I was on the 35th floor in the north conference room. Through the window, I could see the gray, rainy Toronto skyline. I was here to learn about government funding programs for Digital Media. At my table were a television/documentary producer, a toy manufacturer, and two suits who looked so dull and cliche that I didn't even introduce myself.
The panel consisted of several government agency workers, a consultant, and a game developer. The information shared over two hours was good, but I enjoyed the spicy chicken wrap from the buffet a lot more. As a wrap-up, the organizer asked the panel what final words they would like to share with the roughly 40 people in attendance. With only 20% of all applicants being selected for funding, the two agency reps and the game developer stressed how important it is to sell yourself.
It wasn't until this moment when the slightly scruffy toque-wearing game developer said this, that I realized how important sales technique is for the indie dev.
Fortunately, this is something I have experience with. And I am happy to share these techniques with the rest of the indie dev community.
In this article, I attempt to demystify the science and psychology of selling (pitching). I will focus on selling to EXTERNAL parties (strategic partners, customers, etc.). If people see value in this, then I'll take the time to describe how to sell to INTERNAL parties (your team, your boss, etc.).
I'm writing primarily for small indie game developers who will often need to pitch themselves -- perhaps to journalists, publishers, investors, potential hires, strategic partners, game contests, government organizations, incubators, and many others. However, these principles of selling aren't specific to game development. Anyone can use them to build their business, land a job, or convince someone to marry them
Before I take advice from anyone, I like to know their experience. So before I go any further, let me digress a moment to summarize my professional sales experience.
I began selling as a full-time commission-only computer sales person at a Canadian electronics retailer called Future Shop (similar to Circuit City or Best Buy). The company paid 25% of the profit of whatever you sold. As you can quickly see: 1) recruits either learn to sell FAST or die; and 2) if you can sell, you have unlimited maximum income.
I took to it like a fish to water. But I also took my new profession seriously: I learned everything I could from the extensive training program (based on the Xerox method), managers, co-workers, books, tapes, and video training series from motivational speakers such as Zig Ziglar. I did well and eventually became a sales trainer for new recruits in the corporate head office.
Now sales execs generally look down on one-to-one business-to-consumer (B2C) sales, and retail in particular -- for some good reasons, I must admit. It's usually done very poorly. But here is one important advantage: The number of pitches you can do in a day in retail is astronomical: 20-40 pitches a day every day compared to business-to-business (B2B), which allows for 1-2 a day at best.
That kind of regularity, repetition, and low cost of failure (if you misspeak and lose a sale, someone new will be along in the next 5 minutes) is the perfect training ground for learning how to pitch. I moved into B2B sales first for a web dev company (1 pitch a month), then into business for myself (about 1 pitch a month). I was still 100% dependent on my ability to sell, but now with the pressure of supporting my staff and other overhead, too!
For more than 10 years, I sold custom mobile software projects ranging from small ($25-50k) to large ($700-900k). Over the years, I reckon I've sold about $6+ million across 30+ projects with a 95% closing percentage. My pitches were primarily to a C-level audience (CEO, CFO, CTO, CMO, COO).
To conclude this summary, I'll share one of my proudest sales moments: I was about two years into my business. I was introduced by conference call to a mammoth prospective customer: We had 4 employees, and they had $4 billion in annual revenue. They used IBM for most of their IT consulting and were considering a mobile software project -- and using IBM for it. I flew into town (I still can't believe I managed to get the client to pay for my flight and hotel!), spent a day with the CTO in the board room, flew home, and closed the deal the following week by phone. Take that, Big Blue!
B2B sales are most similar to what the typical indie faces -- whether you are pitching your game to a console manufacturer or a journalist. I will use the lingo of "Customer" to mean the party you are selling to. When I use the term sale, I want to be clear what I mean. Simply put, a "sale" is when you convince someone of something. It is a transaction of the mind. It's like Inception - but this time everyone is awake Once this is accomplished, handing over money, signing contracts, creating a feature article, or any action the customer does is secondary. It wouldn't have happened if you hadn't convinced them it was worth doing in the first place. OK, let's get to it!
1. Every Buy Decision is a Largely an Emotional One.
This is the most important and shockingly counter-intuitive truth I can share with you. If you don't remember any other principle, remember this one! When making a decision, people like to think they are rational and logical. While they know they have emotions, they don't understand or believe that emotions make up probably 80% of their decisions. Don't burst their bubble! The poor souls living in the Matrix are happy there!
For example, let's say you are house shopping with your spouse. You look at two houses with roughly the same features, location, and price. But the more expensive house that is slightly older and needs more work just has a great living room that seems perfect for family visits. On a pro/con list, you should not choose this one -- but most people do.
Why? Because you have an emotional attachment that drives a seemingly fully rational decision. Ever got a job you were slightly unqualified for? Ever NOT get a job you were overqualified for? If your answer is "yes," you know from experience the huge role emotion plays in human decision-making.
It is NOT all about features, merit, dollars and cents, brand or background; sales technique can overcome ANY weakness or hurdle if executed the right way. You too can beat IBM! Or you can be in the best position (factually and objectively) and totally blow it Success is within your grasp -- something you can control through sheer determination.
What I'm trying to say is that time spent learning and practicing sales technique will increase your closing percentage -- NOT because your product changed, but because of how you pitched it. More features won't sell your game; you will!
2. Sell Because it's Your Job.
No one else will sell you but you. If you won't sell you, you are screwed. Most people are uncomfortable selling. I think salespeople rank just below politicians and lawyers on the Slimy Job Top Ten list. I believe two major factors contribute to this:
Because you gain something out of selling, somehow this makes the act immediately feel disingenuous. Your motives don't feel pure. Selling requires risking personal rejection and failure. Someone may make a face at you, respond with something hurtful, or (worse) ignore you completely. This was true for me. I'm an introverted computer nerd who tried to attract the ladies with well-crafted autoexec.bats. I dislike meeting new people.
I'll never forget the lesson a Future Shop manager shared when he noticed several shy new recruits reluctant to approach customers: Have you ever been at a bar and seen a really attractive person across the room you'd like to meet? But you are too afraid to approach him or her? Maybe you think they are out of your league, or just want to be left alone, or look busy, or some other excuse.
Now consider this: What if you were hired by the bar owner to be a greeter. He made your job very clear: "I want you to make sure people have a good time here, so make sure you talk to each person at least once and see how they are doing."
Now how would you feel about approaching the attractive person? It's way easier! Whether it goes well or poorly, it doesn't matter anymore; you are just doing your job. You no longer feel threatened -- or threatening.
The difference between the two scenarios is not one of facts or features. Neither you nor the other person has changed. The change happened inside you. Now you feel permission or even the right to make the first move. You need to get to the place where you give yourself permission to approach that publisher, journalist, voice actor, or the general public. Until then, you will simply give yourself too many excuses not to sell.
3. If you Don't Believe It, No One Else Will.
Humans are born with two unique abilities:
to smell a fart in an elevator to smell a phony In order to sell well, you must have conviction. You have conviction if you truly believe in yourself and your product. While I must admit it is possible for the highly skilled to fake conviction, there is no need to do so.
Real conviction is easy and free when you are in love with your product. It will ooze out of every pore; little things like the tone of your voice, word choice, the speed at which you speak, and the brightness of your eyes. Conviction is infectious. People want to be caught up in it. Which goes right back to point #1 about the emotionality of selling.
But why does conviction sell? Because a customer is constantly scanning you to see if what you are saying is true. Conviction is important in how the customer reads you. Imagine you are trying to convince a friend to see a movie. Your friend thinks:
He appears quite excited about this movie. I would only be that excited and passionate if it was a really good movie. Ergo, the movie must be really good. In Jordan Mechner's book, The Making of Prince of Persia, he records the process of making the first Prince of Persia game (which was incredible for its time). The production team believed in the project immensely, but the marketing department did not.
When they chose the box art and shipped the title, this great game had dismal sales for the first year. Only when a new marketing department came in, believed in the product, and revisited the box art and marketing plan did the game start selling. Conviction gives the customer the data needed to sell themselves into believing what you are saying. This dovetails nicely with my next point.
4. Want What is Best for the Customer.
I'm currently doing a sales job on you (oops, I seem to have broken the fourth wall!) I'm trying to convince you that what I am saying is true -- and when put into practice, will make you better at pitching your game.
Why am I typing this at 2:36 a.m. when I could be sleeping -- or better yet, playing Mario Kart 8? Because I genuinely believe this information will help someone. It costs me very little (some time at the keyboard) and could make a real difference in someone's life.
See, I'm not typing this article for me; I'm doing it for you. Whether or not I benefit from doing so, my primary motivator is to do something good for you. If you want to get your game featured on a certain site, stop thinking about how it is good for you to be featured and start thinking about how it is good for them to feature you.
Reasons (arguments) made from the perspective of their good will impact deeper and resonate longer. So how can you know what is good for your prospective customer/journalist/publisher/government agency? Do your homework. Know what makes your target tick. Find out what motivates them. Discover what is important to them. More importantly, find out what is not important to them.
For the conference I attended, the purpose of the government program was to generate digital media jobs in our province. The overseer specifically told us: "When you write your proposal, be sure to point out how this will lead to job creation."
This is great advice for two reasons: The customer is not only saying "Tell me how it's good for me," but also "I'm lazy, so make it easy for me." In other words, the customer is 'tipping his hand' by saying "All things being equal, the proposal that more easily shows what's in it for me will be chosen."
Don't rely on your target audience to do the work of understanding. Your pitches will vastly improve if you spoon feed them the goodness!
5. Don't say what is True, say what is Believable
I had just started my software company and was having lunch with a veteran entrepreneur millionaire friend to get some advice. During the soup course, he asked, "So what does your software company do?"
"We make amazing custom software," I answered.
"I understand that, but what specifically are you good at?"
"Here's the thing, we are so good with such a great process we can literally make any kind of software the customer wants -- be it web portal, client-server, or mobile. We are amazing at building the first version of something, whereas many companies are not."
"That may be true, but it isn't believable." I dropped my spoon in shock.
Maybe your role-playing game is 10x more fun than Skyrim -- not just to you, but empirically through diligent focus group testing. But don't try and approach a journalist or publisher with those claims. It may be true, but it certainly isn't believable.
What is true and believable is, "If you liked Skyrim, you'll like RPG-I-Made." Ever seen a byline or quote like that in an app description? Yep, because that is as far as you can go without crossing the line into the "unbelievable" territory.
6. Create the Need
Every sales pitch is like a story, and every story is like a sales pitch. Let me explain. You can't give an answer to someone who doesn't have the question. You can walk up and down the street yelling "42!" to people -- but if they aren't struggling to know the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything, it won't mean a thing to them.
You can't sell a product/idea to someone who doesn't have a need. Every pitch follows the three-act story structure:
Act 1: Setup Act 2: Establish the need Act 3: Present your solution We see this in The Lord of the Rings:
Act 1: Frodo is happy at home, life is good. We meet a bunch of characters at Bilbo's birthday party. -- Setup Act 2: A ring will destroy everything Frodo loves. And people are coming to get it right now. -- Need Act 3: The fires of Mount Doom can unmake the ring. Frodo tosses it in, by way of Gollum. -- Solution Study the first part of infomercials to see how need can be quickly established. Humans have plenty of basic latent needs/desires you can tap into. You don't need to manufacture a new one. When it comes to gaming, one simple one is "to feel awesome."
Pretty much every game I play makes me feel awesome. Now I may or may not be awesome in real life, but I have a need/desire to feel awesome -- and games fill that need nicely. Bringing it back to the government program, what is their need?
They are handing out money and tax incentives. At first blush, there doesn't seem to be a need that I can tap into. But applying principle #4 of what's good for them, we can do our homework and discover that if the program has 20 million dollars, they HAVE to give that money out.
The people working there are not evaluated by how much money they keep; they are rewarded by how much they give away. They literally have a need to give away money. But not to just anyone; they need to give it to studios that will manage it well and create long-term jobs in digital media.
As a final example, notice how I establish a need for this article. This article is based on the common need for indie game devs to promote themselves.
7. Talk to the Real Decision Maker
Who is the best person to pitch you? You.
So don't expect all the time and effort spent pitching a minion means they will pitch their boss on your behalf just as well.
Aragorn did not find a mid-level orc, explain his position, then hope the orc makes as impassioned a presentation to Sauron. Aragorn knew he needed to climb the corporate ladder. He went directly to the Black Gate to take his issue up with Sauron directly!
Throughout most of my B2B sales career, I initially got in the door through a mid-level manager like a project manager, IT director, or operations manager. These people have "felt need". Their team needs to do something new or is inefficient and needs software to solve it. But a $250k decision is way beyond their pay grade; they need the CFO and maybe CEO to make the decision.
You can spend hours and hours pitching the minion with amazing props and demonstrations, and they turn it into a 3-line email to their boss saying your presentation was very nice. Aaarrrggghhhh!!! Even worse, what if the competition is talking to the CEO over lunch at the country club while you are spending all your efforts on the minion?! Flanking maneuvers like this are a common reason for losing a sale.
Remember in point #1 how all decisions are really emotional? By filtering your pitch through someone to the CEO, all of the emotional trappings disappear; it literally is just features/functions on a page. Meanwhile, the sales guy at the country club is showing interest in the CEO's children, sharing stories of his own, and having a good laugh. All things being equal, 9 out of 10 times when the CEO has to decide, he'll go with the person he met.
Everyone trusts what they see with their own eyes more than what was reported to them by another. Use this to your advantage. This doesn't mean you shouldn't talk to minions or treat them like a waste of time. That is mean and dehumanizing. You won't get anywhere with that.
My point is not to RELY on the minion to do the sales job for you. You have to climb the corporate ladder to the actual decision maker and give it your best. A concrete example is when I organize a pitch session with the mid-level manager, I make sure their boss is invited to the meeting. Or I do the whole pitch to the mid-level manager and then ask, "Do you think your boss would see value in having this information, too? I would be happy to come back and run through it." If they are impressed with what you've done, they are more than willing to move you up the ladder.
Now, big companies are wise to these ways and may have strict rules on who can meet with external parties. This is frustrating. The best you can do is to find the closest person to the actual decision maker and pitch your heart out. Personally, I find this ladder-climbing the most difficult aspect of selling. But then I have to remember principle #2: It's my job. If I don't do it, no one will.
8. Sell the Appointment, not the Product
When are you at your best, selling-wise? In front of the person with all your tools, demos, snappy dress -- and sharing fancy coffees. When is it harder to say "no" to someone -- over the phone/email or in person? In person.
Most people suck at cold calling/emailing. While it is a sucky task, one big reason people fail is because they have the wrong objective. They think that as soon as they get the person's attention, it is time to pitch. By-the-power-of-Grayskull no!!!
When you first encounter someone you need to pitch, your goal is to get a meeting where the person is relaxed, focused, and mentally prepared to listen to what you have to say. Your email or call may have interrupted their day between meetings, or baby bottles -- and they don't have the headspace to listen, never mind think. You will get a "no" at this stage.
So give yourself every chance of success; book the meeting! To get the meeting, you must be diligent about three things:
Keep the conversation as short as possible. Tell just enough to whet their appetite. DO NOT tip your hand -- build the need/desire for the meeting. Keep steering them back to the appointment
Granted, this one takes some practice -- but here is a quick example to get you started:
"Hi, Mrs. Big Shot. I'm Thomas, and I am making a new kind of role playing game that I think would be a great addition to your platform. Could I schedule just 15 minutes of your time to show you what I'm working on? I really think you will like what I have to show you. "
"Role-playing game, eh? Dime a dozen, pal. What's so great about yours?"
Well, I have some new A.I. techniques and combat mechanics that haven't been seen before. I'd love to meet with you to go over the key features of the game and even show you some gameplay. How about a quick meeting later this week?"
"Have you made anything before, or this your first time?"
"I've released two games previously, but I would be more than happy to go over my qualifications and previous experience with you when we meet. Is next week better than this week?"
"I'm pretty busy this week, but schedule something next week with my assistant."
"Thank you, Mrs. Big Shot! I look forward to meeting you!" Why does this work? Because curiosity sells. Since you haven't given Mrs. Big Shot something yet to reject, she is open and slightly curious to see if maybe, just maybe, you have the next big thing.
The ability to inoculate against objections is probably the single biggest gain a newbie sales person can make. Removing and eliminating objections is the key to closing the sale.
In real life, we get vaccinations to prevent disease. The process is to introduce a small weak version of the disease into your body against which your immune system will build a proper defense for the long term. When the actual disease comes along, you are immune.
Inoculation (in sales) is the process by which a salesperson overcomes objections before they have a chance to build up and fester. The longer the objections gestate in the customers' minds, the quicker the "virus" takes hold. You do this by bringing up the objection first yourself, and then immediately answering it.
If you bring up the objection first, the virus is in its weakest possible state -- and the customer becomes impervious to it. So after you prepare your pitch -- whether it's website text or email -- you have to look at it from the customer's perspective and see where your weaknesses are. Maybe get a friend to help you with this.
Let's imagine you've come up with three likely objections to your game:
You've never made a game before. Your selected genre is oversaturated. Your scope is aggressively large. Before I go any further, let's reflect for a minute on how likely you are you to close the deal with those three objections hanging in the customer's mind. Not very likely. Even if they haven't voiced them yet, just thinking them will torpedo your chance of success.
Now imagine all three of those objections have been inoculated against. It's clear sailing to closing the deal!
So here is an important principle: If someone raises an objection when you try to close, what they are really saying is that you haven't successfully pre-empted the objection by inoculating against it. Learn from this!
Remember this objection for next time. Spend time thinking through possible ways to inoculate against it. The more chances you have to pitch, the more experience you will have with objections, and the more inoculations you can build into the next version of your pitch. Sales is a real-time strategy game! Prepare your defenses well!
Another principle to remember: Customers are not necessarily truthful and forthright. They may have objections but haven't shared them with you. If they don't share them, you have no way to overcome them -- and your sale dies right then and there. Inoculation is the best defense against this.
A further benefit of inoculation is that by bringing up your perceived weakness yourself, you gain credibility and show that you can think critically. This goes to character, and people generally want to work with credible people who can think critically. So how can we inoculate against those three example objections?
You've never made a game before. Early in the presentation, like when you are sharing your background or how you came up with the concept of the game. Say something like, "Now this is the first game I'm making myself. However, I have X industry experience doing Y. I also have two mentors who have released several titles that I meet with regularly. When I don't know what to do, I lean on their experience. " Your selected genre is oversaturated. Mid-presentation, show some screenshots or demo -- and the genre will be known. You can say something like, "Now I know what you are thinking: Another First Person Cake Decorating game? And initially, when I was designing it, I felt the same way. But here is why I think our First Person Cake Decorator is unlike anything else in the market . . ." Your scope is aggressively large. Late presentation just before the close addresses objections like this. "Now I recognize that our scope seems too large for our small team. But team member X worked on such and such, and it had 3 times as many A.I. agents as our game. And we are open to discussing the scope with experienced developers. At the end of the day, we want to make something new and compelling for the genre and are looking for key partners like you to help us get there." 10. Leave Nothing to the Customer's Imagination
Since I was pitching custom software, I had nothing to show because it didn't exist yet. It's one thing to pitch a car or house that is right there in front of the customer. But to pitch an idea? And they have to agree to spend the money first before they see anything tangible? This is extremely difficult!
Now I imagine in the game space that the people you meet probably exercise their imaginations regularly. But in the business space, I can assure you that the CFOs are NOT hired for their creative imaginations. More likely, their lack of it.
So what do we do? Do not rely on the customer's imagination to understand what you intend to do or build. Make it as concrete for them as possible. Words are cheap, so use props. One reason my software company closed many deals despite being up against larger, more experienced competitors is the lengths we would go to show the customer how their eventual software may work.
Our competitors would hand in four-page proposals; ours were 20-30 pages. We spent dozens of hours mocking up screens and writing out feature descriptions. Sometimes we would build a demo app and throw it on a handheld. All this so they could see, touch, and taste the potential software in the board room and close the deal. Even if our software solution cost more and would take longer to complete, the customer would go with us because our presentation was more concrete. They could see success with us; whereas, they would have to imagine success with the competitor.
In games, you can make a demo. But if that is too much, you can at least get an artist to make mock screens, get some royalty-free music that fits the theme, and then show footage from other games that inspire you. Props beat words every day of the week.
11. Work Hard! Earn it!
The movie Rudy is a great example of this principle. Based on a true story, Rudy wants to play football for Notre Dame. Trouble is he isn't big, fast, or particularly good at football. But he tries! Oh, how he tries! He practices more and with greater gusto than anyone else. Finally, at the end of the movie, Rudy is given the chance to play in a game. The crowd chants and the movie audience cries because it's all just so wonderful!
Almost all of the software deals I closed were bid on by multiple competitors. Canadians love the "3 quotes" principle. When I would check in on my client waiting to hear that we won the job, it would boggle my mind to hear the decision is delayed because one of the competitors was in late with their proposal. Are you kidding me?!
We delivered our proposals on time every time. That may have meant some late nights, but failure wasn't an option. And as previously mentioned, we always delivered more in our proposals than our competitors did. Everyone likes to reward a Rudy because we all want to believe you can overcome your weaknesses through hard work and dedication and achieve your goals. Working hard during your pitch says more about your character than anything else.
It gives the customer the impression, "If they work hard here, they will work hard for the whole project." The reverse is also true: "If they are lazy and late here, they will be lazy and late for the whole project." Again, talent isn't everything; who you are inside and how you work is. I have personally awarded work to companies/contractors because they worked harder for it than the others, even though they weren't the best proposal I received.
12 You Have to Ask for the Close
You miss 100% of the shots you don't take. - Wayne Gretzky
I'm not great at networking or cold calling. I've already shared that I'm not great at ladder climbing. But where I really shine is closing. Closing a deal is like winning a thousand super bowls all wrapped up into a single moment. With a bow. And sparklers. I could write a whole article just on closing (and there are books dedicated to it), so I've limited our time to just the most important, most missed principle: You have to ask for the close.
I have seen great sales presentations fail because the presenter never asked for the deal. They talked and talked and said lots of wonderful things, but then just sat there at the end. What were they expecting? The customer to jump out of their seat screaming, "I'll take it!" Or maybe it's as if there is a secret that the salesperson is there to make a sale and they don't want to blow their cover by actually saying, "So, will you choose us?"
If you don't ask for the close, you won't get the objections -- and if you don't get past the objections, you won't win. So ask for it!
Now to some specific techniques to help you. First, be clear about asking for the close. If you want an interview, say "So do you think you can interview us?" If you want a meeting with someone, say "So can we book a meeting for Tuesday?"
If you really struggle with what I just said, try the pre-close to boost your confidence: "So what do you think so far?" That is not a close. That is a non-threatening temperature check. The customers are just sharing their thoughts, tipping their hand to tell you what they like and any immediate objections that come to mind. After you discuss their thoughts, you still have to circle back around to booking that interview or the meeting.
Second, when you ask for the close, the next person who speaks loses. Silence is generally uncomfortable for people, so this one requires real grit and determination. Many salespeople say something during the silence to try and help their case. They are doing the opposite. Asking for the close is a pointed question that requires the customer to make a mental evaluation and then a decision.
If you say anything while they are doing the mental process, you will distract them and cause the conversation to veer away from the close to something else: tertiary details, objections, etc.
I was in a meeting with a potential client when I had the unfortunate task of telling them their software wouldn't be $250k but $400k and take months longer. I explained why and then asked for the close: "This is what it costs and how long it takes to do what you want to do. It will work exactly as you want. Would you like to go ahead?"
They were visibly mad at the ballooned cost/time. I sat in silence for what felt like hours but was probably 3-4 minutes as the VP stared at the sheets I'd given him. Finally, he said "I don't like it, I'm not happy, but ok. But this date has to be the date -- and no later!" The silence put the burden of making a decision squarely on the VP, and he decided.
Third, expect objections. Even if you did all your inoculations correctly, there will be something you never thought of that they did. Hopefully, you got the big ones out of the way -- but I don't think I've been in a meeting where they just said, "Great presentation. Let's do it!"
Sometimes people bring up objections for emotional reasons: They just don't want to work with you. Like the girl who won't go out with you because she has to wash her hair that night. There really is nothing you can do at that point. You've failed to build rapport or show how you can meet their needs. You won't recover these blunders at the closing stage. But for real objections, these are legitimate reasons preventing them from going with you. Get past those, and it's time for the sparklers!
It is critical to first get all the objections in one go. This is most easily done with a simple question, "Other than X, is there anything else preventing us from working together?" I'll show you why this is important in a moment. If possible, write down every objection they give you. Most people get hung up on one or two.
In my hundreds of meetings, I have never seen someone able to list 4+ objections to a pitch. Now work through each one of the objections in turn -- treating them seriously. Treat them like they are the end of the world if unresolved; because they are! Before moving on to the next objection, say "Does what I just shared address your concern?" If they say yes, cross that off the list.
Once you have dealt with each of the listed objections, say something like, "Well we've addressed A, B, and C. So now do you think we can work together?"
By gathering the list of objections first, you have achieved several things.
First, you've shown you listened to them. Listening and understanding can overcome much of the objection.
Second, it brings a natural path back to the close! They listed out the agenda, and you dealt with it; there is nothing left to do but close!
Finally, you are preventing them from coming up with new objections. This is a psychological trick since you gave them every opportunity to list out their objections earlier -- now that time has passed. They look foolish if they do it again. Sort of like when you get to a certain point in a conversation, it's just too late to ask the person their name. If they raise new objections at this point, it looks like they are just stalling or delaying. Maybe that is what they are doing -- because the objections were emotional ones.
These principles apply to writing as well! Like a website "squeeze" page to get newsletter subscribers. You have to be clear and obvious about what you want: You want a newsletter signup. Well, make it clear and easy for them to do that!
Well, there you have it: roughly 12 years of sales experience boiled down to 12 principles. Did I "close" you? Was this information helpful in improving your pitches? Use the comments to let me know! SDG You can follow the game I'm working on, Archmage Rises, by joining the newsletter and frequently updated Facebook page. You can tweet me @LordYabo
By Level Up Translation
This blog was originally posted on Level Up Translation's blog. As the developer or publisher of a title that took a considerable amount of time and money to develop, the localization of your game is clearly a point you should not neglect. Localization strategies differ from one platform to another though. Here are a few tips to help you decide what languages to localize your Steam game into.
7 languages cover 65% of Steam users
Your game is going to hit Steam and you don't even know where to start with its localization? Don't worry, we've got you covered! Here are the 7 languages (including English) you should absolutely consider localizing your game into: 1 - Russian 10.88% of Steam users are Russian. They make up the second largest gaming population on Steam after the US. Russian players also own a whopping 8,66% of the total games owned on Steam, and PC is by far their favourite gaming platform. Don't think twice, localize your game in Russian! 2 - German 4.93% of Steam users are German and they account for 6.23% of the games owned on the platform (31.87 per user on average, against 20.09 for Russian players). Germany is also the first European country in terms of game revenue, so localizing your game in German is not only a safe bet, it's a must. 3 - Brazilian Portuguese The share of Steam users from Brazil keeps on increasing. 4.72% of Steam users are Brazilian and they account for 3.55% of the total games owned on the platform. Brazil is the most important market in South America and English proficiency is relatively low. Still hesitating to localize your game in Brazilian Portuguese? Think again! 4 - French 3.61% of Steam users are from France and they account for 3.49% of the games owned. Localizing your title in French also gives you access to Quebec as well as French-speaking countries in North and West Africa. However, if you are specifically targeting French-speaking gamers located in Canada, we do recommend that you localize your game into Quebecois as well. 5 - Chinese Chinese gamers mostly play on PC (57% of the Chinese gaming population) and with 4.86% of Steam users coming from China, your game definitely has to be localized for that market. Chinese users own relatively few games (2.46% of total games owned on Steam) but this is probably due to the relatively low number of games available in Chinese on the platform at the moment. Who said niche? If your game has the potential to find an audience in China, you know what to do next. 6. Spanish, but... Although "only" 1.43% of Steam users are from Spain, as much as about 6% of Steam users come from Spanish-speaking countries. Spanish is a pretty special case though. Should you decide to tackle the Latin American market (the second fastest growing region in terms of game revenues), we highly recommend that you go for specific locale versions. Localizing your game in the above 6 languages will have more than 35% of Steam users covered. Providing your game was developed in English (an additional 30%), this makes your game available to 65% of Steam users! Raise your hand if you would like to miss 65% of the Steam market! Anyone? No? Good... Other languages worth considering for Steam
Italian Looking at the numbers, the Italian gaming market is far from its days of glory. However, one could hardly recommend to ignore the "I" in the traditional FIGS (French, Italian, German, Spanish). Not only has Italy a relatively low English proficiency, but choosing not to localize your title in Italian might expose you to negative criticism for not living up to the expectations of Italian gamers. Many consider the lack of Italian localization an eliminatory criteria for playing a game, and just like many French and Spanish players, Italian gamers tend to swiftly uninstall a game if it is not available in their native tongue. Polish, Ukrainian Given the share of Steam users speaking these two languages (respectively 9th and 11th population of Steam users), localizing your game in Polish and Ukrainian is a pretty smart move. They are also cheaper than French, German, Italian or Spanish, so if you have the budget, go for it! Turkish 2.04% of Steam users speak Turkish. For comparison, Swedish players represent 1.54% of Steam's audience. On the other hand, translating from English to Turkish takes nearly 50% longer than translating into FIGS. Turkish is therefore relatively expensive when it comes to localization, and we only recommend it if your budget can handle it. Has this post helped you clarify where your Steam games could sell best? Then gear up for your global quest and work with our game localization specialists who will pour their heart and soul (as well as a considerable amount of coffee/tea) into the localization of your game! Contact us now! Follow Level Up Translation on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to get all our tips and insights to help you with your game localization! If you like what you just read, there's more for you! Just follow us for more game localization tips and insights: Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Got a game that needs to be localized? Tell us about it! We've got plenty of XP to help you level up! Level Up Translation - Expert Video Game Localization Services - www.leveluptranslation.com
By Level Up Translation
This article was originally posted on Level Up Translation's blog on August 19th 2016.
Gaming is one of the few truly global industries, filled with passionate fans (like us) who really care about their favorite titles. Which means simply doing localization isn't enough. You have to nail it.
Poor localization can make your games more expensive to produce, hurt sales and create all kinds of bad press. Yet we see publishers large and small making the same mistakes time and again.
Here are five of the most expensive game localization mistakes you want to avoid.
#1: Embedding text into the game's core files
One of the most costly mistakes we often see is text being hard-coded into the core files. This will include things like the title of your game, menu text, and any dialogue printed on-screen during gameplay.
It can be tempting for developers to embed this text directly into the game's code - especially if you're launching in one language first. This is a bad idea, though - even if you don't have any plans to expand into other languages at this stage.
Instead, you'll want to store all text as variables in a separate resource file. This way nobody needs to plough through source code to add translated text into the game. You can simply add the new variable and place the translation inside its own dedicated file. This not only makes future localizations easier for your team but also for the translators you call in.
#2: Cutting corners on translation
This isn't only a problem for game localization but any project that needs accurate translation.
The fact is, cutting corners on translation only creates more work further down the line - and that means spending more money, too.
Forget machine translation and don't even think about free tools like Google Translate. Not only are they world away from producing the accuracy you need, they're a security threat for any sensitive content.
Such translation tools are vulnerable to hackers via your Internet connection - especially via WiFi. These risks are widely publicized but they may not be something you associate with online translation. More worryingly, anything you type in is handed over to the translation provider (eg: Google). It becomes their data and they can do anything they want with it.
Speak to your translation agency about non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). These contracts make sure everything in your game stays completely confidential - so you can relax while translators are working on the localization of your game.
Money-wise, the reality is, if you cut corners on translation, you'll only end up paying more for it later. We get far too many partners who need to start all over again because they tried to take the faster/cheaper option on translation.
Take shortcuts and you'll end up with the kind of mistakes we still mock the arcade classics for - or worse.
#3: Using translators who don't know your game (or video games at all)
With context being so important in game localization, the more a translator knows about your video game, the better.
We still see too many publishers handing over spreadsheets full of text to translators who basically know nothing about the game they're working on, or worse, nothing about gaming at all.
Instead, you should seek out experienced video game translators and give them the chance to play your title whenever this is possible. The more they know about the gaming experience you're trying to build, the better equipped they'll be to recreate that in another language.
If you can't give translators access to play your game, then at least get someone in with a track record of translating games in your genre. Be sure to hand over as much information about your title as possible: glossaries, visuals, style guides and any translations you may have from previous releases.
And if your game is about to hit platforms like Playstation 4, Xbox One or Nintendo's consoles, make sure way ahead of submitting your build that it meets Sony, Microsoft and big "N"'s strict naming conventions in all languages, or risk getting it rejected. Here as well, it takes an experienced localization service provider to go smoothly through that phase.
#4: Ignoring cultural factors
Accurate translation isn't the only goal of localization. You also need to be sure your titles are culturally sensitive to each market - or risk alienating one of your target audiences. Much of this comes down to the actual content of your game: the story, characters and events that take place.
Just ask Nintendo how important it is to get video game localization right. It spent the first quarter of 2016 embroiled in a localization row that escalated into debates over sexism, homophobia, child pornography, slut-shaming, prostitution and a hate campaign against one of its most infamous employees. It was pretty intense.
It all came down to a localization vs censorship debate that peaked with Fire Emblem Fates. The version for US and EU markets was heavily altered from the Japanese original and fans were less than pleased.
Shortly after, there were protests in Hong Kong after the firm decided to alter the name of beloved Pok?mon Pikachu. It sparked a centuries-old sentiment of China encroaching on Hong Kong culture - all of which was reignited by the slight change of a name to one character.
Source: Quartz #5: Thinking of localization as the last step of game development
Perhaps the most expensive mistake you can make with game localization is letting it sit at the bottom of your to-do list. It's easy to think of this as the last stage of production - but that's a costly assumption.
A classic example is the humble game description; vital to selling your game but something often overlooked. These few words are your only pitch to convince new gamers - especially if you're not creating a famous brand title (eg: Star Wars, Final Fantasy, etc.)
All you have to do is visit Google Play to see how little effort many publishers put into these descriptions:
A lot of words in there but not much that makes any sense.
And this publisher didn't even bother trying...
It rarely ends with game descriptions either. Publishers who are happy to settle for this kind of first impression tend to take similar shortcuts in other areas of development.
The amazing thing about video game localization gone wrong is that most mistakes could have been avoided with the right planning.
Just go back to our first point about hard-coding text into a game and you can see how poor localization planning makes production costs skyrocket. Or think how many problems Nintendo could have avoided this year by localizing its content during the writing process, rather than leaving it until post-production.
The fact is localization should be included at the very beginning of game development - and you need to allocate enough time and budget for the entire process. This way you can avoid extra workload and costly mistakes further down the line.
So there you have it - the five most expensive game localization mistakes. They're all completely avoidable with the right planning in place from day one and the game localization company with the right experience and methodology.
If you like what you just read, there's more for you! Just follow us for more game localization tips and insights:
Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Got a game that needs to be localized? Tell us about it! We've got plenty of XP to help you level up! Level Up Translation - Expert Video Game Localization Services - www.leveluptranslation.com
By Jesse "Chime" Collins
More often than not, I’m asked questions by indie developers about bringing external help in. This lesson of Indie Marketing For N00bs will deal with marketing professionals, public relation firms, publishers, and who you want on your side. An alternate title to this lesson would be: “PR Gurus, Publishing Pros, and Community Managers, Oh My!”
All of the lessons before now focus on the assumption that you’re on your own. But, you’re only one person. Your team, whether it’s small or larger, may not have the ability to focus on the particular tasks of managing the social media or sitting down to crack out a press release masterpiece. It’s OK to need help. Everyone should have someone that knows what they’re doing, knows the ins and outs of the game being made, the industry itself, and how to get the word out properly. Whether it’s you or someone else is the question to ask. They are your writer, your voice, your relations with the public, and your metaphoric face.
Publishers Are Not Always The Infallible Fix
Let’s get Publishers out of the way, because the most common question I get when people ask for advice is “Can you get me a publisher for funding and marketing?”
This predisposed and panned need is due to misconception that all publishers are end-all, be-all and will save a game from doing terribly. This, as stated, is one of the easiest mistakes that developers can get themselves into. Indie developers go head first into finding a publisher, but should be more picky because each publisher has their own tools, needs, and requirements themselves.
When most people think of publishers, they think of the big names like Activision, Valve, or the countless first-party options out there. These fine folks aren’t the publishers that you’ll be looking for. They comb through thousands of games a day to find the diamond in the rough that will be their poster child of indie in a sea of junk, if they are even looking to add an independent game their their repertoire. Many of them, like Blizzard (under the proper name Activision Blizzard), develop games internally and publish those. Let’s face the facts: World of Warcraft was not an indie game.
Now, there are some better alternatives out there. But, they’re not always this almighty publisher that people believe they should be. First off, most indie-based publishers are not going to fund your game. Some will, if they find something they truly and wholeheartedly believe in, but all-in-all, the publisher is there to do one thing: publish.
Some indie publishers, like Team17, New Blood Interactive, or Digital Devolver, have their own internal public relations and marketing departments or have their own methods to get what you need. Some will even personally invest in your project and are all self-contained to your liking. But, that’s not all of them and the likelihood that you’re chosen is not very big.
Some publishers, like Apogee Software LLC and Digital Smash, are there to help give resources and help liaison the needs of publishing to niche platforms, but don’t have the funds to personally invest. As a developer, understand that this is still a viable solution if you’ve never published before. All options take a percentage of royalties, but these guys might be less inclined to take both the arm and leg to help you. However, they may be able to help get marketing professionals on your side on the back-end or get you properly set up for a crowdfunding option success.
Some publishers will, at times, treat their acquired development teams as pets. They feed you, they talk you for walks. But, you better not leave any presents on the carpet or chew up the couch pillows or you’re in for as hell of a time. They will set your deadlines and your timelines. They will be your wake up calls, your drill instructors, and your nannies. You jump when they tell you to and there’s no real problems. This is how half-assed games come out on deadlines, where bugs are fixed post-release. If you feel that the game should be developed at your own pace, a publisher may not be your answer.
Just remember: Publishers are not always necessary, but if you get attached to one, it’s definitely a good idea to know what you’re getting into and what to expect for each.
There is no I in TEAM
What do Marketing people do? This is a question that a lot of developers really have no idea how to answer. More often than I would have ever thought, devs believe that marketing and PR people are in charge of finding funding for the project. I’ve even been asked how well I can program before because they thought “Marketing and PR” had to do with programming the game somehow. All of this is wrong.
Where some marketing folks can also specialize in these topics, that’s not the point of a marketing person. You need someone to market the game, get it out to the masses. Someone that can help set the tone for the entire brand you intend to show the world. In larger companies, each of these people even are separate from each other in different roles. As an indie, you may not have that luxury to have a PR manager, marketing manager, brand manager, and community manager. So, you need a well-rounded person to do as much as they can.
Enter: The On-Team Marketing Manager. This is your go-to guy to handle community efforts, writing press releases, or focusing on creating and enforcing marketing plans. This will be one of the most hard-working people on the team since they wear so many hats. With that being said, don’t overwork them. Create a plan (you know, a marketing plan) and let them implement it.
This can also be an opening to mention interns. Bringing in your own intern off the street has its advantages. You can mold them and shape them to how you want them to fit into your puzzle, especially with everything you’ve learned from the lessons I’ve given. It gets tricky without money up front to pay them salary though and they can quit pretty quickly with no backing behind all the work.
If you don’t pay, there’s a high chance they won’t stay for very long. Consider figuring out a budget to pay a marketing person to help, even if the budget is technically zero. They’re not there to work for free, or the possibly empty promise of being paid on the “back-end”. Back-end paying is when nothing is given up front and the share of the revenue is given after the release of the game generates profits. Offering someone only back-end payment for hard work will probably get you laughed at more often than not.
If it's firm it means it's ripe, right?
Many developers take on the age old mentality of having someone else do it for them. Hiring a public relations or marketing firm is incredibly common and a solid choice among both the indie and AAA developers. A firm will generally assign you an “account executive”, which will dedicate time and focus on you and your needs that you have paid for. They’ll usually have multiple clients that they are involved with and will split their time to each evenly.
The real question involved is if you’ve found a valid firm or someone that’ll give you the runaround. If you feel like the price is not right, for instance, you might be correct. Many firms will over charge for minute tasks. Many of them will want a huge chunk of the share of back-end. Get a fair percentage and you know you have a good company working with you.
Just remember that almost all firms will want some sort of payment up front. Sometimes they can work with you a little, but they are a business and can’t take on a bunch of free, volunteer jobs. They have to eat and keep the lights on too.
Many of these firms will treat it like a job instead of a passion. The very best firms will emotionally invest in your game. Be friendly to the developers, “like” or “follow” the game on social media, be more than just professional. These people are more interested in making lifelong partnerships and networks than dropping you the first sign of trouble. They want to help, give advice, and consult. They generally want to see you succeed. They cross their fingers for you and hope for the best. Additionally, success stories look better on their track record than a botched game, so personal investment helps keep them on track as well.
In any case, find yourself a good team for your game. If it involves a marketing consultant, a PR firm’s account executive, or even a publisher to keep you on track, it doesn’t matter. A good team will be cohesive and work together to get the job done, whatever it takes.
By Jesse "Chime" Collins
Welcome to the fifth lesson in the series known as Indie Marketing For N00bs. Today, we’re going to cover a short lesson that most indie developers believe is a myth but really isn’t. Marketing isn’t free and anyone that ever told you otherwise lied directly to you.
If not in monetary spending, it’s definitely in time needed to market properly manually. As you’ve read in the previous entries, marketing, public relations, community development and management, and social media all take time. A lot of it. As the old saying goes, “Time is money”. You will either take the time to do it yourself properly or bring in some additional tools for your arsenal that costs money. There is no in-between.
The immediate answer that people go to is advertising. This is the oldest and most well used form of digital marketing in the modern era. Creating an ad, focusing the target market (which you should have a comprehensive idea of due to your marketing plan), and paying for impressions (those that see the ad, but don’t necessarily click) is about as simple as it gets. There’s even a ton of options to go to depending on your demographic and social media that you utilize:
Facebook Sponsored Ads
Wanna know a secret? Put in the Work.
If you want a truly successful campaign, you will spend money to get the right resources. But, that shouldn’t stop you from taking on the manual options as well. As I’ve said before: Get yourself out there on your own. Make sure every eye possible sees you. If you don’t know how (or my guides just weren’t as effective as you hoped), there’s always the option of bringing on a marketing specialist to your team or even hiring an outside PR company to handle the affairs. But, again, those cost money. People don’t work for free.
If you DO want to do it yourself, here’s the trick. There is no secret, special trick. It’s really just a lot of hard work and know-how.
Understand That There’s A Lot Riding Against You
Everyone has heard of Star Trek, the classic science fiction show that premiered in the 1960s. Don’t worry, this is relevant. In the original series (and the newer movies), there is a test that is given to cadets of Starfleet called the Kobayashi Maru. The point of the test is that some situations are completely unwinnable and it’s to show how well cadets cope with the concept of a no-win scenario.
Now, I’m not going to lie. The cards are stacked against you as an indie developer. The day this was written (October 4th, 2017), 15 games came out on Steam alone and every one of them were a free indie game. There’s a lot of evidence and statistics that show you will fail. You can do everything right, spend money to get the proper tools and help, make a fantastic game, and still fail. This is what I refer to as the “Kobayashi Maru of Marketing”. You just can’t let this discourage you. It’s an obstacle and your next game will do better.
Marketing takes a village. If your marketing budget is zero, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will fail. It means you have to work harder, step twice as fast, and learn from mistakes quickly to adapt. Put in the effort, get the word out, make sure every eye that can possibly see it does. Make sure you’re in the face of journalists because you need them on your side because you can show them everything you want, but if they do nothing about it, it’s lost to the wind.