To attract new clients and win business, as a business owner you need to hone your pitching skills. Get it right and you could be starting long-term business relationships. Get it wrong and you may find you don’t get a second chance.
Don’t be predictable
Don’t start with your pitch. Begin with a ‘dynamic change story’ (DCS). Use one of the prominent transformational disruptions 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 change is not adopted). With their undivided attention it is time to pitch.
Move into the pitch
Go shopping when you’re hungry and you’ll project your present hunger on to the future and buy a lot of food. Projection bias is the human tendency to project current preferences onto future events. The idea of Dynamic Change Story is to create a projection bias within clients so that they’re hungry for the pitch and want to hear more.
Stick to one idea
Most pitches inundate the client with a multiplicity of themes and ideas. It’s 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.
Clients try to categorise the pitcher, the pitcher’s firm and pitcher’s products/services from the start. Human beings can categorize others in less than 150 milliseconds. Imagine how many ‘judgements’ they are making during a 10-minute pitch!
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. Your pitch needs to overcome this and make it so interesting that the client will consider a new idea.
The pitch has to create hope in the client about where they could be if they adopted your idea/bought your services 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.
Illuminate the blackberg
The iceberg that struck the Titanic was almost invisible. It had a mirror-like surface which reflected the water and dark night sky, like black ice on a wintry road. This is a “blackberg”. It’s possible that the crew were looking right at the iceberg but not seen 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 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. For example, the noise of the Ferrari is part of the brand Singapore Airlines has a distinct smell, they make it happen with a specific spray.
So, when pitching, attempt to engage 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. Ensure you keep control of the pitch – and don’t let others side-track you and take you from your path. A good pitcher keeps retrieving the control despite the attempts, through questions, to alter its course.
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.
Ending the Pitch…
Create a sense of urgency
Urgency precipitates action. It is a sales conversion optimiser. Deadlines, milestone dates etc. create a sense of urgency. Using words that induce scarcity such as limited availability, a few left, clearance etc. are gimmicks that may work for small retail deals but when pitching for larger deals these techniques are easily seen through.
However, urgency is a persuader, so how do we create it? By getting the client excited and a little bit scared. Provide examples of businesses that are flourishing thanks to embracing your idea. Also give examples of organizations atrophying due to their indolence and delay.
Show how the client will benefit
You’re there to sell but do so with a spirit of giving. Show through your pitch that it is the client who is benefitting from the association. This way trust will blossom.
People buy emotionally and justify rationally. The end of the pitch must not make the client logical or rational, on the contrary it must build the emotional intensity of the client.
Follow these tips you’ll deliver a winning pitch. Make every opportunity count!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Seema Menon is a member of Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit organisation 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 programme to gain skills and confidence in public and impromptu speaking, chairing meetings and time management. To find your nearest club, visit www.toastmasters.org