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Be “Pitch Perfect” When You Talk to Program Managers

September 6th, 2016 | by Jayne Berkaw

Imagine you are in an elevator with someone who is important to your business. You have from the time youpitch perfect step in until the doors re-open to present your busy listener with a succinct understanding your technology, the problem-solving impact it will make and why they should take note. And, you must do this in a way that is both engaging and intriguing.

This is your “Elevator Pitch,” and when recited to an SBIR/STTR Program Manager, a successful one can result in a dialog that will validate relevance to that agency’s needs, prompt further discussion about your company and technology, and possibly generate a request from contracting agencies for you to develop your topic for a future SBIR solicitation.

Talking to your relevant Program Manager(s) is high on BBCetc’s list of must-do’s for SBIR/STTR funding seekers, so we’ve provided these three tips to get you started on your Pitch*:

  1. Define your position based on the target segment you intend to dominate and the value proposition you intend to dominate it with
  2. In this context, set forth your competition and the unique differentiation that you expect to drive the decision your way
  3. What you leave out is as important as what you put in—don’t include the kitchen sink! Brevity and relevance wins the day.

Use this Pitch formula as a useful guide for how to construct your Pitch:

First sentence:

  • For (target customer)
  • Who (statement of the need or opportunity)
  • The (product name) is a (product category)
  • That (statement of key benefit—the compelling reason to buy).

Second Sentence:

  • Unlike (primary competitive alternative) – technologies or companies that define the current state of the art
  • Our product (statement of primary differentiation). – is different HOW. This is the most important point of differentiation for your product versus other alternatives—what sets you apart?

Here’s an SBIR project example to illustrate how it works: “For manufacturers of body-worn electronic medical devices who want to offer a comfortable, cost effective form factor to measure vital signs continuously, our proposed solution, Product XYZ, is a printed electronics technology that provides the comfort of a flexible bandage with the performance of costly standard electronics. Unlike traditional electronic device formats that are heavy and rigid, Product XYZ will be both comfortable and cost-effective, encouraging greater day-to-day patient compliance.”

A Few More Elevator Pitch Tips

  • Keep in mind that you are selling your idea to the funding agency, institute or component, and their primary interest is solving a problem relevant to their unique mission. Make sure yours is.
  • Clearly identify of the end product that will result from your efforts.
  • Don’t forget to invite questions, feedback and further discussion.

Once you’ve completed your pitch, you can ask about 1) any future topics coming from the program, 2) possible non-SBIR funding programs/opportunities and 3) referrals to other relevant PMs or topic authors.

End your conversation with sincere thanks and then follow up with an email to the Program Manager that includes your summary/quad chart. Be sure to reach out to anyone they provide as a referral and copy the PM on that communication.

Your Elevator Pitch will become a trusty companion as you introduce your company to investors, partners and customers along the path to market. It is a critical tool that can lead to requests for more information, invitations to talk/meet later, an RFP or a request to see your business plan/technology/project proposal. Make sure it’s a home run!

*Based on the Elevator Test presented in “Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling Technology Products to Mainstream Customers” by Geoffrey A. Moore


Becky Aistrup is a Principal Consultant for BBCetc

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Application Submission System & Interface for Submission Tracking: Long Name, Easier Submission

August 24th, 2016 | by Kris Bergman

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), more and more SBIR/STTR applicants are choosing to make their submissions through the Application Submission System & Interface for Submission Tracking – or ASSIST – introduced late last year. If you haven’t heard about ASSIST, it is NIH’s web-based service for the preparation, submission, and tracking of

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Don’t Make these NIH Submission Mistakes

August 11th, 2016 | by Kris Bergman

Navigating the maze of registrations, forms, the ins and outs of submission through the NIH’s web-based Application Submission System & Interface for Submission Tracking (or ASSIST) can be a challenging process for even the most experienced SBIR/STTR applicant. With the NIH September 5 deadline approaching, we thought we’d share our top 5 mistakes to avoid

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How Do You Measure Up? Biosketches Tell the Story

July 7th, 2016 | by Kris Bergman

Biosketches are key for reviewers to gauge the technical breadth of your team and its capacity to complete the project. At BBCetc we’ve seen summary statements, debriefings and criticisms of proposals denied funding because the team’s skills were lacking or were not properly detailed. As you prepare your SBIR/STTR proposals collect your technical team’s biosketches

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From the Experts: Essential Info for DoD SBIR/STTR Proposers

May 31st, 2016 | by Becky Aistrup

BBCetc’s Michigan SBIR/STTR support program was honored to welcome Richard McNamara, NAVSEA SBIR Transition Manager, and Jonathan Leggett, NAVSEA SBIR Outreach Coordinator, to a recent DoD Proposal Prep workshop in Ann Arbor, MI. Throughout the session and during their brief about the NAVSEA SBIR program, McNamara and Leggett offered advice for applicants to consider as

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Revenue Projections Should Match SBIR/STTR Commercialization Plan

May 2nd, 2016 | by Michael Kurek

As you go about preparing the revenue projections for your SBIR/STTR proposal, be aware that reviewers will make two assumptions about your revenue projections: 1) they’re based on guesses, and 2) the numbers are over-estimated. Typically, they are correct 99+% of the time. So your goal is not to convince them that yours are “conservative”

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Four Tips to Prepare for DoD’s New Solicitation

April 19th, 2016 | by Becky Aistrup

The Dept. of Defense (DoD) will pre-release its SBIR 2016.2 and STTR 2016.B on April 22 when components participating in the solicitation will issue the topics for which they seek proposals. If you think your technology might have an application for a DoD component and topic, here are four things you should be thinking about

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April 19th, 2016 | by Michael Kurek

SBIR Program Managers know that their awardee companies will need resources beyond the R&D funding their programs provide in order to successfully commercialize their innovation. In the Commercialization Plan the reviewers expect to see a clear description of the resources the applicant Company expects to need and a credible plan for obtaining those resources. The

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Determining Salaries in NSF SBIR/STTR Projects

February 17th, 2016 | by Michael Kurek

One question frequently asked by clients preparing SBIR/STTR proposals is “how do I determine salaries for my project team members”? The National Science Foundation (NSF) requires applicants to align salaries to wage data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and describes the process in the NSF SBIR Salary Validation Guide. The process is

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After Six Years of SBIR/STTR Blogging, Our 24 Faves

January 6th, 2016 | by Jayne Berkaw

At BBCetc, we are constantly challenging ourselves to develop blog content that will be useful and instructive to our clients and readers. In pondering new topics we thought it might be interesting to see what we’ve posted over the past nearly six years (our first post was March 8, 2010!), and after taking a look,

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