15 Actionable Tips to Improve Your Sales Pitch

by Adam Luckeroth, on Jul, 6, 2015

It seems that everywhere you turn, someone is trying to sell you something. Whether you’re in line at the grocery store or surfing the internet, you’re bombarded with ads from every angle. When someone pitches a product, service or idea in a way that resonates with you, you’re persuaded to invest your time, money and/or effort.

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Let’s flip things around, though. What if you’re the person who wants to sell something? What if you’re the one who wants to pitch a product, service, idea or business plan? Understanding what makes a pitch effective and the work needed to demand interest and attention is vital.

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Here are 15 actionable tips that you can use to improve your pitch-ability:

1. Do Preliminary Research, Know Answers to the Tough Questions

All projections require research and a thorough understanding of the market. Before you pitch your concept, you need to be able to have answers in some of the following areas, whether to determine the extent of your personal investment in a project or to attract the attention of consumers or investors.

These are only some of the bases that need to be covered prior to pitching, according to an article by Jane Porter in Entrepreneur, 10 Questions to Answer Before Pitching Investors. Your amazing concept will not get the attention of investors without your ability to demonstrate that you possess the level of business acumen necessary to structure and propel an idea to success.

This comes into play during ongoing conversations and meetings after your first pitch. The preparation also helps to form clarity for your initial pitch. Richard Branson, Virgin Group founder and billionaire entrepreneur, states, “It is vitally important to present a clear, concise plan that investors can easily understand and repeat to their own people. In the first meeting, avoid overly complicated, numbers-laden presentations.” Your initial pitch is over in a few moments — short pitches last 15 seconds — but you have already prepared to take it all the way.

2. Address Their Interest, the "WIIFT"

When you pitch something to investors or an audience, you need to offer them a good return on their investment. Your audience wants to know WIIFT (what’s in it for them), and if you can’t clearly outline what it is that they’ll be gaining, then they’ll have no reason to invest.

[Tweet "Your audience wants to know what's in it for them"]

There are many ways to calculate the return. It depends on objectives. Running the numbers prior to pitching helps you to create a platform to interest the right parties. For example, if they are to expect a 20 percent return on investment, they should also have a clear idea of when they would receive that return. Will growth accommodate that return in a year to two years, or will it be realized when the company is sold? Cover all the bases ahead of time and create concrete, realistic expectations for investors.

3. Show Current Growth and Progress

People want to invest in a product or concept that has already been proven to some extent. Significant projected growth rates can only be possible based on major traction in the here and now. Talk about your current customers, the growth rate in the last six months, and how your product, service or concept has been greatly improved in the last few months. According to Adriana Galue, “The famous ‘hockey stick’ projected growth chart only works if you can show traction today. Showing how word of mouth is affecting your growth can be very powerful, as it indicates a viral component.”

4. Demonstrate Financial Aptitude

Investors want to know how their money is being used, the rate at which cash is being burned, and if additional financial injections will be necessary. Let investors know of your plan. What are your funding needs? What are your current operating costs per month? Create a map for your investors of the current organization as well as any hiring and production needs and expenditures.

In a similar manner, clients and customers want to feel reassured that your product or service will be around for the long haul. To trust that they can depend on you to keep the lights on.

5. Determine Customer Need

Solve real problems for customers. Find out about their concerns, what keeps them up and night and their reactions to your type of offer. Hard facts and real-world experience should back up your business model.

Danny Warshay, the founder of DEW Ventures, a firm specializing in startup coaching, remarks that small businesses often fail to attend to “bottom-up” research with customers. He states that “when companies are pitching to me, I always look for ‘bottom-up’ research.”  Danny has helped start more than 15 companies.

Work with members of the target market to identify their issues and concerns. Do the footwork necessary to connect the customer problem to your solution. Then communicate that connection.

6. Highlight Past Success

Investors want to know that they are placing their investment into competent hands. Without a prior personal business relationship, they look for you to offer a synopsis of your business acumen. Examples should show specific achievements, such as previous products that have been developed, the major clients that you signed, and the revenue that was generated due to your efforts.

7. Get Crystal Clear on the Target

It shows competency when businesses can clearly identify a target market segment. An explanation of how the market segment will be captured includes the growth potential within the audience, findings of customer preferences based on research and the chosen marketing channels to best promote the product or service offered.

8. Disrupt the Market

Many offers provide incremental improvements at best as reworked versions of a leading concept or idea. Investors aren't impressed. They're looking for the next big thing that will cause waves in the pond of your market.

The Next Women Business Magazine sees Foursquare as an example of one such market disrupter. Investors are already taking a risk by offering you their monetary support with the hope of a significant return. Those that lead the industry in a new product or concept many times command the largest market share.

9. Have Confidence in Your Pitch

If you seem unsure about the pitch you’re giving, then why should your audience take you seriously? You have to demonstrate knowledge about your given industry. With confidence, you’ll find it’s easier to convince an audience that your pitch is worth listening to and that you’ve got something special. All in all, your confidence will spill over into your audience and will make people feel confident about investing in whatever it is that you’re pitching.

Preliminary research, both “bottom-up” and otherwise, helps to prepare you in a number of ways. You know the market and competition well. You learn how your product, service or process differentiates your business from others. You can show that a healthy market exists and how your organization can contribute to addressing the needs of consumers. You wouldn’t go to war without weapons. How can you pitch without research?

An offshoot of all of this knowledge is the ability to position yourself as an expert. As an expert, you'll be able to demonstrate confidence in the concept and method of delivery. You'll possess an understanding of the areas that need to be addressed before going forward and have the answers before anyone even asks a question.

10. Get Pumped Up, Be Enthusiastic in Your Delivery

Emotions are contagious. People are biologically programmed to be aware of facial cues and emotions. A dry, fact-riddled presentation will not win the pitch. People need to see your emotional investment in the concept — your excitement. Your enthusiasm gives energy to your delivery and makes them want to hear more.

In a Forbes article with Richard Branson, author Carmine Gallo remarks that “Branson is unquestionably the most passionate business leader I’ve had the pleasure to interview. I believe his passion for disrupting the status quo is a key component of his charisma. The majority of business leaders who I’ve met underestimate the role of passion in delivering presentations. Branson looks for passionate entrepreneurs who understand the competition and ‘irreverently explain’ why their business will do better than the competition.”

Branson states, “Emphatically explain how your new company will give your customers a better deal than your competitors.” Passion plus your differentiating business model are key components in your pitch.

11. Outshine the Competition

If you can’t outshine the competition, investors will wonder why they should invest in your business instead of someone else’s. To be able to outshine the competition, you must first understand them. And to do this, you’ll need to study the competition, noting along the way what makes your offering better than theirs.

Competition is a good thing to have. It shows investors that a market exists for your service or product. Being aware of competitors’ offers and pain points helps you to develop better processes and a differentiating concept.

A few ways to study competition:

  • Research keywords and AdWords being used (Spyfu is a useful tool for this)
  • Join industry associations and read trade journals
  • Be a part of the conversation on social media groups
  • Talk to new customers and read reviews of your competitors

Oren Klaff, author of "Pitch Anything", emphasizes the need to demonstrate a real market for the product and the type of competition that targets your audience. Look savvy and well-researched. You will also have more confidence in your delivery when supported by an in-depth understanding of the market and competition.

Invest time and energy by delving deeply into who you are up against, the current trends in the industry, and what customers have to say about the company. This will help you to hone your message and avoid the pitfalls that have tripped up your competitors in the past.

12. Sell the Benefits

Content for pitching and selling should focus on addressing the needs of customers. How will your product, services or concept help serve your customer base? Do you have evidence to support that this area is not being adequately met by the competition?

Features are secondary to the benefits themselves. Can this product or service be used within an existing interface, does it "play nicely" with other technology? How does it enhance the user’s experience or save customers time and money?

13. Provide Clear Visuals

When you have your audience's attention and they begin to ask questions, back up your elevator pitch with visual information.

People are visual creatures. Images and product demonstration videos help interested parties get a fuller picture of your concept. Modus allows you to upload your tailored presentations, sales material and videos to be instantly viewable on any mobile device.

14. Build a Business or Sell an Idea

Selling an idea or product is a shorter-term engagement than investing in a business. When you are developing a business, your pitches must demonstrate the ability to build a quality team, be fiscally responsible, launch a product, market it and create milestones and expectations for growth. Investors expect to reap rewards over a long-term projection after their initial investment.

15. Stay True to the Vision

Some people are idea people and do not want to launch a full-scale business. Those individuals want to license their concepts. The purchasing company takes on the business-related responsibilities of getting the concept to market. Research is called for, but the focus shifts to a few different areas.

  • Gather information on the idea, including focus group research, consolidation of data on similar products and an evaluation of the competition
  • Get a patent. See if it possible to patent the entire concept or if there are areas of infringement. The website www.ustpo.gov helps with preliminary research
  • Learn about the production process
  • Create a presentation, prototype and sell sheet for interested parties. The sell sheet includes the problem met by the product, the benefits for consumers, the features of the product, the market and the product's legal status

The preparation that is done prior to a pitch helps determine the strategy that will sell the company, product, service or concept to interested parties. Research bolsters your standing during negotiations. Keep all of the data handy and in one convenient location to show at any time. Modus helps sell your pitch with an easy-to-use interface that allows you to present charts, PDFs, videos, and even testimonials from current customers.

Now we want to hear from you. What are your top tips for an effective pitch? Comment below or tweet us @modusengagement.

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