Even if you are an outgoing and extroverted sort who feels confident in your ability to command a conversation, making a pitch can be a harrowing experience. Whether you are just starting out in your business and need to present yourself and your ideas to potential investors or you are making an appeal to potential clients as you continue to expand your reach, selling yourself with a pitch is a challenge that is necessary to succeed. Fortunately, with so many pre-existing templates for success, it is also a process that is easy enough to master by keeping a few tips in mind.
Understand your audience
CNBC.com contributor Daniel Bukszpan gathered the responses of successful investors and inventors to learn their opinions on what makes for a great sales pitch, and knowing one’s audience ranked atop the list. What this means in practical terms is taking the time necessary to learn about potential investors in order to gain some understanding of what they want to hear. As Shari Alexander, founder of consulting firm Observe Connect Influence suggests, your pitch should be anything but boilerplate; it should be catered specifically toward your investors and their wants, needs and desires.
“Do as much research as possible on your potential investors,” says Alexander. “Learn their trigger points. What gets them excited? What do they do in their free time? Finding an alignment between your business and their positive triggers will perk up their ears and be more attentive to your pitch.”
Tell a story
In an article for Forbes, communication coach and keynote speaker Carmine Gallo suggests that crafting a winning sales pitch is not at all like telling a great story on the silver screen. Gallo boils down storytelling, and storytelling in terms of sales pitches, into three acts: set-up, conflict and resolution.
The set-up should “paint a picture of your client’s world as it is,” which immediately indicates that you know something about your investors. You can discuss successes, failings, challenges and competitors, all with the idea of setting up the second act.
A successful pitch will address a problem that needs solving. Whether it is a consumer desire that has gone unaddressed or a process that is ineffectual or costly, there should be a core issue that resonates with your investors on some level.
“The more clearly you can describe your customers’ pain, the more likely you are to make a sale,” Gallo writes. “The success of this second act assumes that your product or service truly cures or alleviates a real pain.”
This, of course, sets up the third act of connecting those pains with your product/service/idea and making it clear how it will address the problem put forth in your second act. To make the pitch more audience-interactive, you can follow the Hollywood template and suggest alternative endings: one where the problem continues unabated and results in negative consequences, and another where you intervene and play the role of conquering hero.
Open it up
With regards to the idea of making your presentation interactive, sales coach and professed “Queen of Cold Calling” Wendy Weiss tells Forbes staff writer Jacquelyn Smith that a good pitch is not a monologue where you plow through talking points. Instead, it should be a dialogue between you and your audience that allows them to feel involved and invested.
“Because of the definition of the word, salespeople sometimes think it means they should talk at someone, but that’s really not an effective way to communicate,” says Weiss. “A good pitch is one where you ask questions, listen to the prospect and offer them a solution to a problem.”
The best way to maintain this approach is to start from the beginning. First, establish that you have done your homework while making sure to ask open-ended questions and encourage the input of your audience. Then, pose the problem in the form of a worst-case scenario question: what would happen if the bottom drops out? Finally, provide your investors final cut privileges and allow them to choose which ending they would prefer.
With these tips in mind, you can deliver a winning pitch that will ensure the success of your vision. If you know someone who has performed a pitch before, speak with them and learn more about what they did right and what they felt they could have done better; knowing the experiences of those who have succeeded—as well as those who have failed—will make you better prepared when you are readying your presentation.