It’s the big moment where you’ve finally got yourself in front of the decision makers at your dream clients. You have time to give a short presentation and you know that the next few minutes are crucial for whether you leave the would-be client with a sense of ‘Wow!’ or a sense of ‘Oh.’ So how do you pitch to win?
For many women entrepreneurs the idea of asking for money for what we do seems terrifying. Then combine that with the terror of giving a presentation and you’ve got one of the most challenging tasks that business owners have to face on a regular basis – winning business. So how do you make pitching an experience that’s not only tolerable, but enjoyable? And not only passable, but powerful?
1. Throw one ball at a time
The word ‘pitch’ is an interesting one. To me ‘pitching’ evokes images of high school baseball players on a hot field in movie-ville America, one guy in the middle of the field getting ready to throw a ball. For the game to work there needs to be only one ball in play at a time. The Pitcher throws that one ball and the batsman tries to hit it.
And yet when we compare this to pitching in business, it doesn’t seem so simple. Have you ever tried to sell your business, or your services, but found yourself talking about too many things all at once? It could be too many options, too many products or too many reasons for purchasing. It’s like throwing 50 balls at once in the hope that one of them will be hit. Chances are your batter will get confused and miss them all.
Treat every ‘ball’ you pitch as a precious opportunity to influence; to get a space in the head of your client.
A good place to start is by asking: If you only had one ball, what is the ball you’d pitch? In other words, what’s the key message that you’d like to get across about your idea, business or product?
Spend some time getting really clear on what your key message is by:
- Brainstorming all the possible messages you could have.
- List all the benefits of your product / service;
- all the reasons why this dream client might engage with you;
- all of the unique features you offer and all of the wonderful changes that would happen if you worked together.
Consider your dream client: –
- What are the most pressing needs that they face?
- What is the main problem they want for you to solve?
Next, ask yourself : –
- which of these benefits are most important?
- Which are most unique?
Trim down the weak ones.
Now comes the tough decision:
Of all of the important items left, which are the most powerful?
Peg this down and you have your key message…
Develop your key message into a powerful statement about who you are, what you offer and why it will benefit that dream client of yours.
Once you have your key message, you have focus.
Your message will now start to be really clear for you (which is so important when you’re at a nerve-wracking pitch) and, crucially, it will be clear for your dream client.
2. Make sure the ball is made of the right stuff.
A ball made from sponge cake may leave your hands ok, but it will break up on the way to the batter because of its lack of structure. Make sure your key message has 3-4 key elements to back it up, support it and deepen its message.
Here, think about using content to make your message memorable to your dream client. For a message to be remembered it needs to resonate. For a message to resonate it needs to be both relevant to the listener and unique in their minds. So think of something that’s both really relevant to the needs of the dream client and that they won’t have seen before.
PowerPoint, for example, is not unique and may well remind your dream client of 100 other boring pitches they’ve sat through. So get playful. Think how you can add texture, interest, intrigue, laughter, colour and movement to your presentation. Involve your audience. Be cheeky!
The more real you are as a presenter, the more they will like you. And whilst we think we’re rational beings, most business decisions are based more on emotion that they are on logic.
3. Make sure the ball reaches the other side
Careful messaging and compelling things to say and show are all well and good, but if you don’t throw the ball hard enough, it won’t even reach the batter (cue memories of playing rounders at school). If you don’t fully back your own message, why on earth would that dream client be convinced.
So check your message out. Why is it so important that this person works for you? Think not only about why it’s important for you to work with them, but why it’s important for them that they take you on. Get convinced, without needing to be cocky. And believe it, because you’re in business for a reason – you’re damn good at what you do.
Claim your client. Shine your enthusiasm over them. Tell them “I want to work with you.” And then let go of whether they do or not. There’s nothing strange or selfish about putting your full belief behind what you do, yet it’s something so many women struggle with. Remember that whatever they are paying you, they are getting benefit for.
4. Enjoy the game
Pitching doesn’t need to be a scary experience, provided that you stay true to yourself and you realise it’s only a game. Make an effort, yes, but don’t completely change yourself just to impress a client, just as you wouldn’t change yourself to impress a new man (would you?). Even your dream client can be replaced with another client that turns out to be even better to work with, so there’s no need to build up any pitch in your mind as a ‘must win.’ When you’re relaxed and authentic, you’ll do a better job, you’ll enjoy it more and you’ll impress more.
5. Throw the ball. And then leave it. Job done
Finally, when a pitcher has thrown the ball, they don’t chase after it, trying to adjust its position, or make it look better, or bring it back to them. When you’ve done your pitch, you’ve stated your case. Done. Stop talking. It’s so easy to undermine the power that you’ve created by talking yourself out of the deal. By avoiding leaving your dream client in a position where they have to say yes or no. So stop talking and allow them to answer.
Take a moment to sit in your power and enjoy it, rather than wriggling away from it.
Pitching may not come easily to begin with, but it’s one of the most powerful ways to win work. Don’t expect to be perfect first time and enjoy the journey.
About the Author: Sarah Lloyd-Hughes is a public speaking coach and author of the Amazon Bestseller, “How to be Brilliant at Public Speaking” (Pearson). See www.gingerpublicspeaking.com for more information and some juicy freebies around how to become an Inspiring Public Speaker.