A 4-step Approach to Nailing the All-important Business Pitch
This is guest post from CEO and Co-Founder of PivotDesk, David Mandell.
As a fledgling (or seasoned) entrepreneur, chances are you’re always thinking about a million things that will impact the success of your business.
Do I have the right people to make this happen?Are we sure we have a strong product/market fit? Can we come up with a launch plan to get the word out without blowing our budget?If we miss projections, can we afford to keep the lights on and our team paid?
That’s the reality of developing and running a business—hundreds of balls are in the air at any given time. Your first step is to accept that fact. Your second is to simplify your tasks by starting with the foundational pieces that will help ensure success across all your priorities.
First and foremost, your pitch.
Above your code base, your hiring strategy, your launch plan and even your fundraising strategy, your pitch comes first. Why? Because the right pitch lays the foundation for virtually every aspect of your business.
As you consider a sales strategy, you’ll need to be able to communicate your benefits to your prospects...As you look at a PR strategy, you’ll need to be able to trigger interest from journalists and bloggers... As you consider a distribution strategy, you’ll need to be able to message your value to channel partners and investors...
All the people in the scenarios above need to know why they should care about your business, and you need to control that message. Don’t leave it up to them to infer based on what you do, because you’ll end up with a huge disparity.
I’ve put a painstaking amount of time into creating pitches for clients, Techstars mentees, and my own businesses, and below is what I’ve taken away.
My 4-point strategy for nailing your pitch: 1. Get ready to kill your darlings
If you’ve had any writing training, chances are you’ve been advised to “kill your darlings”—meaning you need to be ready to sacrifice your most cherished passages for the greater good of your work.
The same goes for crafting a pitch.
The first iteration of the PivotDesk pitch looks virtually nothing like the version we tout these days...and trust me, that’s a good thing.
Getting down to a simple, effective message is incredibly difficult and complicated. You need to throw out many, many things you want to say, but aren’t the most important things you need to say. You probably need to say things differently than you have before and it needs to mean something — not just to you, but to your audience.
By accepting that your pitch is an organism that evolves as fluidly as your business, I guarantee you’ll end up in a much stronger place than where you started.
My advice? Start somewhere. It’s easier to fix a badly written paragraph than a blank page. Do what I do: open a blank doc, stare at it for awhile, write a draft, then repeat. Again. Again. Again.
2. Zero in on emotion, not logic
The overarching goal of your pitch should be to imprint a memory on your audience.
And how do you do this?
By appealing to your audience’s emotion, not their sense of logic or thirst for hard data.
An emotional experience will capture a person’s attention. People make decisions and judgments based on emotion—on how something makes them feel. They then use logic to justify those decisions and judgments. And when that happens, a memory is made. If you can accomplish this (and quickly), you drastically increase your impact and lessen your chances of fading into the noise.
Start by examining the “pain” in your target customer’s life—and you better believe there is one—then experiment with different ways of explaining to your customer that the core goal of your business is to solve for that pain. You need to connect your pitch to their struggles and desires, and show them how your solution addresses them.
Here’s a very high level look at the framework we use to guide this process:
For… (target audience)
Who… (pain point)
Company Name… (solution provided)
As opposed to… (competitive company/solution/alternative)
Once you’ve crafted this key message, the rest is just semantics.
3. Gird your loins
Once you’ve gotten a solid 5th, 11th, or 200th draft down, it’s time to practice your pitch. This is arguably the most terrifying but productive part of the preparation process.
It’s no easy feat to bare your soul to an audience—no matter the size—but this is the best thing you can do to prepare for demo day and beyond.
As you deliver your practice pitch, assess the reactions of your test audience.
Which parts make them laugh?
What phrasing makes them squint their brows?
Are they getting excited at the right moments?
By gauging their reactions (and eventually, the reactions of your real life customers), you’ll be able to pick out the parts you need to tweak, expand on, or ditch all together.
Trust me, if I can survive 3 months of hounding from the managing director of Techstars Boulder, Nicole Glaros, you can handle some tough love too!
Pitching takes dedicated practice. More than you want to believe.
4. Train your troops
Once you’ve put your pitch—and yourself through—the ringer, it’s time to train your troops.
At PivotDesk, we train everyone from our sales team to our backend engineers on the PivotDesk message.
Why? Because none of us would be able to do what we do, and with the right level of conviction, if we don’t know how to convey WHY it is we do it.
In short, you need to believe in your message, and so does your team.
When you send your team out into the world, do you want them muddling through your pitch using a string of questions and vague statements? Or, do you want them to act as ambassadors for your cause in any given situation, from the board room to the gym. Hint: choose the latter.
PivotDesk Ambassadors a.k.a. the PivotDesk team
Sound overwhelming? It can be, especially when you’re standing in front of a crowd of investors who hold the future of your company in their hands. But hopefully these steps will help guide you and make the process a bit easier. So, do the hard part now. Prepare, practice then practice some more. Spread your message to, and through, your team.
I attribute much of our success to the effort we put into crafting our pitch and connecting with unique audiences. Are you ready to do the same?
And if you're looking for advice on crafting an effective elevator pitch, make sure to check out last month’s post from Alec Saunders.