A good sales pitch will tell a good story. Numbers and statistics are important when doing business, but being able to infuse the facts with an inspirational narrative and a persuasive argument is much more memorable to a potential customer. A salesperson also has to have a demeanor that convinces someone to trust them.
All of this can be especially tricky in the virtual world of 2020. This was exemplified this past week when Eliav, the Chief Marketing Officer for myInterview and our boss, set up a once in a lifetime Zoom call for my colleagues and I to speak to expert storyteller Stephen Krupin. Mr. Krupin served in the White House as a senior speechwriter to President Obama, director of speechwriting on Obama’s re-election campaign, and chief speechwriter to Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. He also teaches a speechwriting course at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and partners with CEOs, elected officials, and nonprofit advocates to help them prepare for public speaking engagements as Managing Director & Head of Executive Communications at SKDKnickerbocker.
On our hour long Zoom call with Krupin, we asked him questions such as, “What’s your advice for networking and building professional relationships,” “Being a specialist in communicating at a national scale, what’s your advice for communicating interpersonally or in a smaller business setting,” and “What was the hardest part and best part of working with President Obama?” Mr. Krupin answered each of our questions with a personal anecdote, some insightful wisdom, and ended it by relating it back to how it could apply to our lives: almost like a mini speech.
One of the main takeaways for myself and my fellow interns from our conversation with Mr. Krupin was the importance of listening to the needs of others and making them feel heard. About a week after our meeting with Krupin, we were on a Zoom call with a potential client giving her a demo of myInterview’s COVID-19 Recovery pro-bono package. About halfway through the presentation, the woman started pressing us on why myInterview is offering their services for free. Looking at this from her perspective, it is a very valid point: why would a business want to offer their services for free during a global recession? We explained to her how myInterview originally had this idea in the beginning of April to donate their platform to help organizations deal with the increasing demand for frontline workers. As the crisis began to somewhat subside, we decided to shift our overall initiative from COVID-Response to COVID-Recovery. Once the customer understood our motivation to take a grass-roots approach to make an impactful contribution to the COVID-19 crisis, she was eager to work with us.
We had another demo with the regional recruiting manager of a medical transportation company who explained how due to social distancing laws their current process of hiring has become a strenuous burden for their employees. She also explained how some of her coworkers were hesitant to one-way interviews and how she would need help convincing them to change their current system. We took in all of her needs and concerns and adjusted our presentation accordingly. We gave her more information about the time saving benefits of myInterview and how simple it is to use. At the end of the presentation we offered to send her our presentation to share with her coworkers, and we also offered to set-up a Zoom call with her more hesitant coworkers to explain to them the benefits of one-way interviews.
By leaving her with resources and our support we successfully carried out one of Krupin’s other main points of leaving a lasting impression. Towards the end of the Zoom call with Mr. Krupin, he told a story about writing President Obama’s 2016 Memorial Day speech at Arlington Cemetery. Obama had already done seven other Memorial Day speeches, so it would be a challenge for Krupin to make this one feel special. The speech focused on three fallen service members, including Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler. Wheeler’s wife Ashley had asked Krupin a few days earlier if she and her son could meet Obama and the White House staff arranged for them to come to the speech at Arlington Cemetery. When Obama mentioned that Ashley Wheeler and her son were there, there was an emotional 30-second standing ovation and Krupin explained that that is all he remembers from the speech that he spent weeks working on. The point of this story was that people will probably not remember what you said to them four years later and they may not even remember it a week later, but they will remember how you made them feel.
Just like a good speech, a good sales pitch will find a balance between the facts and the narrative. Prior to our conversation with Krupin, we focused on the facts. We identified the general needs of our customers and emphasized that this is a free offer. After the conversation, we realized the importance of explaining the origin story of myVolunteers, asking people what their specific needs are, and empathizing with them so they feel heard.
If you or someone you know would be interested in myInterview’s COVID-Recovery pro-bono package please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more or to set-up a five minute demo.
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