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5 Rules for Pitching the Very Rich

Wonder if even seasoned pros screw it up? Let me count the ways.

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If you're looking to ink a deal with a really wealthy individual (there are plenty of wealthy women, but I'll make this example male, because that's the universal pronoun), here are five rules to put you way ahead of your competition:

Rule No.1: Respect time.
Everyone knows to arrive early, but here's what most people don't know: there may be gatekeepers, but having time to cool your heels in the waiting room for 30 minutes looks sloppy. He'll just assume you must not be too successful.

Of course it makes sense to allow extra time to get to the meeting, because heaven help you if you're late. But if you're very early hang out at the coffee shop across the street, not in the reception area. You should be announcing yourself to the receptionist at precisely the appointed hour.

Once shown in, remember to respect his time, too. If you are scheduled for 10 minutes, 600 seconds from when you walked in you should be doing one of two things: Either walking out, or answering questions. If you are answering questions, acknowledge that your 10 minutes is up and let him know you're more than happy to answer his question if you can have a few more minutes. He'll respect you for being a person of your word and will almost certainly allow you a few more minutes.

Rule No.2: Don't tell him his business.
I don't care if you've been in the same industry for years--you still do not know his unique challenges at the moment. Don't insult him by announcing how your solution will revolutionize his operation or be just the thing. He may indeed conclude that your product or service is amazing, but that's for him to decide.

Rule No.3: Give him the facts.
Here's a great question: "How do you stack up against your competitors?" The answer will tell him volumes.

If you feed him that line about not wanting to bad-mouth competitors, you just blew the sale. This is an excuse salespeople hide behind when they either don't know their competitors, or they're worse than their competitors and don't want to say so.

He's not asking you to bad-mouth your competitors, he just expects you to know both your own product as well as your competitors' products. The winning answer will provide him specific details on what your business' strengths are over your competitors. These details le him know you're a pro. He might not even read your matrix, but will give it to someone on his staff to decode.

Rule No.4: Take notes.
An ancient Chinese proverb states: "The faintest writing is stronger than the strongest memory.

Unless you have a photographic or phonographic memory, be prepared to take notes on pertinent information or advice given. Don't make him repeat names, locations, or just because you couldn't be bothered to write them down.

Taking notes is a show of respect. It also means you need to be told something only once and he can rely on you to know it.

Rule No.5: Anticipate his needs.
This is the flipside of the last rule: Don't make him take notes to remember what you just told him. When your presentation is finished, leave him with a concise, factual, well-organized document summarizing the information you've presented.

In my 40 years in business, I estimate that at most 10 percent of salespeople follow any of these rules. That means an exceedingly small group of people will make a great impression on Mr. Big. Are you one of them?

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