If you work for a brand, you probably get tons of sales calls just like I do.
With busy schedules and increasing demands, we’re often left with no choice but to turn away many of the companies looking to sell us something. But here’s something I’ve learned as a young digital marketer: Engaging in sales pitches is extremely valuable for growing yourself and your business.
Over the past two years, I’ve received over 150 requests from Business Development folks. Even though time in the business world is limited these days, I’ve sat through over 50 pitches, thoroughly documenting each one.
On these 50 first dates, companies were willing to casually explain their business’s value while candidly answering questions.
This unique interaction affords the following benefits for young marketers:
1. You learn the Marketing Landscape
Slowly but surely, sales pitches will help you start navigating the hundreds of products and services out there. You’ll find offerings ranging from archaic and confusing to innovative and mind-blowing.
Want to print your ads on the back of grocery store receipts? There’s a company for that. Want to squeeze your brand’s coupons into people’s online bank statements? One for that, too.
With every call, your window into the current marketing landscape widens a bit more and this list will start to seem less overwhelming.
2. It’s “work experience on demand”
If you want to accelerate your knowledge of an industry, talk to the people who are trying to make it better.
Professionals on the brand side who’ve been in business for many years have attended conferences, seen partnerships come and go, absorbed industry information, and made valuable connections. For young marketers, those experiences are sparse.
Sales calls are a form of work experience that you can control.
By making connections, discovering solutions, and gaining insight into how other businesses operate, you’ll start to sound more like a veteran than a novice.
3. You build a personal reference guide
If your boss walked up and asked you to spend $20,000 on a new type of advertising, would you know where to start? If you were tasked with hiring a company for a new project, would you already have names in mind?
Sales pitches help you create a rolodex of providers that you can reference later.
Take detailed notes of every call or meeting you’re involved in. To stay organized, I recommend using a digital tool like Microsoft OneNote – you can easily locate and share information while storing digital assets like URLs, images, and presentation files. Click here for an example.
You may not know what you’ll need down the road, but you’ll know where to find it.
4. You learn how to ask questions
Have you ever sat through a sales pitch and then, at the end, realize you didn’t learn a damn thing? Sometimes you don’t get information that’s relevant to your business or focused enough on the problems you need solved.
“What is the primary value you bring to your clients?”
“How would you take our project from inception to execution?”
“Can I rephrase your value proposition so you can tell me if I’m understanding it correctly?”
Thoughtful questions will help you stop listening and start engaging. You’ll learn how to use limited time to get what you need out of a conversation, develop opinions faster, and determine next steps with more confidence.
5. You learn what you ARE and AREN’T doing well
The best way to identify strengths and weaknesses on both ends is when questions are met with hesitation. If you’ve already built a process for what the salesman is looking to solve, you don’t need their help. You’ve also indirectly learned that other companies haven’t figured out what you have.
But, if a salesman asks you a question that you haven’t thought of, or can’t answer well, then you may have discovered an opportunity.
Maybe you come to realize that Excel isn’t the most efficient way to manage all your projects, or that there’s a tool to automate something you currently complete by hand.
Getting ideas flowing will facilitate a process of reflection.
For those who work in sales, let me be clear – I do not intend to waste your time or use it for personal gain. I understand that while you are ultimately looking for a signature, you need an advocate first.
Even though I’m often focused on discovery, a handful of the sales pitches have resulted in a paid business relationship. After all, that’s the point, right?
What we need from sales experts is help understanding where problems can be solved and what needs we haven’t yet realized.
If you’re on the brand side, think twice about telling that salesman to scram. You may just need that creepy mustache, after all.