We live in a Golden Age of Sales. There are better tools than ever before for quickly crafting and tailoring pitches to reach the right people. We have data to tell us what works, and we have testing tools that can get down to the individual email level. But most importantly, we have unprecedented access to more people. Slowly but surely, a sales meritocracy is supplanting the various “good old boys” networks. A scrappy hustler can connect with anyone, from CEOs and co-founders to just about anyone else on the corporate contact list.

The bummer is that most tech companies are fouling up an epic opportunity to pitch in, be memorable, and add value.

When I read Sarah’s recent post about Yammer’s tone-deaf pitch to her, I cringed, especially as she had written only days before that she was thinking about leaving Yammer. Nobody to my knowledge reached out to acknowledge that, but she did get an insidious pitch to “upgrade” from her “trial account.”

We’ve all gotten the unfortunate emails like the one Sarah got. We’ve picked up the cringe-worthy “How are you?” cold calls that are essentially anti-marketing. This doesn’t win business. Worse, the next time Yammer pitches Sarah, she (and everybody that got that email) will remember the disrespectful pitch she got and will be that much less likely to work with them. Crap pitches create sales antibodies and make it extremely difficult to win business down the road.

But, here’s a secret: People in tech, CEOs, and co-founders love to be pitched, as long as it’s done well. A busy person feels relief when someone shows up with exactly what they want, and respects his or her time. When a company has a real problem, even one they don’t know they have, and some hacker or hustler can get it fixed, that person is an asset.

If someone called up and said:

I noticed your page load time was over 11 seconds, you reference multiple stylesheets and far, far too many http: requests. This is a straightforward fix. It looks like I can probably get it down below 3 seconds for a one-time fee of about $800, which should up your search traffic by 15 percent, since Google now likes speed.

Would it really matter who initiated the call? No. Even if the prospect wasn’t in buying mode, that call is welcomed. Even if the person on the other end didn’t buy, the rap would be positive. They did their homework, they reached out with a relevant pitch, and they helped me understand something about my business. If they called again, they wouldn’t be a stranger. And chances are, the percentages are way higher than a spray-and-pray approach.

I know that this is the Golden Age of Sales because I built my own company without connections, a network, or anything else but hustle. I did it, because I pitched many, many times (and very poorly at first.) But I got better as time went on. I learned from experience that a scrappy, honest pitch is almost always better than the polished pablum approved by legal and marketing.

Getting in front of co-founders, CEOs, directors of marketing, or whoever else is now as easy as sending a Tweet, leaving a blog comment, or sending a late-night email. Such corporate higher-ups give out their emails on Twitter all the time. If you sell a solution to an easily observable problem, it’s easy to get in front of someone with what you have.

The basic rules of the efficient pitch are simple and straightforward:

    • You have to add value to the day of the person you’re pitching to. The basic rules of content marketing apply to the personal pitch.
    • Have a point of view and present it honestly. Nobody trusts an ass-kisser.
    • Be brief and realize you’ll get to pitch again tomorrow.
    • Realize that the market is big and that not every company is a fit for what you do (and that’s just fine).
    • Tailor your pitch to your specific audience. With today’s tools you can practically make a custom pitch in minutes. Show that you care and this goes a long, long way towards helping people.
    • Don’t get snotty. If it’s not a fit, be happy to help another time.
    • Five minutes worth of homework goes a long way. You can get so much insight, so quickly.

This is an amazing time to be a salesperson. You can be Yammer, and send tone-deaf nonsense, or you can be welcomed with open arms. It all depends on how much effort you’re willing to make on tailoring your pitch.