I rely on the same, simple, inexpensive tool to help me pitch all of my ideas. I call it the one-page sell sheet. When crafted correctly, sell sheets stop people in their tracks.
Early in my career, I would make a sales call, set up a meeting and travel to wherever the people I was pitching were located. Eventually, I realized that most of the time, my commitment to meeting people in person was a waste of time and money. The right people were never present in those initial meetings. And once I was done pitching, I had to leave — no matter how great my presentation was. You can’t exactly leave them wanting more when you’re the one getting the boot. There’s a better strategy. If you’re uncomfortable selling yourself, have no fear: The sell sheet does the work for you.
No longer do you have to worry about being “on,” because a good sell sheet delivers a perfect pitch every time. It sells your idea without you needing to be physically present.
At this point, you may be asking, what is a sell sheet?
A sell sheet is essentially an advertisement for your idea. It is short, sweet and to the point. Think of it as a billboard. After all, when you’re driving down a highway at 60 mph, you don’t have a lot of time to process information. Sell sheets convey information easily and immediately.
Although they’re simple and direct, crafting a good sell sheet takes time. In most cases, less is more. Your one-line benefit statement — the short phrase that describes why customers care about your product — should be at the top. Remember, your one-line benefit statement is emotional and gripping. How does your product benefit people? How will it make lives better? It is not a list of your idea’s features.
For example, the one-line benefit statement I used to describe a new rotating label technology I created was “Add 75 percent more space to your package.” In today’s world, people want more and better information about the products they use.
Next, you need to include a rendering of your product. Show the problem your product solves and the solution — pretty much a typical before and after. I used an image of someone using my label innovation. You may also want to include a few bullet points. For example:
“My label is innovation is fun, interactive and easy to use!”
“My label innovation can be used to feature multiple languages, facts, coupons, promotional games or warnings.”
Include your contact information. Is your product idea patent pending? Mention that. This is also a good place to include the logo of your company or the name of your product. But keep it small.
Because a good sell sheet is invaluable, I recommend hiring a professional graphic designer to help you create yours. ELance is a great resource. Likewise, have a professional photographer take photos of your product or hire an industrial designer to create a 3D computer-generated model. As always, have anyone you work with sign a non-disclosure agreement.
Creating a short YouTube “commercial” about your product can also be a huge asset. Again, keep it brief — under a minute — and bare bones. That means no music. For example, I could have created a video that showed someone struggling to use an expanded content label (my competition) and then succeeding to use my label. The message being: My product is easy, simple and fun to use!
If a photograph is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a million. You can embed your video directly onto your sell sheet. I have created “commercials” of my products with my iPhone. You don’t have to get fancy with it! Make sure your video is password-protected.
One final note: Test your sell sheet! Show it to people. Do they understand your product? How long does it take them to grasp it? If they ask too many questions, head back to the drawing board. Your sell sheet should be crystal clear.
Once you’ve put in the effort to create a winning sell sheet, you will reap the benefits far and wide. Your sell sheet will make your pitch for you.
Originally published on Entrepreneur.com April 11th 2014.