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  • Writer's pictureShannon Lantzy

Innovators, difference-makers: Are you pitching to the right person?

Entrepreneurs and innovators spend a lot of time pitching people on the value of their solution; that time can be deceptively wasteful and even harmful to an opportunity.


It is easy to accidentally get sucked into sales efforts with people who can't say "yes" to your solution. At worst, they can only say "no" or ask for more of your time. At best, they can refer you to the humans who are responsible for the results that your solution will generate. Make sure you know the responsibilities and role of the person you're talking with, and who the key decision-makers are.


I once spent a long time getting to know a medtech cyber leader (a CISO of a relatively large medtech org). This CISO articulated a clear problem with product cybersecurity; his company's products were woefully behind modern cybersecurity standards and new products were having trouble getting through the FDA.


I offered a solution that would help his company get through FDA, avoid over-investing in cyber, and be set up for success in the future. My solution was extremely credible. In short, the solution would deliver critical results.


But he wasn't buying. Once I made the offer, he backed up and said we'd need to set up more meetings. I got curious, and then I realized what was happening. While it was clear the company needed the results I was offering, the CISO's role did not have any responsibility for product design and commercialization. Therefore, he wasn't responsible for achieving the results that my solution promised, and therefore my solution wasn't valuable to him in his role. He wasn't an ideal buyer.


The time I spent with that CISO was valuable to him and me personally. We both learned a lot. But that time was almost completely useless in terms of business sales. His concerns were not his colleagues' concerns. His credibility with colleagues was low. His understanding of the product's hardware constraints was incorrect. It was great to build a relationship with him, but I would have to start over and disavow my relationship with him to gain trust and traction with the product leaders who really needed my offer.


Conversations with non-buyers have a ton of value for both participants (the innovator and the non-buyer). But they can lead us far astray and drastically increase the cost of customer acquisition. Advice for innovators and sales staff: know the values of the human you're speaking with personally as well as the results for which they are responsible. To maximize sales and minimize the cost of customer acquisition, tailor your value propositions to the ideal buyer of your product, to whole the results will accrue.


~Shannon, the Optimistic Optimizer

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