Are you pitching or what?

Setting the stage

Imagine that I take a wrong turn in a conference centre, find myself in the middle of a crowd of dentists during their conference break, and decide to do some research.

I ask the first person I approach what he does for a living, and he promptly answers “I am a dentist”. Ok, I’ve got that one.

I approach the next person with the revised question, “What do you do”; and she answers “I am a dentist”, without hesitation. The third person is a seasoned dentist with grey hair, a “my favourite uncle” smile, and is probably approaching retirement.

When I ask him what he does to sustain life – surprise, surprise – he also answers, “I am a dentist.” I trust that you get my drift: from these responses, I wouldn’t be able to tell what sets each of these dentists apart, except for their looks, age and mannerisms.

They might each have very different approaches to their profession, but I couldn’t see any difference from my impromptu interview. You have probably heard the term “pitch” in the context of entrepreneurs/start-ups who are seeking seed capital for their business venture.

The logic is that the better you pitch, the higher your likelihood of getting the funds or support you need. But you can use a pitch outside of this arena too. Many professional people promote the idea that, as a businessperson, you should always be pitching. This is because you need to stand out in business to be noticed by your key customers.

The author of the book Become a Key Person of Influence, Daniel Priestley, has designed a model for how to develop a pitch. Here is a shortened version you might find usable:

Pitching Structure

• Clarity: Name -> Same -> Fame

• Authority: Expertise – Insight – Recognition – Results

• Problem: Money – Time – Emotion – Health

• Solution: What and how – Ultimate Results – Benefits

Let’s put this template to the test, imagining that one of the dentists in my opening example had created a pitch for himself and answered me like this instead:

My name is Sean, and I am a dentist [Clarity: Name -> Same]

I specialise in painless dentistry for kids [Clarity: Fame],

and achieve great results working with kids between the ages of 4 to 9 years [Authority: Results]

Many parents get highly emotional when it is time to take their kids to the dentist – even for a regular check-up [Problem: Emotion], but our friendly staff, our creatively designed practice and my expertise in dentistry for kids removes the fear almost immediately, and creates a great customer experience [Solution: Ultimate Results].

You can see from this that you can use a pitch in many situations, from meeting people to networking to screening people for positions within the company. You can even use it to guide the development of your company culture. It’s important to remember that a pitch is only as good as the person delivering it; so after developing your pitch, you also need to practice it.

It takes memorisation and many repetitions of your pitch to get it sounding natural and engaging. Your pitch will also change over time as your business grows.

When circumstances change – internally or externally – you will need to review your pitch to ensure that it is still clear and relevant. Involving your organisation in developing a pitch is a great way to foster staff buy-in.

And once you’ve been part of such a development – well then, you will own it.

Next steps:

  • Develop a pitch for your company using the above outline.
  • Test the pitch on your staff – and share with all.
  • Make a date to review your pitch.