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July, 2010

Take Your Elevator Pitch to the Top Floor: Develop A Strategic Story

We all know that a critical part of getting to the next step with a prospective customer is articulating an elevator pitch that quickly establishes our value and why the prospect should listen further. Our pitch is often a derivative of our tag line or strategic plan vision statement but too frequently this first messaging opportunity is used to say what we do and not state what our strategic value for the customer is that will capture their attention and want to know more.

Pitch Evolution
“Saying what we do . . .” is very common in the technology industry where “speeds and feeds” are often used to differentiate the products or company from the competition. Telling a customer that you have the fastest access time, greatest measurement range or lowest cost device leaves it up to the customer to translate this into a reason why they will benefit from listening to you further. The IT industry enjoyed a period where no matter what you said people thought they should listen to you. As decision makers became more knowledgeable and savvy to weak “stories”; IT vendors had to re-engineer their messaging to truly be of strategic value.

Selling to C-Level Decision Makers
The higher up your contact is within the company, you move from the elevator pitch to detailing your strategic story. A first-level buyer may be trying to fill a need today while a VP or CEO is looking at a future horizon and wants to know why making a major commitment to engage you or install your equipment will help meet their strategic business objectives.

Product Example
A technology company had a well-known brand but over time the normal practice of presenting current “capability” to senior decision makers of increasingly larger companies became ineffective. Since the capability story focused on where the company was their message did not address the strategic needs of the prospect in the future. The company recognized the shortfall in their message and used a vision statement process to develop a strategic direction for the company that was then used to develop an effective strategic story. The new story told customers what their future direction was and how a decision to commit to their product direction would not only corporate strategic business objectives but also open new business opportunities not previously considered.

Service Example
An IT consulting firm was very successful during the boom of the 90’s placing IT consultants with companies trying to migrate from desk top islands of automation to integrated business systems. The consultants were hired as extensions to the in-house IT team and work as contractors but customers quickly began to turn to IT services that offered strategic solutions and not just IT consultants. The IT consulting firm mobilized their consultant resources into strategic lines of business offering consulting products or solutions that met rapidly changing business objectives. The strategic story was overhauled from offering “quality consultants” to a logical series of solutions involving a team of consultants, which led to longer engagements, and a greater dependence of the customers upon the IT company for their bundled solutions.

Value of a Strategic Relationship
Anytime you are successful identifying yourself as a source for strategic products or services you are equipping your customer to be more competitive and stronger in their marketplace. This leads you into a close relationship with the strategic and decision making process of the company. If your strategic story shows how you are able to give the customer a leading edge advantage then you are often at the table when strategic direction is converted to tactics, which are the precursors to awarding business that you are in first position to get. In the aerospace industry strategic partners are often involved in the specification process for new equipment, which are surprisingly tailored to the features that they have mastered, which resulted in winning the majority of the business.

Valued Performance Over Time
A solid strategic story then is significant not only in the initial engagement with the customer leading to the first round of business but will also move you closer to the idea center of the business process if you continue perform at or beyond what the story promised. As a provider of services a strategic relationship with a customer will typically establish not only a business relationship but one that is personal as well. Having a strong personal relationship with senior company decision makers, along with continued performance, establishes the basis for a long-term relationship and referrals to others in the market and additional business.

Summary
Don’t assume that just because you offer quality products and specialized professional services that your “story” and strategic value is obvious to others. Examine your products and services and the strategic value they offer your prospective (and current) customers to help them be more competitive in their markets. Engineer your strategic story with the same care and concern as you would developing a new product or service. The elevator pitch gets the ball rolling but an articulate and compelling strategic story is necessary to get you to the top floor.

Regards,
Mike Brice
Phone: (206)226-1617
Email
Blog

Feature Article

The following summary is from an article published by Joanna L. Krotz in the Microsoft Small Business Center and details 5 important factors to put family owned business on the right track.

When you work with family, the boundaries between professional and personal are sure to overlap. Where does one role begin and the other leave off? Family firms make up more than 80% of all business enterprises in North America And since most of today's family-owned businesses were formed shortly after World War II, many will soon change hands. Consequently hundreds of families and owners will wrestle with such issues as transferring power, developing leadership and grooming the next generation of management — whether owners realize it or not. Among family business CEO's who plan to retire over the next 5 years, more than half (55%) haven't selected a replacement,

Here are five rules that will get everyone headed in the right direction.

Send consistent messages in a family business

  1. Set clear expectations and hold family accountable.
    To avoid confusion and botched operations, make sure every family member on the job knows exactly what's expected at work. Define responsibilities, job parameters, goals and precisely what you mean by success. Don't leave it to guesswork. Then, more importantly, evaluate the work with performance-based standards, not family tolerance.

  2. Make sure job titles are meaningful.
    Frequently, a family member feels empowered by the blood tie to make judgments in all areas. As owner, you need to rein in such turf wandering.

  3. Create transparent compensation and HR policies.
    Unrelated employees are commonly made to feel like second-class workers in family-run firms. Typically, no one ever says so, but non-family staff understand that advancement and top salaries are reserved for family members.

  4. Leave work at the office and family matters at home.
    Do not conduct business matters at the dinner table and likewise conduct family business at home.

  5. Depend on objective outside help.
    "Consultants with family business experience can help to sustain and maintain the company, where career, family and wealth are all tied together," says the Family Business Center's McCann.You might also consider an advisory board for ongoing support. "This shouldn't include your lawyer or accountant,"

Don't forget to keep talking
In the end, as always, communication that's clear and consistent and thoughtful is the best tool for keeping the business on track

Management Resources

Articles:
Recession: Strategies to grow your company in spite of tough times
10 Ways to Deny the Recession


Company Morale: The employees you supervise can't win if they already feel defeated. Here's how to lift morale—and productivity
Four Ideas for a Positive Workforce


Organizational Productivity: These days, we all need to make the most of our resources, and for most small-business owners, human capital is a primary asset. So how do you inspire people to perform at a higher level?
Good People Make Good Leaders


Value and Strategy: You can't completely inoculate your business from the vagaries of the market. What you can do is wrestle with the fundamental questions that govern the fate of any enterprise. Here are the 20 most important ones.
The 20 Most Important Questions In Business

Videos: 
Personal Development: How to better organize your thinking.
Thinking on Your Feet (4:17 min)


Cash Management: Lessons to entrepreneurs :The economy isn't out of the woods yet, and that means preserving cash should still be a priority.
Cash is king; don't blow it (2:54 min)


Blogs: 
Leadership: If you’re not periodically under fire by your management and peers then your career’s probably not going anywhere. It’s sort of like “no pain no gain.” If you push the envelope and take risks, then you’re going to get mercilessly grilled from time to time. That’s just the way it works. And if you seriously want to get promoted and make something of yourself, you have to learn to handle it.
Managers: How to Lead Under Fire
blog

Personal Development: As a CEO, board member, shareholder, or even as an enlightened employee, I would want my managers to focus on far more than just making their employees feel engaged, acknowledged, and empowered. What good is all that if the company flops because nobody’s paying attention to customers and the business?
10 Things Good Managers Believe


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