As a marketing and communications consultant, I strive to help people tell their stories better. That way, they can sell their products more effectively, or, for individuals, get the opportunities they deserve.
I do this in various ways, but oftentimes, that involves helping clients with their “pitch.”
The “elevator pitch” is, of course, the term used for explaining who you are and what you do in the time it takes for a typical elevator ride. In Hollywood, “pitching” is the act of orally telling what your project is about, in hopes that the studio or network executive will give it the green light. Sales folks pitch their products, and essentially we are ALL pitching every time we try to convince someone of something.
While most of our interactions these days are via screens (using our phones, tablets and computers to email, text, and make Zoom calls), there is no substitute for the one-on-one, in-person interaction.
In David Topus’s book, Talk to Strangers, he says, “Nothing will ever beat sharing physical space, shaking a hand, and looking someone in the eye when it comes to creating and cultivating quality relationships.” But he goes on to say that in making one’s pitch, the key is to: “…present yourself as a Value Proposition.”
So take a moment and ask yourself:
What do you say when people say “Tell me about yourself?”
What story are you telling about yourself?
How do you clearly and succinctly tell people you meet who you are and
what value you provide?
This is an incredibly rich opportunity, and most of the time, we squander it. Why? Because we haven’t taken the time to carefully think about what we want to say, and crafted a response that’s meaningful and effective.
Why are many of us bad at giving our pitch? I believe there are two reasons for this. First, we’ve been taught to be modest and not to toot our own horns. (To rectify this, read the bible of great pitching: Brag! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It, by Peggy Klaus.)
The second reason most of us are bad at giving our pitch is that we don’t practice it.
Like many things in life, we don’t take the time to do the proper preparation for something that will have long-term consequences for us. (Like flossing, exercising, investing…)
The time we take to work on making our pitch/telling our story will pay off massively for us in the future.
When we don’t tell our story very well, here are the opportunities we’re missing:
In order to create a well-formed pitch that works, I have found it very helpful to employ the Three D’s Method: Discover, Describe, and Disseminate.
The first step is to Discover. This means to think deeply about who you are, what your strengths are, what you’ve accomplished, and what your ambitions are. Taking the time to reflect on these will enable you to articulate what you’re able to contribute to those you meet, and clarify for you where you want to go in the future.
After this step of self-reflection (and hopefully, greater awareness of all your abilities and what you have to offer others) comes: Describe – using compelling writing to garner interest. Choosing the most effective words to communicate what you’ve discovered about yourself is crucial to getting people to be interested in you. This is where having an experienced writer helps— we’re skilled in selecting the words and phrases that have the most impact to positively influence audiences.
The final “D” is Disseminate – the process of getting your message out there. This is the marketing portion of your pitch— choosing where and when to tell your story.
The easy answer is: everywhere, all the time. Your pitch is something to employ at every opportunity you can. Practice is essential. Try your pitch on everyone you come in contact with. You’ll soon discover what “works,” and what doesn’t resonate and should be eliminated. It’s just like a stand-up comedian who constantly tries out their jokes in front of different audiences in the process of refining their “set.” What gets laughs stays in, what doesn’t gets tossed.
Your pitch will change and evolve over time, and it’s best to tailor it for your audience – Grandma gets a version that’s different from a hiring manager or recruiter, and you need a different one entirely if you’re doing Career Day at a middle school.
So what makes for a good pitch? You have to let people know:
A good pitch starts with a compelling line that leads the listener to say “Tell me more.”
Tell people WHAT you do, and most importantly, WHY you do it.
Ideally, it’s structured in layers, so that it becomes more specific as you progress, and is editable on the fly, depending on the interest level of your audience. As they indicate they want to hear more, you can progress to things like “My special skills are…” then listing them. This is helpful, as it could trigger in your listener a need they may have that you can fill.
I suggest you have bullet points of what you want to say, rather than a formal, memorized script.
In Dan Pink’s book To Sell is Human, he details six types of pitch, one of which is the “Rhyming Pitch.” Experiments have shown that terms that rhymed were gauged as more accurate because of what linguists and cognitive scientists call “processing fluency.”
People have a tendency to prefer things they can perceive more easily, and because rhymes are familiar to us, that information is taken in more easily by our brains, and therefore seems more reliable.
A friend of mine is well known partly because his pitch begins with his intro: “I’m Sam Lamb the Insurance Man.” (Sure, he got lucky with his name, but he made sure his title rhymes, too.) Sam is also upbeat, positive, and unfailingly enthusiastic, and that helps his credibility and memorability as well.
When giving your pitch, here are 5 things to keep in mind:
Here’s the most important point I advise my clients to be sure to convey: How are you helping make the world a better place?
This is important because no matter who you’re talking to, they’ll be on your side, whether they hire you or not. As Brendon Burchard says in his book, High Performance Habits: “The world cares less about your strengths and personality than about your service and meaningful contribution to others.”
If what you do is solely about making money, than explain how what you do or sell is of higher quality than others’, so you’re at least providing the world a good value.
If this all of this sounds like a lot of effort— it is! But what you’re working on is the story of your life, so it should be fun for you. An effective pitch intrigues the listener and provides the space for more discussion. When you put in the work, the results are greater opportunities, better jobs, and more clients.
Don’t you want more opportunities to come your way, instead of going to others less deserving?
For more on this subject, check out this episode of the podcast “Let’s Be Honest Before We Start Pretending.”