February 10 2014
by Scott Johnson

Create an Experience, Don’t have a Meeting

I was chatting with a VP of sales candidate for one of my companies last week when he uttered a gem that stuck with me all weekend.  He said

“If  you are out pitching, and you want to be the one meeting that week that gets remembered, then don’t have a meeting at all, create an experience.”  

This rings true to me.  On their death beds, it is the experiences that people recall.  They don’t remember the cars and the clothes – it is the vacations and the weddings, the wars and the disasters.  Now, you can’t expect anyone to remember your pitch on their death bed.  But you can absolutely be the most memorable meeting that week.  Zuckerberg reportedly pitched Sequoia in his PJs.  Think they forgot that one?

Think about it – what meetings do you actually remember from the entirety of last year?  Can you recall one in particular?  I bet it was an experience.  Let’s face it – we all tune-out when being talked at.  If a pitch feels like yet another meeting, it melds together with that week’s morass.  This brings me to another important quote attributed to Maya Angelou that is a corollary to the above:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

This applies to every inter-personal interaction in life, but especially to pitch meetings.  Make your audience feel energized, amazed, something besides overfed with data!  Be passionate.  Create atmosphere.  Give your audience something great!

At NAV, because we spend so much of our time helping companies raise capital, we are increasingly using the “Is this team great at fundraising” screen for our investments.  We ask ourselves if we “feel” excited during that initial meeting?  Was the team able to create some theatre, some momentum, was it a great story that I wanted to be part of?  Actually, quite often the answer is yes.  We see a lot of great entrepreneurs who have honed their company pitch to be memorable.  That is part of the reason I love this work.  I hear amazing stories every day told by passionate smart people who teach me something new about an industry I didn’t know about or thought was mature.  But we see plenty of good ideas that don’t stand out because when we met them, it was just a meeting.

So tell your sales team they should stop having meetings, and help them create an experience instead.  The results will amaze you.

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