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Selling like a CEO

Patrick Morin. Submitted photo.

“Здравствуйте, меня зовут Патрик.” That’s how the talk started. In English, of course, but it WAS to a group of visiting Russian MBA students.

They were here to study American-style capitalism and the questions were coming in rapid succession.
• What’s the difference between an angel investor and a venture capitalist?
• What does a sales pitch to a venture capitalist look and sound like?
• How does a CEO or entrepreneur sell someone on investing in their company?
That last one really caught the attention of everyone in the room. Does a CEO sell differently from anyone else? For a moment, my mind left the lecture hall and zeroed in on an event three weeks earlier.
As Marti walked into the room, a palpable wave of confidence and purpose proceeded her. Even though it was the end of the day, her positive energy and seriousness of mission spilled over the table, infecting the group of normally low-key investment bankers. Through the years, having heard every kind of pitch imaginable, these guys always took a “wait and see” attitude, but the smiles rippling around the table bespoke something different. Marti’s first impression was powerful.
After some preliminary pleasantries, agreeing on a light agenda and satisfying the waiter with the order, Marti launched into an overview of the company. While brief and to the point, it was compelling because of the way she differentiated the original inspiring idea.
She spoke of the expert backgrounds of the founders and their shared values — in providing a vehicle to make giving to charities easier for the average person. She waxed about the quality team they had put together and the commitment that everyone had to the successful growth of the company.
She moved on to market and marketing strategy, partnerships and strategy — and her audience stayed in step with her. The case she made was compelling. Point after point, Marti’s confidence never wavered. You could feel the confidence in her growing, too.
Along with the entree came the questions from the IBs — hard and fast — like prosecuting attorneys. Most wilt here; Marti, however, stepped up her game. The questions were answered slowly, thoughtfully, methodically. She had not just a command of her facts — she knew the numbers thoroughly no matter what aspect of the business, market or industry was probed. She paused and asked for clarification if a question wasn’t posed quite right because she wanted to make sure she was answering the right question.
Her grasp of the numbers, their source, and citation was impressive and it seemed that she could address just about any aspect of her business. If she felt she couldn’t do justice to a question, she immediately deffered to someone on her team who would have the answer and she would get back to us.
As the memory of the event flashed through my head, the voice of the Russian translator brought me back to the lecture hall and my audience.
“Confidence, competence and values,” I began my reply.
A CEO — or any sales person for that matter — starts the sales process with their own confidence, their belief in the company and the product. The faith that it will do what you say it will do. That confidence and its related enthusiasm is transferable. If YOU aren’t confident, no one else will ever be.
How well do you know your customer’s situation? How well do you know the intricacies of your product and its application to solving their problems? That indicates YOUR level of sales competence. People want to do business with experts. They want to know that you and your company are competent is providing the solution. Do you know your stuff?
And values. Do we share the same values? In start-up companies, investors place their money on the confidence, competence and values of the CEO. Will they see it through? Are they honest? Are they committed? Are they loyal?
The Russians understood it immediately.
When everything you say and do conveys confidence, competence and the values you and your company live by, you are selling like Marti. You are selling like a CEO.