Tips for enhancing your pitching to customers

By Seema Menon, Toastmasters International 

When you start a business introducing yourself and pitching your product or service to potential customers can be daunting.  The skills of pitching are something that every business owner needs to develop, and even when you have good sales experience, they are skills you can continue to hone and improve.

Here are some pointers on how to enhance your pitching to your customers or pitching your ideas within an organisation

Step one – get started

Rather than launching into your pitch immediately you can instead begin with a ‘dynamic change story’ (DCS). Use one of the prominent transformational disruptions that is happening in the client’s industry. It must be an attention grabber and alert the client that if these changes are not embraced sooner or later, the firm will suffer. Once its significance has been clearly highlighted, you’ve generated interest in the client, and they will be more likely to listen carefully.  

Like a movie, the DCS must have intrigue, buzz, excitement, relevance and a little fear (if change is not adopted). Once you have their undivided attention it is time to pitch. 

Step two – switch into the pitch

We all know that if we go food shopping when we’re hungry we buy more than we probably need. In cognitive terms, projection bias is the tendency to project current preferences onto a future event. The idea of Dynamic Change Story is to create a projection bias within the client so that they are hungry for the pitch and want to hear more.

 

  1. Go with one idea

Most pitches inundate the client with a multiplicity of themes and ideas. Even though the pitcher may have many brilliant ideas it is necessary to discipline oneself to pitch a single enticing idea. This single idea is not an experimentation, it must make a difference to the client and the pitcher must have this conviction. 

  1. Understand confirmation bias

Human beings can categorize others in less than 150 milliseconds and so over a 10minute pitch, just imagine how many ‘judgements’ they are making. Clients then compare these impressions with their pre-existing ideas and knowledge. This is known as ‘confirmation bias’. 

Clients generally have certain presuppositions and biases prior to the meeting; they come to the meeting to validate their biases and are busy acquiring proof to supplement their thoughts. The pitch needs to cut through this and make it interesting enough for the client to consider something new.  In other words, the pitch must make the client temporarily suspend his/her pre-existing notions, presuppositions, biases and prejudices about the pitcher’s company/service etc. 

  1. Introduce hope

The pitch has to create expectancy or hope in the client about where they could be if they adopted your idea/bought your products etc.  

The pitch must answer the key question; why should the client adopt the idea suggested “NOW”? What difference it will make to them and their business if they buy in right now – and why waiting would be a mistake.  

  1. Unveil the blackberg

When the Titanic sunk the iceberg responsible was almost invisible. It’s mirror-like surface reflected the water and dark night sky, like black ice on a country road. This type of iceberg is known as a “blackberg”. It is possible that the crew were looking right at the iceberg from a distance and but didn’t see anything unusual. Introduce the blackberg in your pitch. 

The blackberg is the risk, the market disrupter, that everyone is missing. Now suggest how the client’s business is going to suffer if they accept reality and make the relevant changes you are suggesting. 

  1. Involves all the senses

The client must be able to see, hear, smell, taste and touch your brand. Take your single idea and pitch it to the five senses of the client. Here are a few examples. 

  • Not just the scent of the perfume but also the beauty of the bottle it comes in is key. The same applies to whiskey bottles too.  (smell + visual) 
  • Singapore Airlines has a distinct smell, they make it happen with a specific spray. You can see Singapore airlines, smell it when you enter, taste their food inside. Even the captain’s script has been written by an advertising agency. They use all the five senses to create a memorable experience for the client. 
  • The noise of the Ferrari is part of the brand (sound + touch+ visual) 

You can involve the senses with your visual slides, your own auditory speaking power and storytelling. If certain senses cannot be invoked because of the layout of your product/service, use examples into the pitch so you can speak about it and the client can visualise and experience it fully.

  1. Keep moving

You need to maintain momentum throughout your pitch. Leave questions to the end if possible. If this isn’t feasible provide a quick explanatory answer and move on. You can always give a fuller explanation later. Don’t let the questions distract the client (or you)! Ensure you keep control of the pitch – and don’t let others side-track you. A good pitcher keeps retrieving the control despite the attempts, through questions, to alter its course.  

Once the idea has been pitched, it needs emotionally enhancing to encourage buying interest or movement towards to the next phase of buying.

Step three – wrapping it up

  1. Creating urgency

Urgency is a form of persuasion and it precipitates action. It is a sales conversion optimiser. Deadlines, milestone dates etc. create a sense of urgency. Using words that induce scarcity such as limited availability, a few left, clearance, rush, etc. may work for small retail deals but when pitching for larger deals these techniques and easily seen through – and can damage the pitch if they aren’t believable. However, urgency is a persuader, so how do we create it? By genuinely getting the client excited and just a little bit scared. Provide examples of businesses that are flourishing thanks to embracing your idea. Also provide examples of organizations atrophying due to their indolence and delay. 

  1. Keep best interests top of mind

Yes, you are there to sell, but do so with the spirit of giving. When it is demonstrated through the pitch that it is the client who is benefitting from the association, trust blossoms.  

  1. End with emotion

People justify rationally but they buy emotionally. The means the end of the pitch must heighten the client’s emotions. The pitch must not make the client logical or rational, rather conjure up the emotional intensity of the client.  

I hope you’ll make good use of these tips and use them as you work on your next pitches.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Seema Menon is a member of Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit organisation that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs. There are more than 400 clubs and 10,000 members in the UK and Ireland. Members follow a structured educational programme to gain skills and confidence in public and impromptu speaking, chairing meetings and time management. To find your nearest club, visit www.toastmasters.org

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