Time Is Money
In marketing communications, we often mention you have seven seconds to capture the reader’s attention. When you are making a winning sales pitch you got a maximum of five minutes to make the sale.
Five minutes to make your pitch may sound crazy. If you are in sales you know this to be true. The most effective pitches immediately gain favorable attention and wake up your prospect to an entirely new way of solving their problem.
Check out this fun sales pitch example of Willy Green’s three-minute pitch to investors. He identifies a product, gains our attention, solves a problem we all have, and injects a touching story to make an emotional connection.
Big Willy’s Party On Demand product presentation catches us off guard. Once we get our bearings we are immediately intrigued and drawn in by the details. By the end of the pitch, we are ready to party.
Flip the Buying-Selling Process
Don’t think of sales as selling. You are not selling, you are effectively helping people buy.
I was a sales manager many decades ago.
Back in the day, I taught the conventional selling process: gaining attention, discovering wants and needs, presenting benefits and consequences, and gaining commitment.
Those basic elements are still true today. However, if you go into a sales call using this approach chances are the buyer will quickly lose interest. Trust me, I have learned this lesson first-hand way too many times. We live in a fast-paced world where buyers want information fast. It’s about how you will solve their problem and why YOU are the person to make it happen.
Use The Buying Process To Pitch
The fastest sale I have ever made was to the CEO of a hospital group. He had been intrigued with a mailing I sent him about a Brand Identity Study product I had developed.
The mailing got directly to the heart of the problem faced by hospitals. It gave examples of the changes that will occur when my product is implemented. The results and methodology I had achieved from the process were also succinctly presented.
Your Pitch Should Precede You
The introduction letter served as the first part of the sales process. It gained attention, identified a need and presented my service and knowledge base as a solution.
I had just worked with a global organization that implemented such a study. Because of my first-hand experience, I possessed cutting edge knowledge and immediate solutions.
Before the presentation, I did some fact-finding. When I presented I took control of the meeting and went right into what I will do for their organization, the steps I will take, and the anticipated end results, in general terms.
One key selling point I made was that they were getting all this cutting-edge knowledge from ME. One person vs.a large agency that billed multiple hours.
My process was to work as a contractor. I proposed that I work with their current advertising and public relations agencies, hire and manage a telephone survey company to interact with the community, and I personally would interview a cross-section of internal team members, using the same set of questions to develop a conclusion.
I gave them the cost. The executive team all looked at each other and the CEO asked: “When can you start?”
Five Steps Of The Buying Process
In the buying process, the reasons people buy come down to five things: You, Your Company, the Product/Service, Price, and Time.
When a person is being pitched it’s not only the service or product being presented that’s being evaluated. The prospect’s thought process also includes the salesperson’s ability to understand the client’s needs, create urgency and develop confidence in his or her ability to satisfy those needs better than anyone else.
In my brand study pitch example, I unknowingly incorporated buyer psychology perfectly. I positioned myself as an authority, that will orchestrate all the moving parts of a brand study, in a reasonably fast time frame, for a very competitive cost.
Identifying Needs Before the Sales Pitch
What I didn’t share with you is the backstory to getting the opportunity to make a pitch. I had sent out approximately forty letters to hospitals in my area.
My introduction letter described my product and how it would be applied to a hospital as a business. I had one response from one prospect that had been experiencing the problem I solved. They actually called me!
I also made follow-up phone calls on the other thirty-nine mailings I had sent out. Let’s just say my product and the needs of the other recipients did not align. In most cases, the letter never made it to a decision maker.
As Wayne Gretzky, the Hockey legend has famously said: “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”. Sales is a process. When things align and you get a shot to make your pitch, you got to be the best.
Pitch Anything Success With Neuroscience
Oren Klaff wrote the ultimate book on being a successful pitch person in today’s hyper-competitive world.
In his book, “Pitch Anything” Klaff details how he adapted his sales pitch strategy after working with a molecular biologist to analyze how the human brain works.
He explains that because we are all selling a complex set of data, we believe our sales pitch has to appeal to the high-level thinking part of the brain. Logic would prevail to make the sale, right? How’s that working for you? It wasn’t working for me.
Klaff’s collaboration with the field of neuroscience identified that our brains developed in three parts over time. The base of the brain, the brain stem or the crocodile brain as he calls it, controls survival functions. It alerts us to danger and controls basic primitive emotions such as the fight or flight response. It gets our immediate attention.
The other two sections of the human brain are the midbrain and the neocortex, These areas determine the meaning of things and the ability to use higher thinking to solve complex problems.
Everything we process goes through our crocodile brain first, Information is then passed up to the higher brain functions.
He found by presenting novel ideas, disruptive, new (and dangerous) concepts at the start of a sales pitch you gain full attention quickly. You ignite the crocodile brain.
Pitching Versus Selling
What is a pitch? It’s your one shot to make a deal, period.
If you think of selling as building a relationship and pitching as a do or die approach to moving ahead with a deal, you can see the difference.
I have worked for organizations where I managed client relationships. My job was to service the account and sell-in new concepts. In this environment presenting high-level solutions to solve an ongoing business issue was the norm.
When I started my own consulting business and needed paying clients, I used a personal selling approach. I found that I was developing a list of acquaintances, but not too many paying clients.
Once you decide that YOU are the prize, as Klaff defines it, you will change your attitude and make more sales. You will respect yourself, your prospect’s time and only meet with people that are ready to buy.
Your sales pitch begins long before you get in front of an audience. In my hospital example, I had sent out a letter that presented the core concept of my product, past successes I had with implementing the concept, and my point of difference from the competition.
Today, everyone needs to define their capabilities or product in a specific and succinct way. In working on government contracts, for example, businesses are required to submit what is known as a Capabilities Statement.
The concept may be adapted to meet the needs of your industry and your service offering.
This statement may be in the form of a landing page and/or an introductory piece you send to prospects pre-pitch. It should include:
- Your core capabilities or your solution
- Past Successes
- Your Point-of-Difference from the competition
Having this base document available, and sent to your prospect, is where the pitch begins. Don’t be afraid to be disruptive. Shake the reader up with your earth-shattering product description. Wow them with amazing success stories and go overboard about why YOU are different. Take your best shot.
You Are The Prize
When you are making your pitch the less review material you present the better. Remember you want to disrupt the prospects’ thought process.
If you give them a packet to follow along with, or when you present slides they may be distracted. They will process information through their high level thinking brain and become bored.
In his book, “Pitch Anything” Klaff’s pitch is a well-structured narrative. He has the audience’s full attention. The goal is to have everyone focus on your every word. Your pitch should be no longer than twenty minutes. The average attention span most people have. Klaff stresses that YOU and what you have to offer are the prize, not the pitch deck.
Consider sending the deck out prior to the meeting, or deliver it post presentation.
Pitch Deck Madness
How to write a pitch deck typically follows an industries’ standard structure. Topics such as industry analysis, customer needs, marketing strategy, business model, implementation plan, and financials are generally pitch deck expectations. Boring!
Consider using the same disruptive pitch techniques from your presentation. Frame the pitch deck in a similar disruptive way.
The above standard sections may now become The Big Problem, Our Solution, The Deliverables, Organizational Change, Investment, Return on Investment.
You are essentially following standard pitch guidelines, but disrupting the routine. Standing out from the crowd. Making the reader take notice through your disruptive approach.
Of course, if your audience is in an industry not open to new ways of doing business, be respectful of their needs.
The point is that your pitch deck should get to the point, present new or disruptive ideas and include all the necessary facts to get a commitment.
About Getting To The Point
As a final note on developing a successful sales pitch, you must always get to the heart of the problem and solution quickly.
If your prospect doesn’t get your idea right away, their customers will not understand it either.
When the founders of Google were pitching their idea to investors, here is how they introduced the concept:
“Google organizes the world’s information and makes it universally accessible.”
The pitch was concise and to the point. Sure they had a pitch deck, but one of the company’s first investors said they had him after this concise business plan description.
When Steve Jobs launched the iPod in 2001 he positioned the product benefit as:
“1.000 songs in your pocket”
These complex new technologies were described very effectively in 10 words or less.
Sales is a process. Being able to disrupt your prospect’s world with your solution, in 20 minutes or less, will make you a pitch master.
“Fortune favors the bold.” -Virgil