By Seema Menon, Toastmasters International
Every business owner needs good pitching skills. After all, you are always selling your business and yourself as well as making specific deals with existing customers and attracting new customers.
Here are some tips for enhancing your pitching skills.
Phase One – How to Open
Rather than launching into your pitch immediately, you can instead begin with a ‘dynamic change story’ (DCS). Use a transformational disruption that is happening in the client’s industry. It must be an attention grabber and alert the client that if these changes are not embraced sooner or later, the firm will suffer.
Like a movie, the DCS must have intrigue, buzz, excitement, relevance and a little fear (if a change is not adopted). Once you have their undivided attention it is time to pitch.
Phase Two – Getting Into the Pitch
We all know that if we go food shopping when we’re hungry, we buy more than we probably need. In cognitive terms, projection bias is the tendency to project current preferences onto a future event. The idea of Dynamic Change Story is to create a projection bias within the client so that they are hungry for the pitch and want to hear more.
Go With One Idea
Most pitches inundate the client with a multiplicity of themes and ideas. However many brilliant ideas you have, it’s necessary to discipline oneself to pitch a single enticing idea. This single idea is not experimentation, it must make a difference to the client and the pitcher must have this conviction.
Understand Confirmation Bias
Human beings can categorize others in less than 150 milliseconds and so over a 10-minute pitch; just imagine how many ‘judgments’ they are making. Clients then compare these impressions with their pre-existing ideas and knowledge. This is known as ‘confirmation bias’.
Clients generally have certain presuppositions and biases prior to the meeting; they come to the meeting to validate their biases and are busy acquiring proof to supplement their thoughts. The pitch needs to cut through this and make it interesting enough for the client to consider something new.
The pitch has to create expectancy or hope in the client about where they could be if they adopted your idea/bought your products etc.
The pitch must answer the key question; why should the client adopt the idea suggested “NOW”? What difference it will make to them and their business if they buy in right now – and why waiting would be a mistake.
Unveil the Black-berg
When the Titanic sunk, the iceberg responsible was almost invisible. Its mirror-like surface reflected the water and dark night sky, like black ice on a country road. This type of iceberg is known as a “black-berg”. It is possible that the crew were looking right at the iceberg from a distance and but didn’t see anything unusual. Introduce the black-berg in your pitch.
The black-berg is the risk, the market disrupter, that everyone is missing. Now suggest how the client’s business is going to suffer if they accept reality and make the relevant changes you are suggesting.
Involves All the Senses
The client must be able to see, hear, smell, taste and touch your brand. Take your single idea and pitch it to the five senses of the client. Here are a few examples.
- Not just the scent of the perfume but also the beauty of the bottle it comes in is key. The same applies to whiskey bottles too (smell + visual).
- Singapore Airlines has a distinct smell; they make it happen with a specific spray. You can see Singapore Airlines, smell it when you enter, taste their food inside. Even the captain’s script has been written by an advertising agency. They use all five senses to create a memorable experience for the client.
- The noise of the Ferrari is part of the brand (sound + touch + visual).
You can involve the senses with your visual slides, your own auditory speaking power, and storytelling. If certain senses cannot be invoked because of the layout of your product/service, use examples into the pitch so you can speak about it and the client can visualize and experience it fully.
You need to maintain momentum throughout your pitch. Leave questions to the end if possible. If this isn’t feasible provide a quick explanatory answer and move on. You can always give a fuller explanation later. Don’t let the questions distract the client (or you)! Ensure you keep control of the pitch – and don’t let others sidetrack you. A good pitcher keeps retrieving the control despite the attempts, through questions, to alter its course.
Once the idea has been pitched, it needs emotionally enhancing to encourage buying interest or movement towards the next phase of buying.
Phase Three – Coming to the Close
Urgency is a form of persuasion and it precipitates action. It is a sales conversion optimizer. Deadlines, milestone dates, etc. create a sense of urgency. Using words that induce scarcity such as limited availability, a few left, clearance, rush, etc. may work for small retail deals but when pitching for larger deals these techniques and easily seen through – and can damage the pitch if they aren’t believable. However, urgency is a persuader, so how do we create it? By genuinely getting the client excited and just a little bit scared. Provide examples of businesses that are flourishing thanks to embracing your idea. Also, provide examples of organizations atrophying due to their indolence and delay.
Keep Best Interests Top of Mind
Yes, you are there to sell, but do so with the spirit of giving. When it is demonstrated through the pitch that it is the client who is benefitting from the association, trust blossoms.
End With Emotion
People justify rationally but they buy emotionally. The means the end of the pitch must heighten the client’s emotions. The pitch must not make the client logical or rational, rather conjure up the emotional intensity of the client.
I hope you’ll make good use of these tips and use them as you work on your next pitches.
Seema Menon is a member of Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit organization that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs. There are more than 400 clubs and 10,000 members in the UK and Ireland.
Members follow a structured educational program to gain skills and confidence in public and impromptu speaking, chairing meetings and time management. To find your nearest club, visit Toastmasters International. You can follow @Toastmasters on Twitter.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.