If you want to license your ideas for new products, you must get your sell sheet in front of the right people at the right companies. I don't think of this step as 'cold calling' so much as getting in. Partly because there are other ways of connecting with potential licensees now, like over LinkedIn, but also -- frankly -- because the idea of making a cold call intimidates people. No one likes to be rejected! And in a sense, that's what getting in requires: Having the courage to actually put your idea out there. My students worry about saying the right thing. They procrastinate. By far, this is the step product developers struggle with the most. Which is unfortunate! Because getting in is also the most important. You learn so much, and quickly, when you commit to contacting potential licensees about your idea. You're not in the game until you do.
Which is why I was delighted to interview my student Ani Manukyan about her experience. Since Manukyan joined my one-on-one coaching program inventRight in April, she's been developing two of her ideas for baby products. Last month, she began reaching out to companies that bring similar products to market for licensing consideration. When I spoke with Manukyan last, she was practically beaming. She laughed as she recounted her recent success. She was enjoying herself. I was taken aback, to be honest, because one of Manukyan's concepts is related to packaging.
It's my job to talk students who have packaging ideas out of it, because they're extremely challenging. If you don't already know how certain machines work, you're at a huge disadvantage. And if you're dealing with a consumable product, well, impacting how those machines work is expensive -- not to mention the cost of slowing down production. There's also the fact that most packaging companies are large, and getting in to large companies is frustrating and difficult because they don't need us.
I thought Manukyan seemed shy. She also spoke with an accent. So I was curious, to say the least!
The biggest challenge for her, she said, was finding the time. And she had struggled at first, she admitted. Manukyan has two young children and works part-time. The corporate headquarters of the companies on her list were on the East Coast. So she began making calls in the middle of the week during her son's afternoon naps.
"That first month, I couldn't get in to any companies," Manukyan confessed. She hadn't been able to get anyone to call her back. "Then I had to deal with my disappointment as well. After some time I started to think: Maybe I'm not doing something right."
She pored over the script she had been using and did some additional research. Manukyan drew on a saying her mother always told her: If there's a problem, the solution is attached to it. She needed to profoundly shift her thinking, she realized.
What she had been saying was this: "Hi, my name is Ani Manukyan. I'm an independent product developer. Is your company open to new product ideas?"
But for the most part, those sentences weren't working for her.
So she began stating the following instead: "Hi, my name is Ani and I am a product developer. I have product information I need to submit to your company for consideration." She told operators she usually spoke with a marketing manager.
Talk about a simple change! It made all the difference, though. The word "need" in particular reflected a crucial shift in her thinking. Manukyan started to envision herself as successful, she explained. That the employees at the companies on her list were waiting for her idea. That they needed her product, and all she needed to do was connect with them. What would she say if she truly felt that urgent? How would she say it? She began waking up at 5 a.m. every morning and made calls until 7. She built up the confidence in her voice.
The message her new script conveyed? That she had been been doing this for a long time. That people knew her and wanted to talk to her. It worked. Suddenly, she was able to connect. Receptionists transferred her to the right people. Before she'd been asking. Now she was telling. Her new script didn't open every door, of course. To get in some companies, she had to ask for an employee by name. So she used the website Lead411.com to get the contact information she needed.
Her dogged efforts paid off. Last Friday, she got in to Proctor & Gamble.
Coming up with that script wasn't easy, she said. It took time. She thought hard. And what she realized is this: "You have to see yourself already out there and already successful." She had been coming up with "every insane excuse" not to call. Now she was determined.
"Persistence is the key and the secret," Manukyan said with conviction. "I changed my strategy, I changed my schedule, my vision, the way I see myself. I realized that if I were to limit myself, my success would be limited as well. You have to ask yourself: How badly do you want your product to be in the market?" So she did -- again and again.
Her advice? "If something isn't working, change yourself. Find the strategy that works for you." She continued: "It's easy to be inspired, and very hard to stay inspired. You have to inspire yourself. Small victories are worth celebrating!"
I think she is absolutely spot-on. The only way to succeed at bringing a product to market is step by step. You really must believe in yourself.
To put it another way, you've got to fake it until you make it.