What’s your sales pitch? I recently led a “Pitch-IT” program at the Arkansas Venture Center for a group of salespeople, entrepreneurs, solopreneurs and everyotherpreneurs. The goal was to, in less than 90 minutes, help these (mostly young) business people learn to quickly position their product or idea.
The program was titled “Elements of the Perfect Pitch.” Before getting into the meat of the event—when the participants would draft and practice their own pitches—I shared these tenets:
- This is not about perfection, the program title notwithstanding. Your conversation will need regular honing and revising. (I changed the title to “Elements of the (Nearly) Perfect Pitch.”)
- This is not an elevator pitch, unless you’re the extremely rare person whose conversations occur mostly in elevators.
- This is not just an investor spiel. You should build conversation points for potential customers, people in the media, influencers, and networks of family and friends as well. When I asked the group who they’d like to better understand their business, one participant quickly said “Mom.”
- This is neither a presentation nor a script. Instead, we would be starting a flexible conversation tool.
I asked the participants to be specific about the settings where their pitches will happen most often, along with the target audiences. Then I asked them to consider who besides themselves (such as employees or current customers) could ultimately carry the message. We did this so that each participant could begin to visualize how these conversations would play out in real life. After the participants wrote out a few words, phrases, and talking points in five categories, it was time for some “safe” practice in small groups.
As you might expect, this all felt a bit artificial at first (because, well, it was artificial) but the group quickly caught on. They noticed the differences between how phrases “sound” when read and how the same phrases come across in spoken conversation. I had each participant try it out for just a few minutes, as might typically happen during a session break at a conference or in the food line at a networking event. One said, “That went by fast! I had so much more that I wanted to say.” He adjusted his talking points to get the most important one out early—and is now better prepared for events coming up during the next few weeks.
To me, the most encouraging part was seeing participants continuing to share notes and practice even after the sales pitch session was over. Practice makes (nearly) perfect.