January 09, 2014
/ by Ardi Kolah
The primary difference between a poor and a great ‘pitch’ is in its delivery. It’s not just what’s being said but how it’s said that can really make the difference.
If you’ve ever been in a situation where there isn’t much time to deliver a ‘knock em dead’ sales and marketing pitch, fear not! By following these Top 10 Tips you’ll soon become an expert at delivering the perfect ‘pitch.’ For more guidance, refer to my latest book, The Art of Influencing and Selling, published by Kogan Page.
Most people get nervous when doing a sales and marketing pitch and that’s absolutely nothing to be worried about. Typically, when someone gets nervous, they tend to use a variety of movements to release their nervous energy. These nervous mannerisms include, but aren’t limited to pacing, shifting weight, swaying, leaning, crossing legs, or moving arms unnaturally. However, these tendencies can be eliminated with a little effort.
The best tried and trusted ‘remedy’ is prior preparation. And a simple way of doing this is arrive nice and early and allow plenty of time for set-up of the ‘pitch’ to the customer or client.
And remember, if it’s a big deal you’re hoping to land, then there’s no point burning the midnight oil the day before. Get plenty of rest before the presentation.
The poise and posture you adopt is one of the first indicators to the customer or client of how confident and comfortable you are in their presence. Even before you’ve said a single word, they’ll have made a number of judgments on you – the colour of your hair, what you are wearing and the make of your watch. Maintaining a calm approach and presenting a comfortable appearance will normally be reciprocated by those who you are presenting to.
Your posture is also an important element of non-verbal communication, so if the sales and marketing pitch requires you to stand in front of the customer or client, then stand tall and straight, and avoid slouching. Feet should be planted about shoulder-width apart and weight distributed evenly on both feet.
Proper posture will not only transmit confidence in your product or service but it also discourages undesirable nervous movements such as pacing and fidgeting. And it opens the diaphragm so that when you speak your voice is loud and clear.
According to researchers, the visual impact of a ‘pitch’ has the greatest influence on the customer or client (55%) followed by the tone of voice (38%) and finally the text and content of the pitch (7%), which gives a whole new meaning to the art of influencing and selling, doesn’t? It’s personal!
Gestures and movements, like many other non-verbal communications, can either reinforce or clarify the sales and marketing message you want to deliver or distract the potential purchaser from that message. Facial expressions can also help enormously in the battle to maintain attention – so don’t forget to smile!
A sales and marketing presentation needs to flow smoothly if it’s to be successful. If you lose your train of thought or jump from one idea to the next and back again, the customer or client will struggle to follow what you’re trying to say and the message will be lost in the confusion.
The key is crafting a well prepared ‘pitch’. In order to achieve this you should be focused on the outcome – what do you want the customer or client to do in behavioural terms as a result of having the ‘pitch’? That may sound obvious to you, but don’t assume it’s obvious to them. You need to think carefully what happens next. And explain this to them clearly, in words that resonate with them and from their point of view.
The pace of delivery of the ‘pitch’ can also affect your natural flow. If you speak too slowly, research shows the customer or client will lose interest quickly and turn off. On the other hand, if you speak too fast, they won’t be able to follow the thought process clearly and will be trying to play catch up as you keep the foot on the accelerator in order to get to the end of the ‘pitch’. Both these tendencies should be kept in check.
The ‘rule of thumb’ is that we are capable of listening to and absorbing words five times faster than we are capable of speaking, so slow speakers don’t engage the speaking capacity of an audience. This lack of engagement means that the customer or client has plenty of capacity to think of things other than your ‘pitch.’
Static PowerPoint slides or a printed hand-out can’t match how your voice can convey enthusiasm, a sense of purpose and a solution that meets the customer’s or client’s needs and requirements.
The appropriate use of volume, enunciation and tone of voice can ensure that who you’re ‘pitching’ to can hear, understand and internalize what’s being said and also respond to what’s being presented to them.
In addition, these aspects of your delivery can contribute to the enjoyment of the ‘pitch’ so try and introduce vocal variety when in flow. The volume and tone of your voice should be fluctuated to reinforce what’s being said as well as to emphasize important points and information.
Image by Steve Marchant.
Remember the most successful ‘pitch’ isn’t about you, it’s about them! So you need to get inside of the head of the person you’re ‘pitching’ to.
For example, it’s sometimes useful to start with context first, such as explaining the ‘big picture’ before going off into detail.
Always think from the perspective of the customer or client, which means you need to get under their skin.
Don’t get bogged down in unnecessary information such as the function of a product but rather focus on what benefits it delivers for the customer or client as this is more likely to be relevant.
And always ask if anything else would be helpful, so you know the person has all the information required in order to make a purchase decision.
Remember that you’re not alone in the room and you want the ‘pitch’ to work so you should actively want the customer or client to engage with you by inviting questions or comments! A great pitch isn’t just about being in ‘transmit’ but also ‘receive’ mode.
Research shows that the accuracy with which we listen relates directly to how we respond vocally. It’s something we take for granted because it’s such a basic thing. We tend to listen much less accurately in daily life than we’d care to admit.
As we listen, we are preparing for what we are going to say or do after we’ve finished listening. Part of our brain is already coming to a conclusion before we’ve fully listened to the person in front of us. This could cause the ‘pitch’ to fail.
Engaging with the customer or client may well involve asking a question or a series of questions. Listening accurately to their response is one of the most important factors in helping to land the deal.
Eye contact is an important aspect of communication as without it you’re not communicating. That said, it’s also one of the aspects that novices struggle with the most.
Where possible, try to organize the room so that it fits with the way you prefer to present. The good news is that there’s no right or wrong ways of doing this and to a large extent it does depend on the number of people you’re making the ‘pitch’ to.
No one is perfect and customers and clients know this and will generally accept that some questions or doubts may need to be dealt with after the ‘pitch’ so there’s no point trying to ‘blag’ or simply say things that you think the customer or client want to hear.
It’s much better that you listen to what they have to say, acknowledge this in an appropriate way and try to give them the information they seek in order to make a purchasing decision based on their needs and requirements rather than your desire and determination to make a sale.
For more PR and marketing advice from Ardi Kolah, click here.
Ardi Kolah is author of The Art of Influencing and Selling published by Kogan Page. Order your copy today and get a 30% discount by adding the code VOCUS30 on check-out.
Image: VectorOpenStock (Creative Commons)
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