“When it comes to pitching new business leads,” says Laurie, “everybody says ‘Don’t talk about what you do; talk about what you do for them…’ but then no one tells you how to do it!”

Here are Laurie’s three surefire tips for creating a client-centered pitch that is more likely to win you new business:

  1. Use “you” language.

When you sit in a meeting or listen to a business pitch, think about the first three minutes of it. It's always about the speaker. The person introduces themselves, gives background about their project or their company, and on and on and on — and before you know it, you’re mentally making your grocery list, not listening to a word he or she has to say!

Instead, a new business pitch needs to start out with language like, “Imagine your business is such and such,” or “As a company who’s been in business for 42 years, you know that it's not enough to just be good performers; you've got to have the strongest ability to perform task X.”

At that point you could even add, “As a person who's been in business for 25 years myself, I understand that.” It’s okay to use the word “I,” but it should be more of an afterthought, with the entire focus of your presentation being about the client.

Another common business pitching faux pas is when people say, “I want you to be able to…” —  fill in the blank. Who cares what you want? What does your customer want? Instead of “I want you to,” try “If you want to be able to afford to retire, you're going to want to put together this much money,” or “If you want your family protected, this is the policy that offers the clearest benefit,” or “If you want this organization to succeed, you’ll want to have your members be able to do X.” Present action steps, not your personal wish list — which ends up sounding salesy and disingenuous.

  1. Know your client’s heaven and hell.

This is all about knowing your client’s ideal and worst possible outcomes and pitching to those. “If you want this ideal outcome, you’re going to take action X,” or “If you want to avoid this terrible outcome, you’re going to want to do this.”

For example, when someone says, “We’re going to invent new uses for this product,” does that inspire you? No; it’s just generic. Or when someone says, “We’re going to build business,” there’s nothing there to grab onto mentally or emotionally.

If instead you say, “The goal is to invent new uses so that there's a long-term usefulness for this product… so that you can have it for years to come… so that the organization survives and thrives through the next generation,” all of a sudden you have people connecting to survival and ongoing stability. Practice using “so that” language to tie your pitch to creating the client’s heaven or avoiding the client’s hell.

  1. Know where to showcase your “bottom line” in your pitch.

Pitching your product, service, or business more effectively means using a structure that is opposite from what most technical professionals are accustomed to. In most academic and technical environments, people are taught to build up to their idea by backing it up with all the facts, figures, opinions, and hypotheses first. This is an A + B = C way of presenting.

In business though, it’s better to follow the way journalists present their stories: with the newest, hottest info right at the top and the details after. This is more of a C = A + B way of presenting. Here’s why this works best for business pitches.

The higher most people go up in their careers, the less nitty-gritty details they need to be involved in. If I’m a company Vice President trying to determine if I want your services, I need to know the bottom line. Then, I’ll ask you about the pieces if the bottom line interests me. I don’t have time to learn how you did your job; I just need to know if the end result is something I’d like to learn more about and engage with you on.

Always have answers ready, but start with your bottom line first. Then offer succinct, limited details and see if more information is requested.

To learn more, visit Laurie’s public website www.LaurieRichards.com

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