Being able to pitch successfully is an absolutely essential skill for any entrepreneur – not just to attract investment, but to win business and customers too. Seema Menon from Toastmasters International shares her top tips…
Ditching the early pitch
Resist the temptation to start pitching immediately. It is better to start with a ‘dynamic change story’ (DCS). Use one of the prominent transformational disruptions that is happening in the client’s industry. It needs to be an attention grabber and alert the client that if these changes are not embraced sooner or later, the firm will suffer. Once its significance has been clearly highlighted, you’ve generated interest in the client, and they will be more likely to listen carefully.
Like a movie, the DCS must have intrigue, buzz, excitement, relevance and a little fear (if change is not adopted). At this stage, you’re gently shaking up the foundations of their comfort zone. Once you have their undivided attention – now is the time to pitch.
Create hungry clients
Imagine you are hungry and doing food shopping at a supermarket; you project your present hunger on to the future and end up buying a whole lot of stuff. In psychological terms, projection bias is the tendency to project current preferences onto a future event. The reason for using Dynamic Change Story is to create a projection bias for the clients so they’re hungry for the pitch and want to hear more.
A single idea
When pitching entrepreneurs often deluge clients with a multiplicity of themes and ideas. Even though the pitcher may have many brilliant ideas it is necessary to discipline oneself to pitch a single enticing idea. This single idea is not an experimentation, it must make a difference to the client and the pitcher must have this conviction.
When two professionals meet there is often an attempt at conversational dominance, impressions are created and challenged, rapport is built (or not) – cognitive transactions are going on both explicitly and tacitly. Clients try to categorise the entrepreneur, their business and products/services from the onset. Human beings can categorize others in less than 150 milliseconds and so over a 10minute pitch, just imagine how many ‘judgements’ they are making. These impressions are compared by clients with their pre-existing ideas and knowledge. This is known as ‘confirmation bias’.
This means you have to penetrate this bias and make it interesting enough for the client to consider a new idea. In other words, the pitch must make the client temporarily suspend his/her pre-existing notions, presuppositions, biases and prejudices about the pitcher’s firm.
The pitch has to create expectancy or hope in the client about where they could be if they adopted your idea/bought your services etc.
The pitch needs to give the answer to why the client should adopt the idea suggested “NOW”. What difference it will make to them and their business if they buy in right now? Why would waiting be a mistake?
The iceberg that sunk the Titanic was almost invisible, it’s clear, mirror-like surface reflected the water and dark night sky. This type of iceberg is called a “blackberg”. Perhaps the crew were looking right at the iceberg without seeing anything unusual. Introduce the blackberg in your pitch.
The blackberg is the risk, the market disrupter, that everyone is missing. Now suggest how the client’s business is going to suffer if they don’t embrace this and make the relevant changes you are suggesting.
Involve all five senses
The client must be able to engage with your brand with all their senses. Pitch your single idea to the five senses. For example, Singapore Airlines has a created a distinct smell, and use a specific spray. You see Singapore airlines, smell it when you enter, taste their food. The captain’s script has been carefully written. All five senses are used to create a memorable experience for the client.
The take-away here is, whilst pitching, attempt to engage with the client’s five senses. This could be your visual slides, your own auditory speaking power and storytelling. If certain senses cannot be invoked because of the layout of your product/service, build examples into the pitch in such a manner that you can speak about it and through visualisation, the client is able to feel it.
It is important to maintain momentum throughout your pitch. If possible, leave questions to the end, but if this is not feasible then provide a quick explanatory answer and move on – you can come back to it for a fuller explanation later. You don’t want to let the questions distract the client (or you). Often the answers to these questions are already part of your pitch – it’s just the potential client jumped in too soon. Ensure you keep control of the pitch, retrieving it if necessary – and don’t let others side-track you and take you from your path.
Once the idea has been pitched, it needs to be emotionally enhanced to induce buying interest or a movement forward to the next phase of buying.
Finishing your pitch
Creating the right level of urgency
Urgency can be persuasive and precipitate action. It is a sales conversion optimiser. Deadlines, milestone dates etc. create a sense of urgency. Scarcity inducing words and phrases such as clearance, limited availability, a few left etc. are gimmicks that can work for small retail deals but when pitching for larger deals these techniques and easily seen through – and can damage the pitch by not being believable. However, urgency is persuasive, so how do we generate it? By getting the client genuinely excited and a little bit scared. Provide examples of businesses that are flourishing thanks to embracing your idea plus provide examples of organizations suffering due to indolence and delay.
Preserving best interests
Yes, you are there to sell, but do so with the spirit of giving. When the pitch demonstrates that it is the client who is benefitting from the association, trust develops.
Ending on an emotional high
People buy emotionally and justify rationally. Therefore, the end of the pitch must heighten the client’s emotions. The pitch must not make the client logical or rational, on the contrary it must conjure up the emotional intensity of the client.
By following the tips above you will create and deliver a winning pitch. Make your one chance work for you and your client.