#Asia The art of the hustle — in elevators, on flights, and even in the toilet


What I learnt was that the most brutal and effective sales training one can have is in retail — the location-bound job where you stand, often 8 hours in a shift, trying to push product onto 7B other people that don’t give a fuck?

Pitching FINAL

The great Jack Ma cited that your business’ best benefactors are strangers who buy your products. After part-timing/ hustling a total of 116 sales jobs in 2014, I firmly believe that human-centric offline selling is really the be-all of your early-, mid- and late-stage startup success.

Through the hustle, I have won the regionals of MCAP 2016 at Honolulu, Hawaii and was among the top 10 for the Global Mobile Congress Challenge in Barcelona for SafeChats. I also got Temploy to be a season 2 finalist on Channel News Asia’s business reality show, “Start-Up”.

What I learnt was that the most brutal and effective sales training one can have is in retail — the location-bound job where you stand, often 8 hours in a shift, trying to push product onto 7 billion other people that don’t give a fuck?

But here’s the thing. With good enough hustling techniques, even sucky products / startups can sell.

Technique 1: Structure your pitch

In contemporary dance music, there are drops — the reason for the way top dance hits are constructed is because of the position and buildup of those top hits. In fact I structure my pitches more like a song:

Intro: What

Verse: Why

Chorus: call to action (that’s you dropping the beat sales-wise) 

Breakdown: How

Verse: Why

Chorus: call to action (yes, because people walk in halfway all the time in retail)

Technique 2: The momentum of the pitch matters more than the content

Initially, I blasted my call-to-action repeatedly and got nowhere. What I realised is that if I kept the tempo low and by engaging the audience, I could build up the momentum. I then wait for the crescendo to make the close — this made people buy Android TV boxes, smart phones, MyRepublic plans and startups from me. 

One way to connect with the audience is to allow for questions during the pitch.

Don’t say “my health tech startup is a revolutionary IOT”, say “My IOT startup will save your life today”. End consumers want to know what the product does for them, not past achievements, winning previous competitions, industry accolades, etc. Give leading answers and let them ask you engaging questions.

Technique 3: Make them relate to you

Don’t kid yourself, all businesses are B2C — at some point in your startup, you will need to sell something to someone. Generally if someone relates you, no matter what you are selling, they will buy from you.

Seriously relate YOURSELF to them. And I don’t mean talking about how sorry your startup situation is, its about how you operate within the same social space as a USER of the same product or even better as its CRITIC. 

Technique 4: use referential words and terms

This is just like the “Uber for X” will tell you way more than “shared economy startup of X”. Your PR expert will tell you not to mention someone else’s brand in a pitch, but really, from experience, it shortens the understanding curve and allows some degree of visualization.

Technique 5: Perfect your pitch so all you need is you

Most of the time while hustling, you won’t even have the opportunity to pull out visuals. I’ve done pitches in elevators, on flights, during keynotes with the person next to me, and once even in the toilet. In Echelon Thailand 2014 Top 20, their laptop broke down and I had to do the pitch mic-less and slide-less. Still made it to the next round!

Technique 6: Pitch to a large audience

An extrapolation of the hustle that nets me the biggest amount of results is pitching at startup competitions. I can pitch to many people at once, not just the judges; I was going for the audience. 

Remember eye contact is important. Learn how to look at the spaces BETWEEN people in the crowd to have the appearance you are looking at everyone. Also, in larger groups, go for the lowest common denominator where possible: Bitch about your wife, somehow everyone can relate to it.

Offline selling to end-users not only polishes your edge in pitches, it boosts your confidence and also validates your product almost immediately. I would recommend every entrepreneur to take try out a flexitime job in sales just to sharpen your people and hustle skills.

On a side note, Temploy is offering ‘Co-founder As A Service’ to get a professional hustler to help sell your startup. To get more entrepreneurs up to speed with the art of the hustle, visit this link to enter your startup name, contact and your elevator pitch – I will gladly help you tune your sales pitch for free.

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