Sales is not that hard if you have a great product. But even if the product sells itself, you need someone to onboard potential customers, open new markets, and make people trust you.
While working at one of the top VFX houses in Germany, I decided to switch from creative to business development. I thought it was the road to earning more money, and a real way I could make a meaningful difference. I hate waiting for things to land on my lap, that is, if you are a staff creative director at a company you will always be waiting for the next pitch to come to you.
In this case, I was tired of the company not getting the clients I thought it deserved. And so after a couple of talks with the CEOs they told me to jump directly into it.
First things I did was to take a look at past pitch requests, and old clients. Start with the low hanging fruit and try to make contact with them.
All the information from the company was pretty old since they never had any proper pipeline set up, so I had some random names of people that moved on, but that clearly is an opportunity since if they were happy with the previous results, a little reminder of your existence might bring you new work.
So, I created sales material. Presentations, reels, etc. And created a list of all the companies I wanted to work for. I created a spreadsheet and started to look for those people I had contact before, and started doing some old fashioned
stalking prospecting on Linkedin.
I took my time and crafted several pitches, and tried different approaches with different people and started to check which script gave me the best results.
Bear in mind all this was pre-corona, and in that time, so Linkedin was much more blue ocean for this approach.
My goal was to move the needle from cold contact, to ask to review our presentation/reel hoping I would get a working email, and from there try to move into a call.
I started to get in touch with some agency owners, but in most cases it was other business developers, or even freelancers more interested in me giving work to them than the other way around.
Nevertheless I got some replies from people from Nike, Adidas, Ikea and cities like New York, London or Los Angeles.
Things were moving forward.
I started to build a pipeline and get very systematic in my approach. I had to add 50 new leads on Linkedin and streamline my initial cold contact. But surely and slowly things started to move on. And I was getting new conversations every day.
KNOW YOUR ADVANTAGE
I knew the work that we were doing was great, and that made it really easy to work as a conversation starter. From all my systematic approach, I was engaging in almost daily conversations and calls and exchanges, and getting a lot of praise from the leads, but I couldn’t close a sale.
Until suddenly (almost randomly) it actually happened that I was browsing LinkedIn and I saw someone from a second level contact comment in some post, just like that I decided to contact him, since he was a founder from an Agency in Los Angeles.
This is the exchange with my script. First of all, I ask my prospect for permission. If they accept, then I send them the script, because that will immediately showcase interest and I don’t waste my time or his time and I also don’t burn my name.
After this came a discovery call where I explained our creative and technical process, and a couple of weeks later we were pitching for the opening movie of one of the biggest basketball teams in the NBA. I was involved in that early creative pitch because the studio was understaffed and I used my creative skills to craft a pitch deck that my good friend Hanzo wrapped up and with the help of his art department, we got the job.
The agency came back over and over for different kinds of jobs and became a recurring client for the very specific VFX and creative skillset that we were offering. Even after I left my position in the company.
SYSTEMS AND PIPELINES
It is very important to build systems and pipelines that you can fall back when you start feeling desperate. This is the type of work that will actually bear fruit with time. The more people you contact, the more rewards you will reap in the future.
Even after the management asked me to focus on other aspects of the business, I was still months later getting leads and replies from all that initial work that I did the first six months of heavy prospecting.
I definitely recommend to use a CRM (Customer Relationship Manager) to track your leads, communication, and being reminded on when contacting people again, holidays, even birthdays if you happend to develop a closer connection.
We used one called Capsule, which was fine for a medium sized company with very long sales cycles (3-6 months).
But I was trying to implement Hubspot, the sales team was very efficient and understood our needs. We also had calls with Salesforce, where they totally missed the target and gave us a ridiculous pitch about how our relationship with them would work, except they didn’t do their due diligence and just threw our company into an old sales deck, and tried to win us with big words.
If you work with a team this is crucial so you avoid overlap, and in that way, minimize human stupidity/greed. There is no cure for that, but a good system will definitely help mitigate some of those negative externalities.
Always keep the pipeline full, that way your garden will have enough water to grow, and you will never get nervous again whenever you get a dry spell. Because if things go well you know that there are systems working for you.
I’ll share more war stories in the next post and if you want to know more just send me an email. I will be happy to answer any questions.