“Oh no!” I said to myself, as I slapped my palm to my forehead. As routinely happens, a student of mine had just sent me an email he had sent to a potential licensee. Typically, my students will ask me to proofread their emails before sending them. However, and as my student will now admit, he let the excitement of initial interest get the best of him. His email, as stated above, was in response to a potential licensee who had just expressed initial interest in his product after reviewing his sell sheet. The licensee’s email to my student was short - four sentences to be exact, and asked only a couple of standard questions. Unfortunately, my student didn’t let me review his email before sending it.
Luckily this student is always willing to learn and eager to better himself and the rest of the inventRight community. In fact, he just recently licensed his first product. Perhaps this is the reasoning for his supreme confidence. With his permission, the email he sent is transcribed below.
“Hi Mr. ____!
Thank you for responding to my inquiry, Sir!
I will confirm with you that I am interested in Licensing the innovation technology.
Also, I am certainly interested in having a dialogue with you __________. I'm sure you have a process you follow internally. I also have a process that I go by. It would be my privilege to speak with you further about the innovation technology so you can understand it better and its applications in the consumer market.
First, may I ask that you submit back to me a copy your own Non-Disclosure Agreement with a signature of an Authorized individual from ___? That may very well be you, ____? (I signed and attached it initially to my email to Mr. ____. (I will reattach it here.) We may then proceed to talk further about the technology with confidence.
It is customary for me to personally negotiate a majority of the terms for a license agreement with my Licensees. I bring in Legal further down the process. Once we can agree on the level of interest in the innovation technology, I would look forward to coming to an agreement on some of the important basic aspects of a Licensing Contract such as:
- Territory(ies) desired
- Exclusive or Non-Exclusive Agreement desired
- Term desired
- Product Categories you would be interested in
- Royalty and how that is calculated
But, Mr. _____ we would be jumping ahead of ourselves to address Agreement points at this time. I'm sharing this with you so you and your team have a basic understanding of how we may move forward should ______ be interested to pursue the innovation technology.
Let's get to the FUN STUFF first! I would love to speak with you more in-depth about the innovation, how I envision it, how it works, how I've made it work better than you may think it might perform, with a couple of design enhancements not shown on the Sell Sheet or animation versions, and discuss the cross-over applications.
As you have read in my initial communication with Mr. _____, I developed this technology to solve my own frustrations with worsening ______. It got ridiculous how many times I had to take my ___ off and on while working on the computer, on the job, leisure, etc. It was a major hassle for me personally. So, I'm going to also suggest that the same design will also benefit those with ____ as well. It Is a Huge Market worldwide! Anybody who wears ______ will absolutely LOVE the Freedom that this particular_____ innovation gives back to them. That's my personal opinion, because my prototypes have done it for me over the last 2 years. Another very important benefit is that they greatly increase an individual's Productivity while working. Think about how efficient someone can be when they simply _________ up to see in the distance, and in half-a-second ______ to see up close?! All day long.... Plus, this design pretty much eliminates wasting time looking for lost or misplaced_____, or buying a bunch of cheap ones because they never seem to be easily accessible when needed. Put down, Ultra-Convenient as probably the biggest benefit with the innovation!
Alright Mr. _____, I just wanted to highlight the design's benefits once again.
Sir, I would of course share my patent information when the appropriate time for it comes. I would speak with my attorney first on that point prior to release of the information. Mr. ____, I have personal prototypes that I probably would not send to you. Because, I'm going to suggest that your lab/facilities can easily create a better-looking version, though mine aren't bad by any stretch. I do have the _____ and _____ in many profile views in 3D CAD. You'll like them alot!
Please, if you will, send me back your signed copy of the NDA form, and let's talk further!
Did you make it to the end of this email? If you did, congratulations. You’ve got patience.
This email is nearly two full typed written pages, which remember, was in response to a four sentence inquiry. It is littered with exclamation points, CAPITALIZED, underlined, italicized and bolded words. I sit here, palm slapping my forehead yet again! I fear my super star student just made himself look like the “crazy inventor” which we try so hard to avoid.
In my view, this email is rather aggressive and even perhaps a bit condescending to the licensee. At this point, we are in no position to make demands. In fact, we are merely trying to develop the relationship! My advice: Do not email back and forth with your licensee. Initial interest will likely be expressed via a short email which may include a question or two. Simply respond with a brief answer to their question and suggest that a phone call be set up to allow you to share more about the product and to answer their further questions. That is how a professional does it. Nothing will kill a deal, or in this case, interest, more than back and forth email.
I can pick apart this email apart all day. However doing so would turn this blog post into it own short novel! I polled my fellow inventRight coaches regarding the above scenario and received the following advice from our expert coaches:
- Mimic your recipient’s style. If he/she send you short and brief emails, try to emulate it. He is being brief for a reason. He is busy! Don’t respond with a novel!
- “Just get the man on the phone!”
- You must not come off as bossy and demanding. Doing so stamps you as “Not easy to work with.” Remember a company is not investing in only the product, but the inventor too.
- Exclamation points, CAPITALIZED, underlined, italicized and bolded words have no business being in an email which is simply responding to an initial interest.
- “Can you imagine how long this email would look on a phone?! That’s inconsiderate.”
- “Don’t get too serious too soon.”
- “I would shy away from doing business with someone that I feel is high maintenance.”
- “Painful to read the email.”
- “Presumptuous and arrogant to say the least.”
- “This guy is going to take all my time. I might give him one more chance, but if I kept getting emails like that, I’d probably drop him.”
- “When somebody I don’t know send me an email like that, I don’t even read it.”
iR coach Paul Sorenson stated it best: “If I got an affirmative response, I would send the sell sheet and my entire message would be, ‘When would you like me to follow up?’ My next interaction would be following up via phone and answering their questions. Not asserting my own commentary and request. My experience is the terms happen naturally. Occasionally you have to prompt them but that is done very subtly. I think the problem with this student is that he is very wordy. He sounds very polite. But in licensing you need to be brief and to the point.”
Coach Sorenson is correct, this student is extremely polite and is an absolute pleasure to coach. I want to thank him for allowing me to publically dissect this email. I know how difficult receiving constructive criticism, especially in an open forum, can be. He is neither the first, nor will he be the last student to do this. I urge you to always lean on your coach for advice before responding to any initial interest.
Be confident, not arrogant. Be persistent not obsessive. Before you send that email, put yourself in the shoes of the licensee and re-read it from their perspective.
Like the famous Green Bay Packers Coach Vince Lombardi said, “When you go into the end zone, act like you’ve been there before.” Coach Lombardi was of course telling his players to remain professional and not “showboat” when they score a touchdown. When you get initial interest, don’t show your cards. Don’t gush with excitement and respond with exclamation point riddled sentences. Act like you have been there before. You are not desperate for their interest and inquiry. You have been on this stage before! You are a professional product developer.
So please, before you author that next email, error on the side of caution and don’t be so BOLD!