You can read the magazine online, and Paul's article is on pages 48/49.
One of the most daunting things that 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 then you've lost business to a competitor. So it's no wonder that so many people worry about pitching, 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 thirty 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 and at the same time they actually work! So to help you to get 'pitch perfect', here are my Seven Secrets for a Successful Pitch.
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 overcome any fear of presenting, but 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 that 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 of 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 on 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 commit 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: Steady, Ready, Pitch!
The audience has to be ready to listen before you start speaking. Get their attention and get into rapport with them, 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, emotional, sensory 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 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 because The Pitching Bible gives you everything you need.
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. Some performers make the audience wait for up to an hour before being reluctantly coaxed back onto the stage for one more song.. or two.. or ten.
I wouldn’t expect your audience to be shouting “More!” at the end of your pitch, but they will certainly be feeling it.
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, ISBN 978-0-9565358-2-5, £14.99, and The Pocket Pitching Bible, ISBN 987-1-9082931-2-1, £7.99 are both available from all good bookshops.
Box: Common Errors
Not doing your homework – Within ten minutes, you can learn a great deal about your audience from Google, Facebook, LinkedIn etc. If you haven’t bothered to do your research and tailor your pitch, why should the audience bother listening to you?
Wasting time with small talk – Those precious moments before your pitch begins are part of the pitch itself, and you will influence the audience more during that time than during the whole of your pitch.
Thinking that you know what the audience wants – You’ll only know that if you ask them directly and pay attention to their answer.
Pitching to the screen – If you stand with your back to the audience and read your slides off the screen, you’re showing your lack of preparation. Put the laptop away and look the audience in the eye.
Celebrating your guaranteed success before you’ve left the room – Smiles, winks and punching the air all tell the audience that you think it’s all a game, not a serious business transaction, and it will be game over for you.
Upstaging your colleagues – If you’re pitching with colleagues then trust them to answer their own questions. Don’t upstage them, add to their answers or contradict them because the image you portray in the room is a direct reflection of how the client expects you to work with them.
Not following up – Leaving the ball in the audience’s court is leaving too much to chance, and is a sign of either arrogance or poor expectations, neither of which are good.