Creating a new product idea is the fun part! But, to successfully license your product idea – you have to show it to some companies, probably a LOT of companies – and to do that you have to find a way to get in to the right person and present your product idea the right way.
For many people this is one of the hardest steps in licensing – trying to call a company and get your product in the door. But you are not in the game if you aren’t doing this – so here are a few ways to make it go more smoothly.
First, let’s assume (and you need to make sure) that you have already done all the steps to get you to this place. You’ve studied the marketplace (making sure your product has a meaningful point of difference from other products on the market), you’ve protected your idea with a well-written provisional patent application, you’ve produced great marketing materials and maybe you’ve even made a one-minute video (showing a problem then showing how your product solves it). You are ready to submit your idea to companies!
Now, I want to get you into the right mindset.
When I contact a company, I consider that I am trying to make a relationship. I’m not trying to sell anything.
That attitude takes a lot of stress off of my shoulders. I am not trying to be a salesman; I am trying to be a resource. (My sell sheet and/or video are going to do the selling for me.) You never want to try to sell your product over the phone – don’t even bother. What want to do is get them to agree to share your idea with them. That’s all.
So, here are the tips:
- Be yourself. Creative people are of great value to companies and they need you and your ideas. You might not have the same experience or knowledge about their industry that they have, but that’s OK. Never undervalue yourself.
- Be likeable. Companies are made up of people. People like to work with likeable people.
- Be friendly, especially to the “gatekeepers”. Remember their names, say please and thank you. It’s likely you won’t reach the right person the first time you call and you will need the gatekeeper’s help again. Give them respect and they will help you in the future.
- Make your list of companies and spend at least a half hour or hour per day calling them. It’s going to take some time to reach the right person at each company – so plug away each day but don’t overdo it and get burned out. Make it a habit – I do my cold calling in the morning and I schedule time on my calendar for it.
- Keep great notes about every call. I’ve made a mistake by not doing this, and ended up calling the same company twice – very embarrassing.
- Always follow up. Be persistent but polite, make sure that you get confirmation they received your sell sheet.
- Ask for their email. I cannot tell you how many times I have forgotten to do this and then have to call back, sheepishly.
- Be enthusiastic! It’s contagious.
- Don’t explain you product in great detail on the phone and try to sell it. Just identify the correct person to send your sell sheet or video.
- Smile while you are talking – they can’t see it but they can hear it.
- Remember, it doesn’t matter what you done in the past – they only care about what you are offering them today.
- Don’t pitch. You might use your one-line benefit in describing the product – that’s why it is so important.
- Tell them you are a product developer not an inventor. They probably have product developers on their team – being an inventor puts you in some strange category. You want to be professional.
- Make sure your list of companies is inventor friendly – open to outside submissions and fair. Type their name in your search engine followed by the word “complaints” if you are unsure.
- Make sure to connect with the right person. Usually it’s the marketing manager, someone in sale or new product development.
- Be patient. Don’t be the pest that calls/emails them daily or even weekly once you have submitted your idea. Give them some time. You should ask for their procedure prior to submitting your idea so that you have some sense of timing.
- Use the word “need” as in “You need to see this product and how it can fit into your company’s product mix”. Can I send you my sell sheet?
- Be short and sweet on the phone. Don’t explain how and why you invented the product - be respectful of their time.
- Don’t write long email! Use your one-line benefit statement and attach your sell sheet – you don’t need to write much more other than your contact information.
- If you receive a “no” be professional! Thank them for the opportunity to present to the. Then come back with another product! It’s perfectly OK to ask for feedback – or what they are looking for so that you can design products more in line with their needs.
- Make sure to make phone calls from a quiet place where you can hear them and there is no unprofessional background noise.
- Don’t call on a Monday – people are just getting settled in from the weekend.
- Don’t’ call on a Friday – people want out of there.
- Don’t try to go around someone who hasn’t gotten back to you. Be patient. Check with the company switchboard/operator to make sure the person still works there.
- Call lots and lots of companies. Make a huge list. Call them all. Then call some more.
- Don’t call your favorite company first. You are going to get better at this with practice so start farther down the list!
Remember, you are not selling you are asking to deliver a “package” (your sell sheet). You are like the FedEx man – just trying to schedule a delivery.
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