Friday, January 29, 2010

When Your Pitch Doesn't Line Up

I was at a networking event last week, and I met a guy there who ran an outsourcing firm with connections in India. We struck up a conversation, and he asked me what I do. I told him I was a copywriter who sometimes partners with web and graphic design firms. And for some reason--I'm not sure how--he got the idea that I was his ideal client.

He immediately launched into his pitch--really more of a speech--describing to me in impassioned terms why I should be outsourcing my writing work to India. "You don't want to be running a small business writing all your life? Right? You want to grow." He proceeded to describe to me how I could outsource my client work immediately, pay the writers a pittance while pocketing the difference, and just perform a "quality check" (he must have used the phrase "quality check" about sixteen times) before sending it back to the client.

Not once did he consider that marketing writing is a specialized skill--you can't outsource it to others who don't have that skill. It's really inadvisable in my experience to write marketing copy without having a direct conversation with the client. And not speaking fluent English is also a pretty big hurdle to leap. While his business model might work for some companies, writing is just not something you can outsource to low-paid workers in India if you want a quality product.

The thing is, he wasn't just wasting my time--he was wasting his own, when he could have been talking to someone who needed what he had to sell. So how do you tell if you're the Indian outsourcing guy trying to pitch to the copywriter? Here are a few things I can think of.

You aren't asking questions. Lots of questions. This guy heard that I "partner" with web design firms sometimes, and he was off and running. He didn't ask deeper questions about the nature of the partnership or the work involved. Before you give someone a pitch, prequalify them--for gawd's sake.

You aren't picking up the subtle hints. Is the person you're talking to looking at you with a glazed expression? Are they looking around the room for someone to rescue them or glancing surreptitiously at the wall clock? Are they not asking any questions themselves? Then they're probably not interested.

Do some research beforehand. Not everybody is your prospect. Think about how different kinds of businesses really work. Talk to people in those businesses to get honest feedback about whether they could use your services. Know who your ideal prospect is before you walk into a networking event.

A pitch should be short, and you shouldn't bring the hard sell into a networking event. You're not there to close deals--you're there to make contacts. This guy wasn't a match for me--but hopefully the next person he talked to was. If he'd been paying attention, he might have been able to get to that person just a little sooner.


David Fideler said...

That story was both sad and funny at the same time. Thanks for sharing!

Kimberly Ben said...

Wow. I was speechless after reading this post. David voiced my sentiments exactly. I'm not too surprised though. I've had a few Indian web design firms, content mills and random individuals contact me via my website to form a partnership or send work. Your tips on pitching are right on.

Unknown said...

Wow, you and Kimberly had a similar experience, didn't you?

Ridiculous. I think it's okay to interrupt someone like that with a "No, you don't understand. I deliver VALUE, not suck the value out of everything and lower my own market value in the process. Be gone."

Jenny said...

Yeah...sometimes it's not uncalled for to interrupt. This guy wasn't letting me get a word in edgewise...I think that would be something else to watch for. Are you continually talking OVER people? Are you doing all the talking? Really effective salespeople also listen.