Events Feb 26, 2018

For our third and last conference on how to successfully conquer the US market, Curtis Giesen, a successful American entrepreneur, explained why marketing and sales work differently in the USA and shared his insight on how to get rapid traction on the US market.

There are no barriers to French startups attracting US customers, but the reality is that you have to go about it differently from here. Not only is the style and way of communicating different right down to what you say, but you simply can’t export the French approach to the US and expect that to work .Style is different with a different way of communicating and what you say is different too: it doesn’t work to take what you do here in France and export it to the US. The US is an extremely different marketplace.


Why it is more difficult to break through in the US:
- Blizzard of startups: it’s a much more competitive market with 10 times more competitors than in France
- Prospects receive multiple pitches every day
- Everyone is saying the same thing
- Messages are often product-driven and not market-driven: what can you offer to help the business?
In this type of context, the solution is to show less and keep it simple:
- Less is more: 10 slides are better than 40
- Use plain English: no jargon or buzz words, otherwise you are going to lose your audience’s interest
- You have 2 minutes to create interest.

To create quick traction in the US, I recommend sharpening each step in the sales process

MESSAGE - Positioning
In one sentence, define what your company does
- Think message ad: you glance at it and you get it
- The second sentence should say why it is exciting, how you differentiate yourself.

Your deck should be no longer than 10 slides: Cover/Problem/Solution/Screenshot user experience/Screenshot reporting/How it works/Case Study (how the client uses it)/Benefit/Pilot/Company background

Define the pilot program precisely: “here is what we are offering”. Make sure they say yes straight away. Don’t let them think about it as they won’t, they don’t have time.


Send the deck upfront. Remember that you only have 2 minutes to make a first impression.
Send a personalized email with one single paragraph and the deck attached. One sheet doesn’t engage, it’s too long! I find that an email structured as below is effective to get a first meeting:
- Who do you want to talk to (ask for a 30-minute meeting)
- What your company does
- Why it is exciting (differentiation)
- Your clients (for validation)
- Deck attached.

TARGETS - Prioritize early adopters who can act quickly
It’s important not to chase everybody, so try to be focused. I recommend looking at the following:
- Who could be upfront and act as a leader
- Who is more innovative and moves faster
- Mix small and large companies
- Personalized relationships make a huge difference.

THE MEETING - 30 minutes max
I recommend a conversational mode rather than going though slides. Send the deck upfront and don’t go through it. Look your prospect straight in the eye, develop trust. The pitch should last for 30 minutes maximum to allow for conversation. Listen to them too.

If there is an interest, move quickly.
- Be assumptive and focus on a pilot, not a demo. I find that a demo doesn’t help much
- Give contact 2 to 3 screenshots to be shared internally
- Provide simple and standardized paperwork: if it goes to the lawyers, it takes forever and it can raise huge issues.
The goal is to engage during this first meeting before your prospect forgets why they liked you in the first place. Remember, Americans have very, very short attention spans. Ask when they are excited, not later. Every day that goes by, there is a bigger chance that they will forget about it. If they are engaged, they will act quickly.

This is important, because if they buy it and don’t use it, they are going to come back to you and say:” your products are not good, nobody is using them”. So as soon as they buy your product, get over there to ensure that people start using it. I find that its useful to designate one person to manage relationships. Give them one sheet with easy directions. Provide some training and support to motivate usage.

Once you have some customers under your belt and if your goal is to meet investors, below are some recommendations for an effective investor deck:
Ten slides:
- Title
- Problem
- Solution
- Underlying magic
- Business model
- Marketing and sales
- Competition
- Management team
- Financial projections and key metrics
- Current status, accomplishments to date, timeline and use of funds
The US is an excellent opportunity right now, but think differently:
- Be clear and concise
- Differentiate
- Define the offering and ask for the order
Q & A
What is the difference between a pilot and a demo?
A demo is like an interface, where you show them the features. A pilot is hands on and interactive in which the audience actually uses the product, which is a lot more meaningful to them.
Do you have to be physically there, or you can sell your products from France?
My role is to get the engine going with the first 3 to 4 sales. If I can have the CEO of the company with me, it helps during the first meetings. I am not as effective if it is only me. Remember not to chase everybody. There are not many customers in San Francisco, so it doesn’t really make sense to open an office there. Customers are in New York.
Would you apply the same rules to a 2-3-minute investor pitch?
I would use the famous 10 / 20 / 30 rules to pitch your company: 10 slides, 20 minutes meeting, 30-point font for the typo.
Would you consider yourself to be a US sales accelerator?

How long do you reckon it takes to make the first sale when you are ready?
It can happen quickly, within the first 3 months. Once they are engaged, they go for it.
Would you use phone calls versus email?
I send an email and call the contact straight away. A voice warms things up. I would avoid calling on Monday or Friday.
Do you work with a team?
No. It’s only me and I am in France one week a month.
How many VCs would you recommend approaching?
Once again, don’t chase everyone. Focus on who is right for your sector. Try to get an introduction from someone and avoid cold calls. Don’t use a placement agent or a broker to approach a VC.

Curtis Giesen has helped many start-ups to develop their customer traction on the US market. He is a Harvard graduate and he received the Harvard "Entrepreneur of the Year" Award. He was also financed and mentored by Guy Kawasaki, former “Apple evangelist”.



You liked this wrap-up? You will also like:

- The wrap-up of the 1st Entrepreneurs'Talk of the cycle dedicated to the US market: The Nuts and Bolts of Opening an office in the USA.

- The wrap-up of the 2nd Entrepreneurs'Talk of the cycle dedicated to the US market: How to convince US Venture Capitals.



You wish you were here? Join the Entrepreneurs' Talk MeetUp group and don't miss any of our next events!

Partech Shaker, what is it?