How to create your ultimate pitch: Why not simply ask?
by Marc Stoiber
A heart-to-heart chat with a potential client would show you exactly what points you need to make, and what points you should relegate to the dumpster
VICTORIA—I help people create killer pitches and presentations. So naturally, clients ask me what to put in their pitch to really make it sing.
A few years ago, a younger and more insecure me would’ve jumped right in with myriad suggestions on hooks, promises and structure.
Happily, the older and wiser me has done away with those pointless exercises. Today, I simply say ‘Let’s ask’.
Ask your clients
Have you ever sat down with a potential client, opened your notebook, and asked them what their dream pitch from you would be? What information they’d like to hear, who they’d like to have deliver the pitch (it might not be you!), what slides – if any – they’d like to see, if they’d like to do it in a formal setting or over coffee, what they’d like in a leave behind, how they want you to follow up?
Try it. If you’re not surprised by the information, I would be surprised.
Truth is, once you’re with a company 6 months, you’re inside the jar. The world looks normal, but you’ve lost your outsider’s perspective. You’re no longer able to see the benefits of your product, versus the features. You get excited by things clients simply don’t appreciate.
Consider the ultimate ‘inside’ product – the VCR remote. Designed by engineers enamoured with the computing power of newly-invented processors, these remotes could execute hundreds of commands.
Unfortunately, consumers couldn’t figure them out. All they wanted to do was turn on the machine, turn it off, hit play and – maybe – record.
Think of your pitch this way. Have you designed a pitch as complex and full of bells and whistles as a VCR remote? Chances are, a heart-to-heart with a potential client would show you exactly what points you need to make, and what points you should relegate to the dumpster.
Ask your competitors
Which competitor in their right mind would tell you what to pitch?
In my experience, all of them.
No, they probably won’t sit down for coffee and tell you how to create a killer pitch. But if they have a website, or a blog, or case studies, they’re doing pretty much the same thing.
Companies put together case studies of their successful projects to lure new clients. They use all the visuals, words and tricks they know to make these case studies appeal.
Study the studies, and you understand their strategy.
That is not saying copy their strategy. In fact, I’d argue you need to pick a pitch strategy that sets you apart from your competitors, and use it to subtly hammer their weaknesses.
If they showcase the fantastic design of their product, perhaps you need to say design is ‘greens fees’ – something every right-minded company in your space simply needs to have. The real differentiator is personal service. Which you just happen to be best at.
Point for point, competitor by competitor, you should be able to create a killer pitch by simply studying the information they’ve made public.
That will help you stand apart. And more important, stand above.
I feel sorry for companies that are fumbling in the dark with their pitches. The trial and error process is frustrating and slow.
There is a fail safe way to cut to the chase, cut out the frustration, and get client heads nodding in agreement.
It’s as simple as laying down your assumptions, and humbly asking what works best.
Marc Stoiber is a marketing / brand consultant, entrepreneur, university prof and writer. He helps clients in tech, healthcare and sustainability create simple, powerful brand propositions and stories. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.