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Pitch with perfection

Written by Paul Boross on Monday, 17 September 2012. Posted in PR, Sales & Marketing

Standing in front of people to try to flog your wares is scary enough at the best of times.

Pitch with perfection

Follow these simple tips to ensure you leave your audience wanting more

One of the most daunting things any professional has to do is deliver a pitch. Not only does it involve speaking in front of people, which is nerve wracking enough, it also puts you under personal and professional scrutiny. And, of course, if it doesn’t work out you’ve lost business. Yet it can just as easily be an engaging, collaborative and fun way to win business and build that all-important network of professional contacts.

The ‘elevator pitch’ is a perfect example of this. What most people try to do is cram their entire product story into 30 seconds, thinking that if they say as many words as they can, the client is bound to remember. Actually, just think how you feel when a friend starts telling you something without first introducing what they’re going to say. You might feel confused, disoriented, even irritated, to the point that you have to stop them and ask, “Why are you telling me this?”

An elevator pitch needs to be a trailer for the main feature. The purpose of the elevator pitch isn’t to convince the client to buy from you, it’s to tease the client and have them feel that it’s worth their time to meet with you. Save your main pitch for that meeting.

Following simple tips like this actually makes all those nerves drift away, because they give you something very simple to focus on. Here’s seven secrets to help you be ‘pitch perfect’.

Secret 1: It’s all about them

Apparently, a fear of public speaking is one of the most common problems in the world of business. According to one survey, people fear it more than death. There are many, many techniques that you can learn to help you overcome any fear of presenting, but you don’t need any of them. You just need to master the first secret.

Think about the worst presentation you have ever seen. Did you find the presenter just read from the slides, didn’t interact with the audience and droned on even though no-one was listening? Did the presenter appear ‘self-conscious’?

All these problems arise from the same source, and the first and most fundamental mistake that people make when pitching is that they focus on themselves instead of the audience.

Secret 2: By the time you start, it’s already too late

When does the pitch start? Most people say that the pitch starts when you show the first slide, when you stand up to speak, or even when the audience walks into the room.

These are all wrong. The pitch starts the moment the audience buys the ticket; the moment that the audience first commits to listening to your pitch. That is the point at which their expectations start to form, and that is the point from which you must be able to influence them.

Secret 3: The ball’s in your court

The audience has to be ready to listen before you start speaking. Get their attention, but avoid ice-breakers, because they actually distract from the topic of your pitch and break rapport. Pausing before you begin is a sign of control, so take all the time you need. After all, it’s your pitch.

Secret 4: Dream the dream

Your pitch, your idea, was created in a dream world. In order for that dream to become a reality, you need to draw the audience into that dream.

Drawing the audience into your dream with rich, vivid language allows you to convey far more than you ever could describe in facts, figures and ‘benefits’. Bring your pitch to life and let your words carry the sights, sounds, feelings, tastes and smells of success.

Secret 5: Mind your language

While 93% of your message may be conveyed non-verbally, there is no doubt that your language conveys the raw information that your audience needs to make a decision. For example, traditional sales training advocated selling benefits rather than features. A nice idea in principle, but something often let down by poor execution.

The traditional “feature means benefit” is the wrong way round. By the time you’re half-way through describing the feature, the audience is already thinking about the benefit. Otherwise they have no interest in it whatsoever. When you finally get round to the benefit, it will be different to what they had in mind. Even the most subtle difference will break rapport. Do that enough times and you’ve lost the connection altogether.

Try “benefit because feature” instead, and you’ll win more pitches. Fact.

Secret 6: Say it again, Sam

No doubt you have heard the old presenter’s adage, “Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, then tell them again”. Get your message across in as many different ways that you can, and realise all of the different communication channels that you’re not using; the way you dress, the way you walk into the room, what you say in the invitation email all communicate your intention, and when all of those factors are aligned, you multiply the power of your message.

Secret 7: The end… Or is it?

Every rock star understands the importance of an encore. It’s the thing that most concert-goers rave about. What’s the encore to your pitch? Do you send a DVD with the video highlights? A ‘Best Of’ compilation CD? A thank-you card? As an absolute minimum, you must send a follow-up letter.

Paul Boross has written two books to help you be more successful at pitching. Both published by CGW Publishing, The Pitching Bible and The Pocket Pitching Bible are both available from all good bookshops. 

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