How To Smash A Sales Pitch

If you’ve done your “new year, new me” right, you’ve got businesses queuing up to pitch to. Noice.

Maybe you really leaned into the whole concept and got yourself a completely new job. And you’ve got to put together a presentation to sell yourself as part of the interview process.

You might have moved into management. And now you’re responsible for either pitching new business ideas or delivering impactful presentations in meetings.

Knocking up a sales pitch is usually seen as something that ‘has to be done’. As opposed to an opportunity to make a serious impact.

This is because most pitches are painfully dull. Which, for some reason, is accepted as the status quo. Think about it:

When was the last time you delivered or sat through a pitch you’d describe as ‘good’?

Actually forget good, when was the last time you experienced one that didn’t make a frontal lobotomy seem like a more pleasant way to spend the morning?

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Pitching well is a good thing to be known for round the office. Your company will look to you when they need to send someone reliable to a client. It means more time meeting people and less time stuck at your desk.

Or it could mean absolutely leathering a proposal to switch to a more lucrative market. Or landing the job of your dreams.

It’s not something you want to be rubbish at, basically.

But too often, prepping for and delivering a good pitch gets left on the back burner. Fortunately, getting good at pitching’s a doddle.

Pick a platform

There’s lots of decent programs to use as a backdrop for your pitch. PowerPoint is obviously the most common. If your company won’t spring for MS Office or you’re working from home, Google Slides does the job too. And Slidebean is another decent alternative.

They all save to the same standard formats (PPT & PDF) so it’s mainly a case of choosing a program with a user interface you get on with.

Create a base template

There’s nothing worse than a ten page pitch where all the slides look totally different. It just isn’t slick.

Templating your background creates solid continuity throughout, particularly if you’re using transitions. A base template can be as simple as sticking your agency’s logo in the corner of the page and colouring the borders in the company colours.

Or you can go nuts with the design, but less is usually more. Keep the background white, regardless. It’ll make your content pop.

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Be clever with your content

Chances are you’ll be pitching in front of a large screen. So while the ratios you’re seeing on your monitor will be the same, the scale will be upped.

It’s also likely the increased resolution could make the display look fuzzy and the blinds in the room won’t keep the light out.

Simplicity, or sparsity, is key.

Too many details will blur, even if it all looks tidy on your computer. Keep any text restricted to the key points you’re going to elaborate on – four or five lines works best – and unless you’re comparing or collating images, one will draw the eye better than several.

Why are you here?

I know the tendency’s usually to kick off with a few slides about things like company history or core values. But would you approach any other type of business development activity in this way?

You’d probably start by building rapport based on the common traits that bind you and your audience. You’d also highlight your client’s pain points before introducing your service as a solution.

This should form the content of your first few slides. From the off, they need to know why you’re standing there, and not just because they invited you.

Visuals > text

65% of people are visual learners and your brain processes pictures about 60,000 times faster than words. Background images with overlaid text will make your slides busy, but they’re a good way of capturing attention and articulating information simultaneously.

Statistics are much easier to illustrate visually than verbally. And precise statistics help demonstrate that you’re being truthful.

A study at Cornell University found that people are more likely to believe information if it “looks and smells” scientific. As in, if it’s accompanied by a graph or a chart.

Another study also found that subjects who were pitched a business strategy not only paid more attention and remembered it better, but were actually more inclined to agree with it, if it’s presented to them in visual terms. As opposed to the same information, written down.

Remember: you’re there to do the talking. Try to avoid excessive use of text when you can and for the love of all things holy…

Don’t read from the slides!

Please. Just don’t.

Being informative is one thing. Being forced to digest the same information written down as well as read out is about as appetising as eating an entire shoebox. A damp one.

You’re there to add colour and depth to the pitch; not recite what’s already on the screen.

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Peer pressure

The vast majority of consumers trust what they’ve heard about a product or service, rather than what they’re told through advertising. Our brains want stories, not just facts.

So if you’ve got ‘em, named testimonials from clients work wonders for the social proof behind your brand. And ones from your audience’s competitors work best.

Timing

There’s an old school of thought in Hollywood that your average audience member’s attention span taps out at about the 11 minute mark. I don’t know if that’s true but watch any major blockbuster and the main dramatic points in the narrative will have been established within that timeframe.

Ten slides’ll do ya.

Spend 60 seconds on each one and you’ll have a sales pitch the length of which your audience will be grateful for.

Practice

This is always the one tip that people scan and then scroll past.

If you were learning a piece of music, it’s unlikely you’d settle for making sure you knew what the right notes were and then just winged the performance on the night.

The same concept applies here.

Ask yourself how much sleep you’ll lose if the pitch fails? Or how much time you’d have to invest in recreating a similar opportunity if this one goes south? Take that time to practice your pitch beforehand and you’ll sleep like a drunk sloth later.

Dress for the occasion

Clothes maketh the Consultant. And I doubt you need to be told to smarten up for a client meeting. But overdoing it can make you feel awkward and distract your audience.

When you’re in front of them, you’re in control.

What you’re wearing should reflect that. Sometimes control is your top button undone and no jacket. Sometimes it’s jeans. You’re pitching yourself, just as much as the content on the slides.

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Cover yourself against technical issues

Save your pitch in a few different formats. On a USB. On Google Drive. Email it to yourself. And to the people you’re meeting. Go full analogue and print enough physical copies to hand out.

This can be a really nice touch and it gives the people you’re meeting with something more memorable than another business card to take away.

Body language

Sounds obvious but you may have to actively remind yourself not to stand in front of the slides. Park yourself on one side of the screen if you can.

And bear in mind, the eyes of the people you’re pitching to will follow their natural reading direction. So unless you’re pitching in Farsi, Arabic or Urdu, this will likely be from left to right.

Use this to your advantage.

If you need the attention to flow from you to the slide, say if you’re introducing concepts that the screen backs up, stand to the left of it. Likewise, if you’re elaborating on some showcase data you’ve got on screen, stand to it’s right. Just don’t get caught chopping and changing sides too much. You’ll look weird and nervous.

This article from Hunted gives you Three Ways to Improve Your Recruitment Career just by using your body language.

Say it like you mean it

Spend five minutes reading How to Talk So People Really Listen and you’re pretty much good to go.

Whether you’ve brought backup along with you or not, as far as the room’s concerned, when you’re pitching you’re up there on your own.

You need to own it, adding personality and expression to your delivery. It’s fine to work off of notes to add structure to your pitch, but a recital’s best avoided.

And have fun with it. I can’t say I know anyone that’s looked forward to attending, or delivering, a sales pitch. If it’s at least moderately enjoyable you’ll have done half the job.