Prepare to pitch for future success!
Posted on 12/11/2019
No matter how ‘good’ your product, if you can’t sell it you simply won’t have a business. For many academic teams in this year’s Cyber Security Academic Startup Accelerator Programme (CyberASAP), as for many start-ups everywhere, the sales process can feel like something of a challenge – the crucial skills of being able to identify, progress and close out a sales opportunity can sometimes seem rather alien to technology-focused academics.
That is why CyberASAP provides a package of training and support to help develop the tools so vital to commercialising an academic idea. On a recent two day Sales Presentation training course provided by Crossword Cyber Security, the CyberASAP teams were taken through some robust sales theory before being challenged to enact what they had learned.
“Academics don’t have a lot of exposure to selling, but without it their start-ups cannot generate revenue or build partnerships, and cannot succeed. So we give them an end-to-end sales training course including a nerve-wracking role-play of meeting a new prospective customer for the first time. It’s a long way out of their comfort zone – but all of them found it useful!” – Jake Holloway, Chief Product Officer at Crossword Cybersecurity plc.
Teams were given a thorough grounding of all stages of the sales lifecycle – from identifying, triaging and approaching key prospects, fully understanding customer needs, planning a good early stage sales meeting; right through to a coherent follow up strategy that leads, hopefully, to a contract being signed.
Using the tried and tested AIDA formula, teams were taken through different techniques in each key phase of this lifecycle to:
- gain Attention (targeted approaches through relevant channels; content could focus on, for example, market research, competitor analysis, identifying problems that the product can solve)
- prompt Interest (including pitching, early demos and objection handling)
- move the customer to a Decision (proof of product capability, costings, support etc)
- get Agreement (contract negotiation, final terms).
A second recent training course, delivered by Fiona Cotterill and Alison Rusted from Alfi Media, focused on presentation skills, giving the teams an opportunity to examine the value and impact of essentials such as good body language and vocal range; storytelling (good examples or anecdotes); humour; eye contact; knowledge and authenticity.
Their training included useful tips in terms of planning and preparing content. Cotterill advises giving careful consideration to: “The Opening – you want to grab your audience’s attention at the beginning of your presentation. Find a way that is going to create impact, for example starting with a:
- Rhetorical question
- Controversial statement
- Anecdote – tell them a personal story
- Joke – appropriate humour can be effective
- Killer Statistic
Think carefully about closing your presentation too. Make sure it has a strong, definitive end – you could summarise your main points; sow seeds (“I’ll leave you with a final thought”); make a ‘call for action’, a challenge, a pledge or a promise” suggests Cotterill.
In addition to mastering presentations and sales, teams also need to be able to deliver a compelling pitch to investors and, to that end, the next stage in the CyberASAP journey is a Meet the Investor and Commercial Insights day at the end of November.
These activities form part of a comprehensive range of expert support, bootcamps, briefings, and guidance all geared to providing academic start-ups in the cyber security space with the know-how and tools to help them successfully take their ideas to market.
The 13 shortlisted teams in this year’s cohort will present their final prototypes in February 2020 in front of an audience of investors, industrialists and stakeholders.