You rarely go into a pitch presentation hoping to be a runner up, or worse, not even in the running. Yet how many times have you lost sleep the night before, feeling unsure about your presentation; how you’ll remember all of your important points, if in fact you’ve included all of the important points, how it will be received, if the key players will be in attendance, how your message will be re-transmitted if they’re not in the room? Sound familiar? Here are 5 steps to take to ensure you’ve done everything you can to win your pitch.
1) Turn your focus 180°: Rather than thinking about everything you want your prospect to know; think about them, put yourself in their shoes. What do they care about? What are their needs, goals, problems? How does your pitch address those? Once you have five – and NO MORE than 5 – benefits to them of your product or service, ask yourself; “Who cares?” If you can clearly articulate why your product or service benefits them, you’re on your way.
2) Back it up with a story: Everyone loves a story. Whether we’re three or 93, we love a story. Even more important, stories are sticky. If the decision maker isn’t in the room for your pitch, the one thing that will get back to him or her will be the story you tell. What kind of story? One that backs up your claim, that proves that what you’re proposing will result in the benefits you promise.
Story format for a pitch presentation looks like this:
First, you illustrate either the problem your prospect is trying to solve or the goal they are trying to accomplish that a customer of yours had as well. Next you describe how your solution (your product or service) helped this customer. Lastly, you tell them the happy result this customer experienced. Stories in this format prove to your prospect that you can deliver on your promise.
3) Make your slides VISUAL AIDS – for your audience: Slides should not be your speaker notes. They are not meant for you to read from; EVER. If you put something on a screen that requires your audience to read, you are undermining yourself and your message. Why? We read and listen with the same processor in our brains; we CANNOT do both things at once. Thus, if you put up a slide that requires reading, you are asking your audience to make a choice; either read the slide or listen to you. Why would you ever want an audience to waste time reading when you are right there, live and in person delivering the message? Your visuals should be just that; visual images that reinforce your talking points. By the way, research tells us that when we can use images along with our narrative audience retention more than doubles.
4) bespeaking their language: Please strip out all of the industry lingo; acronyms and jargon words that may make you feel like an expert, but make your audience feel confused and stupid. (And feeling stupid has a lethal ricochet effect; the person feeling stupid is angry with the person who made him feel stupid. And people don’t listen to people they’re angry with.) Speak in language an 8 or eighty-eight year old can understand. If you have a complicated concept, come up with an everyday analogy to explain it. Trust me, there’s an analogy for everything. The more accessible (and easy to repeat) your pitch is, the more successful it will be.
5) PRACTICE OUT LOUD: Nothing is scarier, or dumber, than getting in front of an audience and hearing words come out of your mouth for the very first time. Trust me, they may sound brilliant in your head, but when you actually speak them for the first time out loud? Not so much. In fact, the first time through is not even practice; it’s really making sure you have the right pieces in the right places and know how to transition between them. Things you want to work through and have down before you get in front of your prospect.
Go forth and pitch! Remember to put yourself in your prospect’s seat, use stories to back up your claims, speak in language they can easily understand, make your visuals aids for them, and practice, practice, practice. You’ll be heard – and win pitches!