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What is your thesis?

WRITTEN ON March 19th, 2013 BY

One of the great conundrums in our august profession is that we must figure out, one way or another, how to successfully interrupt strangers and provoke them into giving us meaningful amounts of their time, people and money, (typically in that order) within what they consider to be a completely unacceptable timeframe. Now.

We are all in the Now business.  The problem is that our “Now” is their “Not Now” as they are currently working on their “Now”.

In short, our ask within the very fragile timeframe of an interruption is essentially “Would you kindly take your focus off of your favorite subject, you, and put it on me?” or, said in other words “Kindly allow my agenda to trump yours and relinquish control to a complete stranger”.

Most are not happy to comply.  How unhappy?  Research suggests up to 98.5% unhappy, especially at the executive level.


Because executives translate our attempts immediately, seeing them for what they really are: a request for a commitment of their unbudgeted or unallocated CapEx and/or OpEx.  At the very least, they know that we are asking for a soft-dollar commitment (read: reallocation of time and resources currently focused on doing something that actively contributes to the P&L) associated with a decision cycle, with indirect hard-dollar opportunity cost risk.

This, an unpopular topic in the best of times, is even more so now when capital commands a premium, especially in EMEA and the US.

Do you think about it this way when you make an attempt to engage a suspect or prospect, especially an economic decision maker?

Ironically, we share the same sentiments and reactions as our would-be prospects because we possess the same sharply defined “buy-side” translation skills that have been conditioned through our experience on the receiving end of an uninvited sales interruption.

We are required to do the very thing that we abhor.  What makes matters worse, we take on this role knowing all that it entails.  Enter emotion (rarely the right kind), subjectivity and doubt.

Those that “arrive” “get it” or “figure this out”…call it what you like, know that they have passed through the looking glass…making that subliminal shift from reactor to creator.  They are free from the servitude of prospect whimsy and demands.  They become untethered from the shackles of anemic pipeline-to-target multiples and are no longer dependent on “aggressively waiting for the phone to ring” (thank you for that one, Conor).

Like vegetables and exercise, we know that getting this right is good for us, and yet, we dodge, avoid, prod Marketing for the Glengarry leads, outsource to third-parties or new reps cutting their teeth, etc.

So…how do we get this right?

As I sat to write this, my son’s 8th grade writing project, of all things, provided an answer with poetic clarity.  He and his classmates are charged with coming up with an original thesis and defending it.  As I helped him get his head around how he would attack this project, I also saw how this word, and the role that it plays, is so critical to our profession.


the·sis [thee-sis]  noun, plural the·ses [-seez]  

1. A proposition stated or put forward for consideration, especially one to be discussed and proved or to be maintained against objections  


When you break this down, isn’t this exactly what we must have when we approach anyone with an “Ask” of any substance?

When we reach out to any prospect, we are proposing that they consider doing something, for us.  In our world we use two of the multiple meanings of consideration.  Both careful thought and compensation.

Give us a name, your time, information that WE want for OUR purposes…with the unexpressed but mutually understood goal of retiring quota, which is lost on no one as soon as we are identified as a salesperson or vendor.   Why would they, or anyone, do this for us unless they had a compelling reason to do so?

Objections are a given.  We know that they are coming…and when driving demand, we crave the objection as it is an initial sign of interest vs. its nasty first cousin…a hang up, with all of its severe finality.

Our objective is to close for an initial discussion.  Alas, this requires time and time is scarce and rarely shared with us.  Which segues nicely into proof.  Notice “discussed” AND “proved” are married in the above definition.   A prospect is rarely moved by what we claim, but rather by what we can prove as they “know” that our subjectivity is innately compromised as a vendor seeking revenue.  Proof must be relevant, specific, objective and compelling to be effective.

So often claims are made, pitches delivered, returns proffered and value promised in the name of moving a suspect or prospect to take just one step towards us…when they fail, you can almost always associate this with a lack of substance, relevance or proof.

They lack a thesis.

Regardless of the power of your brand, scarcity, uncertainty and risk are driving executive decisions (and indecision).

If you are going to successfully drive net new revenue (i.e. the revenue that is not finding you on its own), you must first have a thesis, and then you must be able to defend it.  Any thesis or pitch is only as good as the details that back it up…otherwise it is just another claim, destined for the same fate as most subjective claims.

What can you prove? Why do your current buyers, buy?  In a sentence?

What is your thesis?