Forget the snooze-inducing PowerPoint presentation. Next time you’re on a sales call, mix things up with a truly creative sales pitch. Here are three entrepreneurs that go outside the norm with sales tactics that succeed.
Clean Out the Cobwebs
Richard Laermer, founder and CEO of RLM PR, strives to make people laugh. His strategy: Walk into a meeting and hand the company’s decision maker a box. When that person opens it, they’ll find recent news clips about their company (presumably landed by the company’s current public relations firm), and sitting on top of the clips, plastic spider webs.
“They would look up at me and either laugh or ask, ‘What is this?’” says Laermer. “I say, 'That’s all the attention you’ve gotten?’ And then I go into what my firm can do for them.”
The pitch produced a near-perfect record. Laermer says that over a multi-year period the strategy landed him more than 20 big clients.
Drop Basketballs From the Sky
On a cold day in March, Jeff Barrett and Rob Bliss sat in a grassy Michigan field with a basketball hoop. Above them in a helicopter was Scott Erickson, the third member of advertising agency Status Creative. On cue, Erickson threw a basketball out the door of the aircraft, making a basket from 192 feet in the air.
The team posted a video on YouTube and more than 100,000 people viewed it within two days. The clip was featured on CNN, ABC and NBC—all part of an elaborate pitch to land a reality show documenting their quest to help communities around the country create large-scale events for positive causes.
The trio followed that up by producing a YouTube video of Grand Rapids, Mich. residents singing "American Pie." “Our Grand Rapids lip-dub video generated $5.6 million in tourism for that one city; we want to do things like that in other cities,” Barrett says.
When talks about the show came to a standstill, the pair decided the basketball stunt would be a good way to get in front of the network. It worked.
“We got the meeting and hope to start filming in the next 12 months,” beams Barrett.
Keep Them Hydrated
Kathleen Booth had just launched Quintain Marketing and wanted a specific commercial real estate company as a client. The problem: She didn’t have a way of getting in touch with the company through mutual connections. Her break came when she saw an article on the company’s founder in the local paper, detailing his love for running.
She ordered a Camelback water backpack embossed with the client’s logo, wrapped it nicely in a box and included a personal letter that read "I will call you Friday at 3 p.m."
When Booth called, she spoke with the company’s director of marketing who then put her in touch with the founder. The man reportedly loved the gift.
“We ended up supplying that company with promotional products for more than three years,” Booth says. “That one gift landed us more than $100,000 in business with the company.”
Creating Your Own 'Weird' Pitch
So how can you think outside the box to craft a weird and winning sales play?
Personalize. No one wants a blanket sales pitch, says Booth. Instead, spend the extra time researching and money tailoring a pitch to a client’s personal interests or hobbies. Even if you spend $50 per pitch on 15 potential clients, you come out ahead if one bites.
Use your resources. Barrett says he didn’t pay a dime for the helicopter basketball pitch; the helicopter company donated the aircraft for the guaranteed national publicity. He recommends reaching out in your community to see who would be willing to help you pitch something creative.
Express yourself. Companies are less likely to remember a run-of-the-mill pitch. Incorporate your personality; it will help you stand out.
Send something three-dimensional. Since envelopes can easily get lost in the shuffle, Booth believes in sending three-dimensional packages, and always sending them UPS or FedEx.
“Sending it through a service raises the perceived value to the recipient,” she says. “And everyone likes opening a box, especially if they think it could be a present.”
What out-of-the-ordinary sales tactics have you used the worked?
Learn more in OPEN Forum's Sales Check-In 2012 series.
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