Creating a Winning Pitch
“People don’t buy for logical reasons. They buy for emotional reasons.”
No one is going to become a customer if you can’t connect your product, service or business to a need they have. People buy from you because they believe you have a solution, and they trust you to deliver on your promise. It’s really not a pitch at all, but a conversation that eventually (hopefully) turns into a negotiation. It requires some research, psychology and communication skills along with a touch of showmanship, especially since this first impression may be the only one you get.
In our connected world, a pitch may not even be in person. Increasingly, customers and clients are becoming comfortable with Zoom meetings, emails and other digital interactions. Certainly, the pandemic has forced us to learn to do business differently once face-to-face meetings – the bread and butter of the sales cycle – became taboo with public safety concerns.
The mechanics of a pitch remain the same no matter what its delivery model is. Ultimately, a pitch has to provide the customer with proof that your product or service is of value and solves a real-world problem, whether it is actual or perceived. When the pitch is spot on, the prospect doesn’t even know they are being sold to.
In its most basic form, a pitch should capture the attention of your audience in a way that instantly connects with them and piques their curiosity. It should demonstrate its benefits, features and values in a succinct, straightforward manner. Make sure you provide the necessary proof points that overcome any and all objections. Then end with a specific ask, whether it’s a follow-up meeting, sale or whatever goal you have in mind.
There is no single template for a pitch, but that doesn’t mean you have to start over every single time. You can copy, borrow, edit and customize your basic pitch once it is perfected. In fact, you want to update it every time you present since your pitch should be specific to the audience you are addressing. But more on that in a minute.
When starting a business, it’s easy to spend a lot of time in the weeds. The details consume your entire day, often to the point where you stop seeing the big picture. This can cause you to play it safe and become risk-averse because you worry about what can go wrong rather than lean into the opportunities you would see from a broader view.
A strategic mindset isn’t something you’re born with. It’s something that you perfect over time through practice and mindfulness.
In its simplest form, a strategic mindset allows you to:
- Maintain a holistic view of your organization and its stakeholders.
- Anticipate and act on significant shifts in the marketplace before they happen, so you can take advantage of new opportunities and avoid disruptions.
- Know how to maximize your resources, identify limitations and make the difficult calls required to meet your goals.
- Create and inspire people to embrace and work toward your vision for what’s possible.
- Rapidly prototype new ideas, experimenting and taking measured risks that are aligned with your strategic vision and overarching goals.
- Connect the dots between ideas, actions and people that others fail to see. Your ability to see patterns in data and the marketplace allows you to be original, creative and effective in adapting to any condition.
In short, a strategic mindset helps you channel your thoughts and resulting actions, so they work for you rather than against you. Decisions aren’t made in a vacuum or on the fly. They are made with thoughtfulness, due diligence and a watchful eye on the ultimate goal.
Strong pitches share the same characteristics:
- A good pitch balances business and emotional needs. A pitch that is all business won’t make a connection with the prospect, and neither will one that is emotional.
- They are succinct. Like a first date, you have a few seconds to capture your prospect’s attention and get your point across.
- They are devoid of flowery speech and superfluous graphics as they don’t make an impact.
- They tell a compelling story. Data does not tell a story. Data only tells you what happened and when, not why and how. Also, people don’t remember data. So use story as the vehicle to take your prospect through your pitch.
- The focus is on the benefits. Your story should focus on the customer’s perceived problem and how your offering will address it. Value beats price every single time.
Let’s dive in a little deeper now.
- Know your audience. Every prospect is different. The more you know about them and what they need, the more effective your pitch will be. Even if you are using a generic presentation as the base, customize it to make it personal.
- Focus on the results, not the features. Prospects won’t appreciate the features as much as you do. They want to hear how your product or service will solve a problem they are facing. Don’t bore them with all the bells and whistles. Focus on the job it does and how it solves the customer’s specific problem.
- Think of your pitch as a job interview. In some ways, that’s what a pitch is. It’s your chance to demonstrate that you can deliver what they need. As a customer, they are looking to “hire” someone to solve their problem. Show them how you fill that role and meet their need.
- Go deep into your customer’s needs. To be truly effective in a pitch, you want to show that you understand their problem or problems from all angles. The obvious problem isn’t necessarily their most costly or vexing one. Demonstrating that you clearly understand the problem at hand will help you connect with your prospect on an emotional level.
How you make your pitch is almost as important as what you pitch. Let’s face it. Most people are bored stiff with PowerPoint decks. You could pull out an old carousel projector with slides of your family’s vacation to Yosemite and make a bigger impact.
If you need visuals, new sites like Slidebean and Visme will help you produce outstanding presentations that include motion, animation, embedded data streams and videos and a wide range of storytelling tools, from graphics and photos to readymade charts. Once your deck is built, you can share it online with a prospect, email the link or even turn your presentation into a narrated movie.
Prototype or Mockup
If you have a physical product to pitch, make sure you have it in hand. It doesn’t have to be a working prototype, but you do want your audience to be able to see it and touch it in three dimensions. If it’s still in the design phase, use a product like InVision to demonstrate how it is going to work. Don’t let your audience fill in the blanks here. It will not turn out well for you.
You may also want a promotional or explainer video in your arsenal. This video should clearly show how your product solves the problem your customer faces. It doesn’t have to be a full live-action production. It can be done inexpensively using tools like Adobe Spark. A word of caution, however. An amateurish video screams that you’re an amateur too, so if video production is not something you’re comfortable doing, find a freelancer who can produce one for you. A site like UpWork or Veed.me can help you find one in your neck of the woods.
Letting others do the selling for you is a highly effective strategy. If current customers, clients or investors are willing to be on camera, add their testimonials to your videos. You can also use them in any promotional pieces you’ve created as leave-behinds or integrate them into your visual presentation. Be sure to include their name, title and company name in the testimonial. If you can secure a testimonial from someone who is familiar to your prospect, so much the better. It never hurts to do a little name-dropping here and there, especially if they have something compelling to say about your product, service or company.