Q: I’ve recently started my own consultancy business. I’ve been talking to a potential customer for a while and they’ve asked me to put a pitch together for their board. I’m terrified! I have never pitched to such a senior audience before. How can I make sure I impress them?
Firstly, congratulations, it’s an interesting time to start a service business and in a fairly crowded marketplace, the most important thing to focus on is what your client will be able to achieve as a result of tapping into your expertise. What’s important is that currently your focus is on yourself – how you feel and what you think of your experience. Focusing on yourself won’t get you anywhere, because if the pitch was all about you, you wouldn’t need your potential customer!
Of course, there are many ways to relax and feel at ease before you pitch, because a little nervous energy is a good thing, but too much draws your attention away from your audience and your message. One of the most easy, quick and effective methods I’ve found is to visualise a circle on the floor, about a metre across, in the location you’re going to stand when you pitch. In that circle, imagine a colour that you associate with a feeling of relaxed, attentive clarity. Now, when you step up to pitch, as you step into that circle, you can imagine that you’re stepping into that colour, letting it wash over you as you relax into that sense of clarity and attentiveness. The key is to understand that you will feel that way only as you step into the circle. Try it at home and practice it a few times, noticing how your feelings change as you step into and out of the circle.
Now, let’s turn to the seniority of the audience. On one hand, we could say that they are human, just like you and I. On the other hand, we do have to consider that their needs are different, simply because every audience you’ll ever pitch to has its own unique needs and interests. One of the characteristics of an executive audience is that their interest is in their business rather than your service. Because they will have seen so many sales pitches over the years, they may tend to be less tolerant of having to work it out for themselves. Therefore, don’t talk about your services, talk about their business, which means you really have to do your research. What you’re pitching isn’t your service, it’s their business, a year from now, for example. Your service is simply the means to get there.
Let me summarise this into three simple tips for you:
- Focus on your customer’s needs, not your own
- Feel at ease during your pitch by stepping into your own ‘pitching zone’
- Pitch what your customer needs to hear, not what you want to say
And finally, to paraphrase Albert Einstein, make your pitch as short as possible, but no shorter.
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