Winning Even Before You Pitch
My pitch was good. It wasn’t great as far as sales pitches go but it was good.
I had showed them that we had done everything in the brief and even done extra work to impress them.
The people around the table were obviously impressed but I knew something was wrong by the looks on the faces of the CEO and COO.
The CEO started to tell us how she had 25 years of experience at some Fortune 500 companies and that she did not agree with our approach because even those companies did it differently.
Her COO also started critiquing our designs and both of them got very condescending.
They started talking about technical details and analytical things that their staff may not have understood but I did.
I have a Computer Science degree and I understand the fundamentals of scientific analysis…but they did not know that.
You see, this was a purely creative project. It was a branding and design assignment so as most technical people do when they meet artists, they discount their work as just an embellishment to the real value.
The meeting ended and they were going to pay us about 5,000 less.
It was still good money but I was angry…not at the CEO and COO but at myself.
For two reasons…
These two things alone can give you immense leverage in every pitch.
1 The Principle Of High Value Leverage
In business, both parties in a negotiation usually see it as a zero sum game….For me to win, the other party has to lose.
That mindset makes pitch meetings a militant affair when it’s supposed to be two parties deciding on what is best.
One way to solve this is to go in with leverage and make the other person see the leverage even before you start.
Jesus said “No prophet is accepted in his hometown.” Luke 4:24
To paraphrase in business terms, no businessperson is respected among his peers.
For example, when I was in high school, we were taught both core and advanced mathematics because I was in the Science track.
The best answers in my classroom were only mildly impressive to my classmates because it was not new to them.
My friends who were in the General Arts classes were only taught core mathematics so whenever I shared stuff with them about advanced math, they were thoroughly impressed.
Coming from the Science track gave me leverage in their eyes.
I could have been the worst advanced math student in my class but among those who only got to study core math, I was accepted.
It’s the same in business.
When a lawyer speaks at legal conferences, she may get a few claps here and there but it’s nothing to write home about.
However, when the same lawyer speaks at medical conferences, the doctors and chiropractors listen attentively and shower praise on her.
It’s kind of like something I read about our legal industry.
Apparently practicing law in New York City is regarded as tough. It’s said that if you excel as a lawyer in New York, you can succeed anywhere.
I read that junior lawyers who left with New York City firms on their resumes usually got huge promotions in other states because those firms gave them leverage in other states.
This may be similar to what gave Marissa Mayer the job at Yahoo. She is known as the youngest Fortune 500 CEO and some say her credibility as a young executive at one of the most successful companies in the world(Google) made it easier.
How does this apply to you, the next time you pitch something?
It’s important to be pitch a business or individual who does not have your value and can see the difference.
In the aforementioned meeting, I had no leverage because CEO’s of energy companies do not generally consider Branding Consultants(that’s what I was at the time) as partners of high value.
What I should have done was–
1 to make them know the caliber of the person pitching them,
2 to show them examples of work we had done for even bigger clients
3 analytical proof that we understood their business and could help them.
Remember this and you will accelerate your success even before you start.
2 Pitch As A Helper, Not A Beggar
Look at your timeline on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. You will notice that most of the businesses and brands are trying to get you to buy something.
It is usually just photos of what their product can do or why you should take advantage of it now or miss out on some time-bound discount.
They are like beggars holding out their signs asking for a handout.
Contrast that with a business that tells you exactly what THEY CAN DO FOR YOU and the myriad of ways YOU CAN BE HELPED if you buy their product.
It’s very difficult to say no when you know what’s in it for you.
This was another mistake I made going into that meeting.
I pitched as a vendor not a value added service.
They saw me as one of those who wanted their business not as someone who was there to help them do better.
Remember to always go into a meeting with leverage and try to communicate it even before the pitch starts.
The best kind of leverage is the kind that the other person views as an asset and not a liability.
Secondly, ALWAYS pitch people you can truly help and let them know what’s in it for them.
You may have noticed that in each post I share how the psychological fundamentals matter in marketing and sales. I do this on purpose because strategies and tactics come and go but human behavior is very predictable.