The best elevator pitch doesn’t pitch your project. It pitches the meeting about your project. The best elevator pitch is true, stunning, brief and it leaves the listener eager (no, desperate) to hear the rest of it. It’s not a practiced, polished turd of prose that pleases everyone on the board and your marketing team, it’s a little fractal of the entire story, something real.
We’re hiring for a bunch of different positions at Percolate and one of the big ones is sales. My co-founder, James, wrote a good post outlining how we approach sales and hiring salespeople. This part in particular hit close to home:
I’ve thought a lot about my profession as my career in digital advertising sales has evolved. It is an interesting profession that I’ve enjoyed but there are things about being a salesperson that I’ve always been intrigued by. For starters, a lot of salespeople, even very good sales people, don’t like to think of themselves as being in a sales profession. They will call themselves ‘business development’ or ‘account manager’ or ‘chief strategy officer’, while often their goals all ladder back to a direct sales relationship with the company that employs them. They might pass it off as, ‘well everyone sells’, and while that is hopefully the case, why shy away from what your profession is? Own it and be proud to say you’re in sales.
Towards the end of my time in agencies I began to fully grasp this. Most/all of your job as a senior strategy person is actually sales: You’re helping to get client buy-off on creative ideas. As we’ve been starting to hire salespeople I’ve been talking to some of the folks I know from the agency world and trying to get them to come over under this capacity. Surprisingly, most are much more open than I would have expected. To James’ point, the holdup is almost entirely in the title, they are worried about the implications of being a “salesperson” not in the actual selling (which most of the folks in advertising I know live for).
Our salespeople all estimated that they were spending about 20% of their time just keeping track of what money was due them. There was constant horse trading. And, most worrying, we created a heavy disincentive to do all the service stuff that makes customer service shine. Why would you want a system that sets up after-sales service as competition against new sales, especially if you have a small sales team? Reputation and retention, after all, are both paths to revenue.
I’ve been spending a lot of time lately thinking about how you build a structure for teams to succeed. Part of that structure is salary (there are lots of other parts as well). We’re trying to figure out a system that makes the most sense for the sort of company we’re trying to build and, in turn, trying to look at accepted practices with a skeptical eye. (As an aside, I’ve also been reading the Management Myth, which explains how management consulting came to be). Anyhow, no real conclusions, but glad to see others thinking about this as well.