Being in a large metal cutting business with equipment serving so many critical industries, Bystronic is an attractive prospect for tech vendors, who frequently contact me offering to “radically transform” our company with their innovative products.
Since I’ve been on the receiving end of so many of these sales pitches, I feel as if I have developed a certain expertise in judging them. So in an effort to assist tech vendors make more effective pitches — and perhaps spare my colleagues at other middle-market industrial companies the discomfort and time-wasting bother of sitting through painfully off-target presentations — I’ve taken the liberty of offering four suggestions that may help tech companies pitch their “radically transformative” solutions more effectively.
First, don’t use “radically transformative” or any other puffy, salesy and eye-rolling language to describe how great you and your product are. All that those overused terms do is signal that you want to come into our business like Cool Hand Luke and show us “how it’s done.” That approach turns potential customers off because it’s subtly offensive and because those of us on the receiving end of such pitches know from painful experience that much-promised “transformations” generally never occur.
A better approach is to be humble. Our technicians have acquired a tremendous body of knowledge. If you are proposing an innovative solution to a problem, truly understand the problem. I’ve had many tech vendors pitch maintenance solutions without appreciating the realities of maintaining a field service organization, for instance. Not understanding these nuances erodes your credibility, casting all your claims in doubt. Also recognize that we are going to be skeptical about any promises you make, so don’t be boastful; be prepared to provide customer references so we can check out what you’re claiming.
Second, avoid using hyperbolic expressions or generalities. Our cutting machines not only cut metal and other materials, but also heat, melt and in some cases vaporize the medium they are being applied to. As a result, my definition of “robust” may be considerably different from yours.
Third, don’t presume to be our bosom buddy after an initial contact or business dealing. Our customers rely on our equipment for their safety and financial well-being, so our ties to those we deal with are long-term and serious. We don’t use the term “partner” casually. While startups often use “partner” because they think it sounds more professional and implies a close relationship, we and others like us believe “partner” is a title more earned than assumed.
Finally, understand the metrics that matter to your prospects. Doing so signals that you recognize that a prospect’s time is a scarce resource and that you’ve done the work to customize your pitch so that you understand how your product actually meets our needs. In my case, there are seven metrics that matter:
- First-Time Fix Rate
- Mean Time To Repair
- Pull Through Revenue
- Service to Cash
- Average Response Time
- Repeat Visits
To be sure, following these guidelines won’t insure a sale — but it certainly will increase any tech vendor’s odds.
Tim Fabian is Vice President of Aftermarket Services – Market Region North and South America at Bystronic, a global provider of highly engineered processing equipment for sheet metal and flat-materials companies that make products for a wide range of industries.