Per­fect

You never know if your pitch will fly or crash, so put in your all ev­ery time, writes

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There comes a time in ev­ery en­tre­pre­neur’s life when they are called upon to pitch their ideas and con­vince po­ten­tial clients that they are worth the risk.

The ini­tial hound­ing … sorry … net­work­ing … gets you in the door, but the pitch is what will get you hired. We’ve pre­pared dozens over the past year – some have hit the mark, some have gone down like a lead bal­loon. The tricky thing is, you never re­ally know whether your pitch will fly or crash and burn.

So you’ve got to put in your all ev­ery sin­gle time. That starts with re­search – a whole lot of re­search.

Sun Tzu said: “If you know your en­e­mies and you know your­self, you need not fear the re­sult of a hun­dred bat­tles.”

Of course, this is not a bat­tle­ground, and the peo­ple you are pitching to are go­ing to be your part­ners in cre­at­ing some­thing great, rather than be­ing your ad­ver­saries.

Still, know­ing who you are talk­ing to, and hav­ing a real han­dle on how you can make their jobs and lives a lit­tle eas­ier is half the bat­tle won.

Often, en­trepreneurs are so caught up in the pas­sion they feel for their in­no­va­tion or prod­uct that they for­get to con­sider the vi­tal ques­tion “what can we do to help you?”.

This is some­thing we learnt in our many years in cor­po­rate me­dia – the best story in the world can fall flat if you don’t frame it prop­erly.

We start each pitch from scratch. It’s time-con­sum­ing and at times an ex­er­cise in Mys­tic Meg-style psy­chic pre­dic­tions, and it con­tains the best as­sump­tions we can muster. We try to put our­selves in our prospec­tive clients’ shoes to get a sense of what we can do to re­ally make a dif­fer­ence for them.

There are all sorts of on­line re­sources that claim to of­fer the for­mula to a win­ning pitch. Some things are pretty log­i­cal – do your home­work, know who you’re speak­ing to, iden­tify a prob­lem and tell them how you are go­ing to solve it.

But there’s also a lot of gran­u­lar ad­vice: re­sources that tell you to ges­ture with your left hand when talk­ing about the past and your right when talk­ing about the fu­ture. Who knows whether these strange lit­tle tips work or not?

Ul­ti­mately, you’re sell­ing your­self, so you have to be your­self. If you laugh eas­ily, or have a par­tic­u­lar pas­sion for an as­pect of your of­fer­ing, let the client see that.

Pitching is kind of like dat­ing – if you feel you have to act like some­one com­pletely dif­fer­ent to get a sec­ond date, this might not be the re­la­tion­ship for you.

Ul­ti­mately, when you’re stand­ing there, your pas­sion and thought process has to be plain for all to see. As nerve-wrack­ing as your first few pitches will be, take it from us – it gets bet­ter.

You stop feel­ing like you need a stiff drink … or a Val­ium … or both be­fore­hand, and you start get­ting ex­cited about what you have to of­fer and what the re­sponse might be.

And take it from us, there are few things more de­light­ful than see­ing your po­ten­tial clients lean for­ward and lis­ten closely – that sense of be­ing heard, un­der­stood and ap­pre­ci­ated is well worth the cost of prepa­ra­tion.

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