. Go talk to hundreds of people and see if your hypothesis holds up because you will learn so much in that process. You could probably do that in a month vs. building the wrong thing or going in the wrong direction. It could cost you much, much more time.”
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