Decoding Sales

Episode 35: The Pitch

June 19, 2024 Peter & Alex
Episode 35: The Pitch
Decoding Sales
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Decoding Sales
Episode 35: The Pitch
Jun 19, 2024
Peter & Alex

Send us a Text Message.

Peter and Alex review the elements of an effective pitch:

  • The elevator pitch and leaning into your origin story (regardless of what VCs will tell you)
  • What makes a compelling pitch deck and how not to bore your prospect with deckware
  • Teasing a demo to sell the second meeting

Other episodes referenced: 

Learn more about Peter's bootcamp Sales Sprint and his founder-led sales community, Zero to Hero!

Show Notes Transcript

Send us a Text Message.

Peter and Alex review the elements of an effective pitch:

  • The elevator pitch and leaning into your origin story (regardless of what VCs will tell you)
  • What makes a compelling pitch deck and how not to bore your prospect with deckware
  • Teasing a demo to sell the second meeting

Other episodes referenced: 

Learn more about Peter's bootcamp Sales Sprint and his founder-led sales community, Zero to Hero!

Episode 35: The Pitch


Alex Allain: Welcome to Decoding Sales, a podcast where an engineer, that's me, Alex, and a salesperson

Peter Ahn: That's me, Peter. 

Alex Allain: talk about the art and science of sales as it relates to life and business. In this episode, we are going to cover one of the most important topics in sales, which is how do you make a pitch that tells your story and breaks through in a crowded market. So Peter, I'm really excited to talk about this topic today. I feel like we've never actually done a pitch focused podcast, even though it's , so essential. . 

So just to get started, what the heck is a pitch? What are we talking about? What does it mean?

Peter Ahn: I think, okay, the pitch, there's multiple components, so let's break it down. First is your elevator pitch. How do you actually show up with the first two to three to four sentences of who you are and what you build? So I think that has to be super snappy and concise. Then, for B2B sales at least, there needs to be some sort of [00:01:00] deck.

, and the deck, , has to be very engaging, collaborative, and most importantly, has to allow you to weed out the bad fit leads too,? So there's a certain amount of polish and alignment that goes into the deck. And then in this day and age, , I do think you have to show part of the product.

That doesn't mean do the full demo, but you have to give just enough of a teaser to really draw in the stakeholders that are on the call with you at that moment, and then to sell the second meeting, because in enterprise sales, you have multiple stakeholders and a longer sales process than if you were to do something self serve or SMB focused.

So those are the high level building blocks of a pitch, I would 


Alex Allain: That's great. What are the jobs that each of those need to do?

Peter Ahn: Yeah, I think, so let's go back to the elevator pitch. I think the elevator pitch is, the job is to engage and build rapport pretty quickly. , there's probably some sort of stat around there where we make a judgment on people's characters, even within the first few seconds of meeting them. I don't know what the exact [00:02:00] number is, but I remember seeing something around, like, pretty surprisingly it's like less than probably like 30 seconds or something.

So I think the job there is to build rapport, really engage, and to make sure the prospect is going to listen to the rest of your pitch. So, that's an elevator pitch. The pitch deck, the main job, I think, is to build alignment on philosophies and points of view of the world. , so I think it's an opportunity for the seller to say, okay, are these prospects actually aligned on the pain point that I can hit out of the park?

And then for the prospect, it's an opportunity to understand whether or not, the vendor, can solve their pain points that they came to the call with. So I think that's the main thing. I think the other thing about the pitch deck is also like a continuation of rapport building, a continuation of judging somebody's awareness level because bad sellers will just bulldoze a pitch and not ask questions and not make it a conversation whereas really skilled sellers will Make it feel very natural and make it feel like you're not looking at slides and you're [00:03:00] actually having a conversation.

So that's that. And then,, the third part, the product demo or the condensed product demo is really where I think you unlock the aha moment of why this is different and why this is so much better than the rest of the competition. And it's really, I think, the sizzle of the call that sells engagement beyond the first call.

, and then, secondarily, I, I think it continues on what the pitch deck does, which is continue to build alignment, you know, questions like, does this work, or is this how you envisioned it to be, or we don't do that today, but is it okay that we don't do that, is it a hard requirement, it's a continuation of qualification as well.

Alex Allain: Oh, I like that. So you're sort of like in the first. Few sentences getting in the right direction. The first few minutes you're aligning on the problem. You're deepening that rapport, and then you're like bringing it all home with that product demo that sort of demonstrates that you're kind of for real, that you're not just talking about something, but you've [00:04:00] got something that people should get excited about.

And again, throughout all of that, you're like deepening. Your initial relationship and, the goal of all three of these combined, it sounds like is to get to that next call where you can start talking more specifics.

Peter Ahn: Exactly. Yep. Get to that next call. Get more people involved because you did such a good job of impressing the first group of constituents that came your way, right? Evaluate your 


Alex Allain: So this, this is a lot to get done and it seems hard, right? It seems like the kind of thing that you could very easily practice a lot and not even really know if it's going well because people are kind of giving you blank stare kind of answers, but is that because they don't care about what you're doing or is that cause you're kind of failing?

So, , let's say that somebody's listening to this call and they're like, okay, I have a, I'm sure , not that many people are like, I have no pitch. Almost everyone's going to have some kind of, like, story. How do they figure out if it's good? And, , if it's not good, how do they make it better?

[00:05:00] Well,

Peter Ahn: and that could be within your team. I'd also practice that with other people. Future potential prospects as well, , and you know, even with prospects that you don't have a relationship with after the elevator pitch, you should ask them, hey, does this sound like there's a problem that we've addressed?

, just even from the first few sentences of what I've told you, ? Like you can still get real time feedback that way. , but yeah, it does require a lot of practice. I remember across all the companies that I've joined, I would practice the elevator pitch. in excruciating pain and repetitiveness.

And then, by the way, the other thing too is an elevator pitch is only good if you have like six, seven, eight different versions of it. So I would practice different versions because a lot of, as you know, what I coach is being authentic and it's not authentic if you're giving the same elevator pitch to different people that you're talking to.

So there's short versions of it, there's slightly longer versions of it, And the way that I would vary that is just to read the body language of the person on the other side or to mirror them, ? If they're giving a little [00:06:00] bit of a longer intro or they're a little bit more chatty, then I'm probably a little bit more chatty on my intro too and give a little bit more of my origin story.

So, I don't know if that answers your question around how to actually assess the effectiveness. , the other part of your question was, how do you get better at it? And, it's also practice. You know, the only way you get better at it is you try different versions, take the feedback, and then change the elevator pitch.

And so, you know, in the early goings of me starting at various startups, I would, , have like 20, 25 different versions, and then if I got bored, I would change it up. And then as I got more comfortable, I would say, how does that sound for an introduction? , are you more excited or less excited than when you joined this call?

You know, like getting really comfortable in your skin and being able to actually elicit that kind of feedback is super powerful because more often than not, people are going to be honest and you can also just tell from their reaction how you did.

Alex Allain: I think part of the point of this [00:07:00] podcast is to unpack all these things a little bit. So, like, when you're talking about, you can tell from their reaction, what is a sign that you've nailed it?

Peter Ahn: I think the, a sign that you've nailed it is when they say, oh yeah, that's exactly the problem I dealt with. Or, I agree with your view of the world. And to tangibly like, go back to the actual elevator pitch, what makes a good elevator pitch? I think there's a couple things. One is clearly painting a before and after picture.

Alex Allain: hm,

Peter Ahn: And then also bringing in some personal credibility, either through domain expertise, or, , something in your background that makes you a good fit for tackling the problem you're about to talk about. Right, so, , if I'm talking about, hey, like, I'm at a cybersecurity company called Twingate, we'll use that example again, I know we've used it a ton in other episodes, but, , I joined this cybersecurity company not because I'm a cybersecurity expert, but it's because I'm an expert in end user technology that is [00:08:00] very well designed and very well adopted.

And our view of the world is that cybersecurity solutions should also be easy and very frictionless to use. Now, when you think about cybersecurity companies, that isn't the case today, and we're really looking to change that, starting with replacing your


Alex Allain: hm, 

Peter Ahn: You know, like, so, so that's, that's my background.

, how does that sound to you? Is that kind of what you expected coming into this call?, and so there's like a couple things there that a prospect can directly talk about. One is they can agree or disagree with the fact that end user technology and cybersecurity is good or bad. Or usable or non usable.

And then the second thing they can talk about is, yeah, I do have a pain point in my VPN.

But I don't know if we, you know, if we were to time that elevator pitch, it probably took like 30 seconds, maybe 45 seconds, but I'm bringing in both the kind of credibility from why I'm even at this company. And then also, here's a pain point we're going to talk about.

Alex Allain: [00:09:00] Yeah. It seems like you sort of set this up a little bit about you, that credibility, a little bit about your view of the world, which then kind of leads into the pain point question. And I thought there was actually something else that you did that was really interesting. Which is the starting with the VPN.

I always thought of Twingate as a VPN company, but I like the way that you broadened the scope with that. I'm curious, like, I assume it's very intentional.

Peter Ahn: Yes. Yes. 

Alex Allain: What were you doing with that? I 

Peter Ahn: Yeah, that's a great question. So very intentional because, . VPN for us was a start because it was the biggest pain point for a lot of companies, and still is I would say, especially when folks started going remote. But there was all this other special sauce under the hood around data with the device, which mobile device management companies leverage to sell their product.

Right? There's all this other [00:10:00] opportunity because we had an agent installed on the computer to look at not just private traffic, which is what VPNs are primarily used for, but to also look at nefarious behavior on the public web, ? So if you think about Cisco Umbrella or DNS filtering, those solutions were designed to not protect you from internal traffic, but to protect you from the dangers of the public web, right?

So because we had all that secret sauce under the hood, but because it wasn't our main, , focus area product wise, we wouldn't bring that up in, , the first five minutes of the pitch. But we made it clear that we're not a one trick pony either when you look at this from, , a medium to long term roadmap vision.

Alex Allain: you sort of explained, like, what, the what behind it. I'm still not sure the why. Why is that important when you're talking to these customers?

Peter Ahn: Yeah, so, so the why is because you want to be able to narrow down and focus the prospect on one or two pain points, and you want to [00:11:00] make sure you're dealing with a lead that actually has a problem you can help

solve. And if you bring up too many things, you don't know where the, stack ranking is of the platform. Does that make sense? So the why is because you don't want to spend time with leads that,, are poor fit leads because they're more excited about roadmap items than what the product actually does today in V1 of 

what you 


Alex Allain: Well, I guess in that case, wouldn't you just say, why say starting with the firewall? Why don't you just say, by building a better firewall?

Peter Ahn: Great question. Okay. So, so the reason behind that is because enterprise organizations are usually looking at long term investments. You know, even if they come to you with an acute pain point, they're usually not coming to you to say. Let's just play whack a mole and solve this and then move on. And in cybersecurity specifically, there is, a lot of history around these big incumbent players doing everything.

You know, a lot of these buyers oftentimes are [00:12:00] looking for a one stop shop. So we still want to be able to say that we're going to have those capabilities, , but start with something that is digestible and something that shows that we're intentionally wedging ourselves through a specific domain.

, but our plans are to grow beyond that, right? So I think it's because enterprise buyers buy into vision versus, You know, just features. And so that's also our way stylistically to say, , you know, if you view VPN replacement as a feature, that's not where we're going to


Alex Allain: Hmm. Yeah, I like that. It was kind of, what I thought might be going on. It has this nice property of not pigeonholing you and feeling more expansive, which feels like it pulls people out of the weeds a little bit and into the like, what do you want the world to be big picture?

Peter Ahn: Yep, exactly. Yeah. And you know, the VPN replacement is probably the painkiller, but, you know, in security and cybersecurity, you also want to like, kind of know what the vitamins are you want to take medium to [00:13:00] long term. And I think it allowed us to. So we're trying to, , show that we're not being reactive to pain, but we're also trying to be proactive in terms of how security itself should look like beyond the VPN, as VPN is just one aspect of cybersecurity.

Alex Allain: Yeah, I guess that's also kind of just credibility building. If you were like, We're coming in, we're a security solution, we have a better VPN. It doesn't feel complete.

Peter Ahn: Exactly, 

Alex Allain: , so how does this, generalize for somebody? Like how, what are the lessons to draw from that? , I guess one of them is kind of this idea of pulling out to the vision level versus the specific details and trying to, create enough space for the next part of the conversation to get into details rather than like hyper focusing immediately.

Peter Ahn: Mm 

hmm. Yeah, 

Alex Allain: Stuff we talked about like credibility building and a little bit of like what your story is and your vision

What else? Hmm

Peter Ahn: a lot of founders. So, I think a lot of founders will ask me do I really have to talk about myself in the [00:14:00] beginning? And you know, I've actually even read posts from VC folks who are telling their startup founders on LinkedIn, Hey, nobody wants to hear about you, they just want to hear about the product and how you can help them.

But I think that's just wrong and false. And so I would really encourage founders to, like, Live your personal story and convey and show and be proud of it because it has a big impact on potential buyers and then yeah the second part to your point is to really start to lay the foundation that you are gonna start talking about points of views and opinions not just the technology, which is why in the in the Elevator pitch I coach a lot of founders to use we believe statements Like we believe that this shouldn't be true anymore Or in 2024 or 2025, we believe the world should look a little bit different. And the way that we're approaching it is approaching it from replacing VPN first [00:15:00] or, you know, I keep using VPN, but it's like, you can replace that with anything. The way that we're approaching it is starting with ABC. Because, , that also shows you the, Thought process and the architectural decisions you're making to address a broader problem.

And so yeah, I think those are the main components. Personal credibility, setting expectations that this is about philosophical alignment, and then showing the audience technically how you're wedging into the problem to make it very different from what's been done in the past and what's going to be done in the 


Alex Allain: I really like this. Can I just try to condense? I'm like condensing this down into a

Peter Ahn: This is why I love talking to you.


Alex Allain: like who am I and why am I credible? What do I believe and do you believe the same thing and how do we actually translate that belief into reality?

Peter Ahn: Yes. Yes, that's, that's perfect. I love that. I gotta like have a visual of that. It's a future content 


right [00:16:00] there.

Alex Allain: there we go. , yeah, it's a free idea for you on your, 

Peter Ahn: I 

Alex Allain: for, 

uh, your your various communities and classes to have that. I really like that actually. I think that's powerful. And by the way, I think it's totally nonsense that people would say that you should just talk about your product. Like, first of all, that's insane because half of this is like establishing some amount of credibility and trust.

Like I'm not going to buy some random product. When I don't know who you are,

Peter Ahn: Yeah,

Alex Allain: unless your product is like perfect, in which case I probably wanna know who you are 'cause you're probably well known at this point. 

Peter Ahn: yeah, 

Alex Allain: And second, , it seems like that's pretty darn important for telling a, a story about building a company to company relationship.

Peter Ahn: yeah, 

Alex Allain: and and like, if I know where you're coming from, I know where you're going.

Peter Ahn: exactly. 

Alex Allain: And it feels like the, the whole arc of this intro is telling the story of where am I, where did I come from? Where am I going through these? You know who I am, what I believe.[00:17:00] 

Peter Ahn: Yes, yes, completely. Yeah, it's um, you're selling the arc of the relationship in the first five 



Alex Allain: Yeah, well it's good for you that there are all these idiot VCs out there.

Peter Ahn: I know, right? I should find those posts and , put it in the show notes 

Alex Allain: Yeah, I bet they've never done sales. Um, do you, do you think that founders come to them and they're like, Can you just please tell me what your product is? I don't care about your background.

Peter Ahn: I think a lot of VCs do that actually. Yeah, because you know, you hear from founders where like, you know, horror stories on VC folks like showing up late or like not paying attention.

And so, I do. 

Alex Allain: we, we know that like who, like every, every fucking startup is good. It's going to pivot and change in some way. It's not like it's going to be a straight shot unless you're like Drew and Arash and you got really nailed it on the first, the first rev with Dropbox, but like, that's not the norm.

Right. And so like who the founder is really matters. So it just, that seems crazy to me that they can't draw that connection with 

Peter Ahn: Yeah, especially because a lot [00:18:00] of VC, maybe some of those same ones are telling folks that they're betting on founders, not the 

idea sometimes, right? That's very common, as we know, right? Where people are writing checks for folks even before they have the product. So, um, you know, that's also, , a dynamic, I think in enterprise sales, like you need to trust the person too, as much as you 

trust the product. 

Alex Allain: Yeah. I mean, , we've talked about this on numerous episodes and I think we've got one on the roadmap is a relationship tool, right? Like, anyway, it's flabbergasting to me to hear people making those kind of statements.

And I love it. I love it. I'm here for it because it's showing Peter that there is a need for what you are doing to tell these people how to actually be successful rather than listening to a bunch of, anyway, 

Peter Ahn: You gotta be proud. Be proud of yourself and your origin story and where 

you come 

from, you

Alex Allain: this right. And, and, and actually, and ignore the, the VCs who've like, apparently never actually been in your shoes.

Peter Ahn: Yes. Yes. Yeah. Like sales is not a common path to VC. Although it's, it's [00:19:00] becoming more common, but a lot of these folks haven't operated in enterprise sales 


Alex Allain: yeah. yeah. Well, I love it. Okay, so, now that we've, uh, we've taken down VCs, who's next on our list? Um, okay,

so, so I think, I, I think one thing that's, like, really underrated here, uh, Peter, is just how hard getting this pitch right is, and we've talked about, sort of, that storytelling, and I love the way you were talking about customizing it for , the person you were talking to, because that's something I always feel , Whenever I have like a personal pitch of like who I am, what I do, I never ever repeat the words exactly the same.

It's always, you know, uh, kind of like a, a live concert recording. It's always a little different or whatever. Um, and is that bad or good? Like, I don't actually know. I just, I get bored repeating myself, I guess.

Peter Ahn: I think that's great, you know, because I think it ends up sounding a lot more authentic. You know, a lot more genuine, , and it gives you a lot more [00:20:00] flexibility to really be in the conversation, in my opinion. , but you know, ironically, , practicing the same words multiple times will get you there.

You know, funny enough, , reading scripts and doing that like over and over again will allow you to be


Alex Allain: Mm, because you feel


Peter Ahn: yeah, and you're, you're confident that you could just interchange different parts of that script. Whereas if you don't prepare the script, then you probably want to read the script, right?

So that's one thing. And then the second thing I think that allows you to do is also play off of what the other person says. You know, because it's not always the case where you get to introduce yourselves. You know, we've all been on calls where , the other side starts talking for five to ten minutes and you realize, wait, I haven't even introduced myself yet.

, one of my favorite things to do, Is to , take a breadcrumb from that person's intro and then turn it into my own. Right? To be like, oh, like you, I actually also have moved around different companies every couple of years, so we already have something in common.

Peter Ahn: Just to give you a little [00:21:00] bit about my role, and then you go into your intro.

Alex Allain: So , can I pull something out here? I think this is really interesting. I, I love the way that you talked about the value of practice, meaning that you've, you can then improvise. And I think if you go back to those, like, three things, like, who am I, what do I believe, and how am I making it real? Like, the point of the practice is to get really good at knowing the essence of those things, and then the exact words that you put around that, the exact phrases, you're going to have A collection of metaphors, a collection of quotes, a collection of things you kind of have played out a few times and said, and you can kind of draw on the one that feels right in that moment.

And I think that's maybe like what you're really trying to get to , with the practice.

Peter Ahn: Yeah, and in fact you can also change up the ordering, ? It doesn't always have to be you talk about who am I first, you could talk about the problems that you saw and then say by the way I came across this problem because my background is, right? And so, you know, it's I think it affords this level of [00:22:00] flexibility and freedom that You know, you can actually, , create a really effective elevator pitch off of if you practice the same words over and over again.

It's almost like you have a treasure chest of inventory items you can pull from, but the way you use those items is variable. I'm talking about inventory because my son's like really 

into Minecraft 


Alex Allain: I like it. All I could think of was like the number of SKUs you have of your personal pitch

Peter Ahn: yeah, exactly.


Alex Allain: version, you can pull out some really high quality lines and send a bill afterward. , so I, I think this is really, really good. Um, because I don't know, would you agree with the statement?

Like this is the most important thing to get right.

Peter Ahn: Yes, I think this is the most important thing and then how that flows into a really conversational discovery that then flows into the pitch deck is also important. I think how you start the pitch deck is really, really important too.

Alex Allain: Yeah, so , let's move to that for a minute. Um, even though this is the, [00:23:00] the highest stakes, but like, okay, you've, you've had intros have happened. Maybe you went first, maybe you went second. How do you get into that pitch deck? How do you break the ice there? And like, frankly, , who the fuck wants to see a deck?

Peter Ahn: Yeah, 

yeah, I know, 


Alex Allain: how do you get to the point of that with that not feeling awkward? Or do you just sort of like take the awkwardness and be I'm just going to share my screen real quick.

Peter Ahn: Yeah, so, , before the deck, like I said, there's this discovery period. And the way I start that is to say, Hey, before I show you a little bit more about our company and our product, that's how I talk about the deck. It's never like I'm going to share my screen to show you a deck. Um, sometimes I might use the word slides or deck, but it's always like I'm showing you this because, always provide the context.

And I always say I think it's important for you to understand where our team's coming from and how we're approaching the problem on a deeper level than what I just told you. So I'll just show you a few visuals around that. Right? , so that's how [00:24:00] I segue. But then before that, I say, Hey, before we do that.

I'd like to ask you just a couple questions around your environment so I can tailor our conversation appropriately. And so then I'll do like a couple discovery questions. I think we might, do we have an episode on 


Alex Allain: we have we have a, uh, for those, I think it's episode maybe 33, the one on Bant and Medit.

Peter Ahn: okay, okay. So yeah, we'll put it in the show notes, but um, you know, there's a whole nother kind of art to discovery so you're not overdoing it. But yeah, the segue is , I just want to show you a little bit of the context of where we come from. And the architectural decisions we made, uh, before we move on to showing you 

the product. 

Then what I'll also say is, by the way,

if it

Alex Allain: And I like what you did there. You're like, before we move on to showing you the product, you're keeping that

Peter Ahn: Exactly.

Alex Allain: attention because that,

Peter Ahn: You're roadmapping the conversation, really, right? And you're telling them, hey, , I'm not gonna waste your [00:25:00] time and show you slideware for the rest of the call, because who wants 

to do 


Alex Allain: mm hmm, 

Peter Ahn: And then sometimes I might say, I'm just going to show you three or four slides. If I do mention the word slides, it's always in the context of it's not going to be overdone.

Alex Allain: hmm, 

Peter Ahn: Right? Um, so, so there's that. And then what I was going to say is sometimes I will end with saying, by the way, , if it wasn't your expectation to see the product, I might just show you one thing and we can do a broader demo. Because sometimes buyers , don't want to see the product actually.

There are some buyers who are like, I just want to make sure this is , in the ballpark of, you know, alignment. Which is also great because then you can , really have a rich conversation around the pitch deck. And around kind of the overall approach. And you know you're dealing with probably a higher level buyer.

Because they want the execution of, of your product and platform to be showcased to the folks who are actually going to [00:26:00] use the product or evaluate it from kind of like the mid level


Alex Allain: mm hmm. 

Peter Ahn: So, so yeah, that's, that's a segue. I, I 

think that was 

your question, right? 

Alex Allain: I like that. I like

that. So you, who we are, all of that. Then you're like, it really like. Who am I? What I believe? How are we gonna do it? Let's learn about you.

Peter Ahn: Yep. Let's learn about you. And then great. Awesome. Now let me shift back to just giving you a sense for how exactly we're approaching this


Alex Allain: Mm-Hmm. .You're moving to that next level of specificity with the context


Peter Ahn: exactly. You're like peeling the eight layers of the onion. 

Alex Allain: Mm-Hmm? 

Peter Ahn: And the way you start that, oftentimes if you've done really good discovery, it's gonna feel a little bit repetitive. So you could say , you've already mentioned some of these

points. Um, but here's how we think about the problem.

Quite simply, we think you need to be answering this

question. In Twingate, we started with a question. And I apologize, actually before the question, there [00:27:00] was a team slide to say , Hey, before we go into how we approach the problem, here's the rest of the team. You know, I talked about me, but here's our CEO, CPO, here's who we're backed by.

Like, additional layer of , 


Alex Allain: Who are we 

Peter Ahn: Icing, right? And then it's like, okay, the problem we think you're trying to solve, is you're trying to answer this question of, you know, who should access what resource when? That's what we're

You know, if you're an employee. And I botched that question a little bit, but , I wish I had the slide right in front of me, but , that's the question you're trying to answer at the day. Do you agree that this is what Zero Trust concepts in cybersecurity are trying to get to? And then a lot of people were like, wow, I've never actually seen this so simply laid out as the problem statement. This is exactly what we need to solve. And then it's like, okay, but if you, even though the question is really simple, the answer is really complex because you just told me you're, you just told me like eight things you're trying to use to solve the VPN problem.

We agree that there's [00:28:00] actually like 50 things out there that you could be grappling with. And then all these logos pop up on the slide where it's like, Okta does identity well, but they don't know anything about your device. CrowdStrike knows a lot about your device, but they know nothing about the identity.

They don't know the who in that equation, right? And then with resources, you might think there's SaaS applications, but then there's all these , uh, servers in AWS. You're SSH ing into things, and then you're, you know, , you're, you're building internal, like, web applications that are hosted on GCP.

So then you can imagine how dizzying this gets. And then by the way, the who is not just full time employees, it's also contractors. So it's this visually messy graphic. And the beauty of that too is inevitably in the discovery you forget to ask certain questions. So you're like, you talked about Okta and CrowdStrike, but I'm realizing you never told me about Your workforce, what does that actually look like?

What percentage is full time and what's contractor? So then a really great deck allows you to do even more discovery and have more conversation. So [00:29:00] I'll stop there because I've just spit out a lot of information but you can start to see where the progression and the segues of this conversation are.

Alex Allain: So,, maybe I'm like a little too hung up on this pattern, but it seems like you're repeating this, the, the sequence who we are, what, what we believe in terms of the problem. And then I'm guessing that the, how we solve it is really when you get to the demo, or maybe there's some of that in the, the deck as well, but,

Peter Ahn: Yeah there's architectural diagrams in the deck actually which I can touch on really briefly too but You're exactly right. You're repeating yourself multiple


Alex Allain: But just with more detail, it's like a progressive rendering of the, the 

Peter Ahn: Yes, more detail because, you know , people need to be told the same thing 10 times for them to actually like absorb what the heck 

is going 


Alex Allain: Wait, how many times?

Peter Ahn: It's not scientific, I just made up a


Alex Allain: Wait, wait, how many 


Peter Ahn: I said 10 times. 

Alex Allain: How many again? 

Peter Ahn: 10? Are you going to do this 10 times?

Alex Allain: Yeah, we won't have to do this ten times.

Peter Ahn: But, you know, , [00:30:00] it's true that you kind of have to say the same thing multiple times. , in different ways to build alignment. 

Alex Allain: Mm hmm. 

Peter Ahn: And so that's what you're doing in the pitch is like you're yeah to your point you're repeating but you're also going levels 


Alex Allain: And I and I like this, because it makes it so, it, it, once you have this, like, natural pattern, it kind of helps you organize your thoughts, and then you can almost, , pull into your elevator pitch. The biggest themes you want to then go deeper into in your slide deck. And so as you're refining one, you're kind of refining the other.

And there's a little bit of an interplay there that I can


Peter Ahn: That's another, I think, like, really skilled things that great sellers do is they pull from different parts of the call and, um, tie in the 

references, right? To be like, hey, as I mentioned in the beginning of the call, cybersecurity software is not usable and it's because of this architecture you're seeing on this slide.

It's actually like a very powerful statement because you're accentuating things that you already [00:31:00] mentioned and you're giving your words more weight because you're saying to the prospect I said that thing in the beginning for a reason and here's how it actually materializes,

Alex Allain: Well, and something else you're doing is you're proving that you're not some drone

Peter Ahn: Yes, 

Alex Allain: who's repeating a bunch of words because you can actually see the interconnection between things.

Peter Ahn: yes, yes, 

Alex Allain: that just also just builds credibility, right? It's not like, Oh God, this is like some college grad who knows nothing about security, but somebody read him a script and I have to listen to it.

It's terrible.

Peter Ahn: Exactly, exactly. Yeah, and you could do that with yourself, and then you could do that with your prospect too, right? So another thing that I love doing is saying, Hey, you mentioned actually the performance issue. So, architecturally, there's an architecture slide where it's like, after the question progression, it's like, Why have the technologies of today not, So how did we get to where we are now, stood up to the performance that we need, right?

When we're talking about VPN. Well it's because, if you look at the players that were invented in the 90s, they were hardware based. [00:32:00] So there is actually this ,, there is this entry point into a physical network, which was typically your office, that was the central choke point for everything else, in terms of directing traffic.

, through your VPN. And so this is why we hear a lot about performance issues. Um, let me ask you, you mentioned , there were public facing VPN portals that you're dealing with. , does this architecture diagram seem familiar to you? Right? And so, there's that engagement again.

It's not a pitch deck. It's , hey, let me just make sure what I'm showing you visually kind of matches up with your paintings. Again, even though you said there's pain points on, , the performance, let's make sure the performance pain points actually match up to the architectural design of what we think you might have.

Alex Allain: I like this design too, because it kind of creates a little bit of space. I mean, there's that whole thing where like, your prospect should be talking as much or more as you are. Yeah. And like, you're creating these little moments to do that. And sometimes I imagine that sometimes they don't even answer your question.

They just bring [00:33:00] up some like little nugget. 

Peter Ahn: Yes. 

Alex Allain: part of the, the skill you need to have is in redirecting to follow that breadcrumb. Hmm.

Peter Ahn: where they don't really answer your question, you're right, where it's a kind of peripheral. And one of the phrases that I use a ton is, that's actually a good point, it was something I was going to bring up later. Or, that's actually a good point, um, yeah, that's another thing, I didn't really talk about that here, but that is another behavior we see because of 

X, Y, and 


Alex Allain: Mm hmm. 

Peter Ahn: Or, you know, that's interesting, that's actually not relevant to what we solve. Um, is that actually important? Because, , that's a little bit more adjacent to what we do. Right, so the other thing about a great pitch deck is it creates clarity on what you're talking about and what you shouldn't be talking about and what they want to talk about and how far away that is from kind of the central thesis you're drawing and the central pain points you can solve.

So there are [00:34:00] moments of like, um, opaqueness too. I use that word a lot for some reason on our episodes. There are elements of confusion, but a good pitch deck helps you cut through that and clarify


Alex Allain: I guess another thing that's coming through here, and maybe this should be obvious from all of our episodes in the theme, but like, your goal is to be opinionated.

Peter Ahn: Yes, 100%.

Alex Allain: And provoke a response to that opinion. Hopefully positive, but negative is also good. You're just trying to avoid neutral. 

Peter Ahn: Yes, exactly. Exactly. Because the second half of that diagram, by the way, is because I talk about the 90s VPN players. Then I'm like, by the way, over the last 20 years, we have this period from 2000 to 2020, where there are new players that came out of the cloud era. ? Like when you and I were at Dropbox, like cloud was kind of a new thing.

Right? Um, And we're like, those players also didn't do a good job. And we actually named drop players. We're like, , these are like the Z scalers of the world. . Or [00:35:00] CloudFlare access has a solution too. And the reason why is the choke point is not at your office physically, but it's in their infrastructure.

So they have like 370 points of presences for like Z scale. But you have a workforce of 10, 000 employees that are all at their house. So you might have a perimeter that. You should actually have , you know, at least 5, 000 points of presences, right? So there's still a performance issue with these providers because they're not able to be physically at everybody's home, right?

In terms of directing traffic. And so then, of course, that leads very nicely into how do we do it? We do that because we were born out of the COVID era where everybody's in their home. Um, and then, yeah, to your point about negative or positive, not neutral, sometimes, , when I talk about Zscaler, like, we don't have any problems with Zscaler, our Zscaler instance is fine, there's no performance issues.

And you're like, okay, great, , let's [00:36:00] try and wrap this up quickly. You know, it's like, okay, if you don't have any problems, let me just tell you about our architecture and tell you why you will have problems, but you're probably not gonna buy Twingate, , anytime soon. You know, because they don't feel the pain 



Alex Allain: I like that though. You're still gonna educate them on like, what they need to know about it. Establishes you as credible and Maybe two years from now they're going to come back and, you know, help you meet your quota.

Peter Ahn: Yeah, yeah, exactly, exactly. Yeah, it's a long term, it's a funnel, right? Like, they're gonna be ready to come back to you at some point and hopefully they remember, Oh wow, this is what this guy was 



Alex Allain: Yeah. You met the girl, she was in a bad relationship, but it wasn't the right time. They hadn't, she hadn't figured that out yet. So you were like, we'll just, just be friends. 

Peter Ahn: Yeah, exactly, exactly. Same dynamics, same dynamics.

Alex Allain: Well, so the last thing I'm kind of curious about, , I, I really like this, you know, so that we have this like progressive arc of, of, Repeating your story, , your story, what you believe, how you fix it, [00:37:00] how you make it real, trying to be sharp and opinionated and, and create a polarized response, , while also kind of like using this to, to suss out the other person or the other company's sort of needs and, and, and then kind of like do a little improv to, to dance with them.

So I imagine that when you get to the, the demo part, you're probably going to do a. You're probably going to have something a little different for each person, but how do you think about what to show in the product, , based on the conversation so far? And, and how do you sort of segue to that? How do you make that feel smooth and continue to build your credibility?

Peter Ahn: great question. So the segue is, , I always say I probably can't show you the entire product because we only have 5 to 10 minutes left and I want to leave at least 5 to 10 minutes just to talk about next steps. That's the segue, right? It's road mapping again that I'm going to cut this short so don't ask me too many in depth questions because we're going to need to do this again and I want to know about your process.

Thanks. [00:38:00] Right, and you should know if we're gonna continue even at this point. I'm trying to insert that right into the, into the other party. And then what I say is, , the few things I'm gonna show you I think are gonna be interesting to you because of some of the pain points you mentioned. And then I'll customize a demo based off of that.

So in the Twingate, , side of things, like, let's say they're, , really curious about putting multi factor on legacy applications, or doing two factor when you're SSHing into a server. I'd probably start with the SSH example, right? And then say, hey, , I'm gonna start here because this seems to be a problem for you.

And that should trigger something and say, hey, there's, by the way, there's implications of this workflow across many other resources you can protect. Why don't we save that for the broader demo?

Alex Allain: When you're doing the demo, how do you avoid having to give sort of context on like, to orient somebody, right? Like, I feel like you can't just directly go in and show a feature most of the time. [00:39:00] Hmm.

Peter Ahn: there's a couple of ways you could do this, ? One is you could say, hey, I want to get into that workflow, but there's a couple of things I want to show you just to orient you to how this is set up, if that's important. If , how you deploy a connector in our instance into AWS is important, you probably want to orient them to that first, ?

But then, if it's not as important or it's not as key, then you could just verbally say that. You could say , there's a couple steps , , I'm going to do. Glossing over here for the sake of time, but know that there's this setup component that actually only takes 15 minutes because we talked about how usable security has to be, we really abide by that even on the setup portion.

Alex Allain: , 

Oh, I like 

Peter Ahn: but we could get into that in the next call, but let me dive pretty quickly into this specific area so that you understand that we could solve the biggest pain point that you came to this call with.

Alex Allain: That's great. And I know we have a whole episode on the demo, which we'll put in the show notes, that covers some of how to handle that, but I think [00:40:00] that's really helpful for me, thinking about like that progressive rendering and connecting the dots back to what you were talking about. 

Peter Ahn: Yeah, it's all about , you know, it's humanizing the product, right? And so phrases like this, like it might seem idiosyncratic to the process, right? Because you're kind of being hand wavy, but at the same time you're telling the prospect you're being 



Alex Allain: Mm hmm. Yeah. Well, a lot of this has to do, it's, it's, you know, I think if people are interested in going deeper, the episode we did, maybe it's like episode six or seven on call leadership, um, talking about a lot of what you're talking about in terms of like setting the agenda for the meeting and kind of repeatedly, prosaging, like what's to come, 

Peter Ahn: Yeah, road mapping. 

Alex Allain: previewing, roadmapping, whatever term you want to use.

I think that's really helpful to sort of see an action in that first pitch as well. I love the way that you, you, by the way, you talked about, like, , I'm doing this because,

Peter Ahn: hmm. 

Alex Allain: like, I think that's just a really useful tactic., anyone [00:41:00] can take away from this.

That kind of works anywhere, anytime, as long as you've done the discovery work to connect the dots.

Peter Ahn: Yes, context is everything. And then, sorry, there is one other fundamental thing that I coach my CEOs and founders to do for the

demo. , and this is also, , more relevant for the broader demo when you can, , actually set the stage for a full demo. , I would always have a demo roadmap. To be , hey, now I'm gonna show you the product.

As I show you the product, I want you to focus on a few things. One is how end user intuitive it is. Two is also how hooked into the ecosystem we are. So you'll see various integration points that I highlight. And then the last thing is how scalable this is. Right, in terms of not only the speed at which, , the system operates, but also how you can use things like Terraform to do zero trust as code, you know?

Like, so, a light, , agenda for the demo also helps because then you could use those points [00:42:00] in the demo. You could be like, remember I told you, , I was going to talk about the end user usability? That's where this comes up. And it helps bucket features into broader value 


Alex Allain: Yeah. , I think we actually, we have an episode , on the demo, I distinctly remember that being one of the great tactics,

Peter Ahn: Yes, awesome, good! 

Alex Allain: people what to look for, what they're supposed to be seeing in the demo, it's just, it's. I think really powerful. Cause there's, I, you know, we don't need to repeat ourselves too much here, but like, because there's a lot going on in any demo.

So being able to know what to focus in on is really helpful.

Peter Ahn: Totally, totally. Awesome, we saw a little bit of our thunder across various episodes, but it's good that , we can 


them. Cause it's all 

Alex Allain: no,

this is great. Cause I think what we're, we've really, we haven't ever done one. That's like, let's talk about the first call, the pitch. How do you lever like that little open crack that you can pull open to a, Full open door to, to get somebody excited to engage with you. And I think, I think we've given some really good techniques here for people.

Peter Ahn: Love it. Thanks for drawing them out of me.

Alex Allain: [00:43:00] yeah. yeah. So why don't we, I think maybe wrap this up. ,

so maybe just to like summarize what we talked about, pitch has three parts, your elevator pitch, your deck, and then some like sliver of a demo. You're trying to accomplish a few things in this process. You're trying to build credibility. You're trying to establish trust.

You're trying to establish that you're solving the right problems for the customer or the potential customer. , and you want to progress through this process to getting to a next call. You're going to tell them who you are. What you believe, what your company believes, and how you actually make that real.

And you're going to repeat that process through your elevator pitch, that couple sentences about who you are, all of that. Then you're going to do a little discovery. Use that to lay the groundwork for your next stage, which is the actual deck. And you're going to tie it back through that process. What you heard before, and you're going to be checking in with them to see if it's resonating.

And [00:44:00] Hopefully at the end, you're going to lay the groundwork at the end of that call to get that next meeting by wowing them with the sizzle of a demo that shows solutions to their problems. Showing really concretely what you believe, and if at any point they don't like it, that's great, you have figured out they're not a good prospect for you.

The worst case, your failure mode, is that they're just kind of meh.

Peter Ahn: That's pretty funny.

Alex Allain: Peter, did I miss anything in that summary?

Peter Ahn: No, I think as always you framed it perfectly.

Alex Allain: Fantastic. I'm doing my synthesis job here. Alright, well, thanks everyone for listening to another episode of Decoding Sales. We are, as the last episode mentioned, back to a regular recording schedule. We want to serve you some episodes before we ask you to like, subscribe, and your friends about us.

So, just keep doing what you're doing. Hold us accountable. We're going to have a few more of these episodes, and then we're going to come back and we're going to ask you, Can you rate us? Give us some love , on the socials, on the platforms, but we're not there yet. So, until next time, [00:45:00] selling