Last week, I was pitching a CEO for a new project. It was basically mine to lose – all I had to do was say what I wanted to do and what it was going to cost.
Just as I was getting to the ‘grand finale ‘of my pitch, his executive assistant pops into the room with her trademark aplomb, “I need you to sign these new contracts and call so-and-so as soon as you can.”
Great timing, you know?
“Give me a few minutes. It’s Dalton talking here. You know how long that takes”, he said to her, while shooting me a smirk.
I could have easily lost him – and the pitch – at this point. A meandering, detail-laden pitch will oftentimes do nothing to help your cause.
This isn’t just a problem that I have, though…
Brainy, Technically-Minded People Never Seem To Just Get To The Damn Point
Instead, we spend valuable time building up to the point we want to make.
We often spend this time justifying ourselves, giving evidence, explaining our thought process, and talking about irrelevant details.
Thing is, we don’t say what exactly we’re talking about or why it’s important until much later in the conversation…if ever.
If you want people to listen and have any chance of buying into your idea, you need to ‘hook’ them very quickly.
TL;DR: Speak first and justify later. Let them know why they should keep listening to you.
The Simple Method For Keeping People’s Attention & Selling Your Ideas
You should spend a short amount of time ‘teeing up your idea’ at the very beginning to provide context.
If you’re trying to sell a new idea or approach, start by talking about a problem with the way things are currently being done…
I’ll admit it: I don’t save enough money. I lived paycheck-to-paycheck because I thought I didn’t make enough to save. A few years ago, I had to replace my truck’s transmission. Because I never saved, I couldn’t drive my truck until I saved the $5,000 for a new transmission.”
A quick personal anecdote that people can relate to is a strong way to introduce the new idea. We’ve all struggled with money at one point in our lives and know why this is a problem in need of a solution.
Then, you succinctly introduce the idea…
So no one else ever has to deal with this issue, I’m building an app that helps people easily and automatically save or invest their money – even if it’s just a few bucks out of every paycheck, if that’s all they can afford. This is a great way for millennials, part-time employees, and other low-earners to build financial security.”
Note that the idea isn’t just about what the product does but focuses on its value. It’s not just an app for saving money, it does so automatically and is useful for people who don’t make a lot of money.
It’s also not a description of how the product works. That’s important – just not yet. They may have detailed technical questions but we’ll address those then. You’re just getting their attention and selling them on the viability of your idea.
The crux of this comes down to a simple idea: Always Sell On The Value To Them.
Want To Sell On Value? Speak Their Language.
The value behind your idea is what really sells it – not the code its written in or how you’re going to build it.
We technically-minded folks get mired in the dirty details of an idea – every little nuance and step we’re going to take to execute on it. And, we should: it’s our job to make sure everything works right.
The problem is, we can’t take that attitude into our conversations with executives and other influential decision makers.
According to noted sales trainer Skip Miller, author of “Proactive Selling: Control the Process – Win the Sale”, this is because technically-minded people speak a different language from executive-types (these are your Director and C-Level folks).
Technical types focus on the details behind immediately executing something. It’s basically “What do we have to do and how are we going to do it?”. There’s very little “Why?” or long-term thinking behind it.
On the other hand, executive types typically focus on why things are being done and how they will help achieve their high-level business goals, such as revenue growth or customer acquisition.
Always think about how every aspect of your pitch, product, or idea will help this executive achieve their high-level business goals. Do that and you’re golden.
A Quick Way To Focus Your Pitch For Influential Decision Makers
For every detail and nuance of the project that you’re pitching, ask yourself “So what?”.
How will this particular detail help this person achieve their business goals? They don’t care about your vision so much as they care about you helping them achieve theirs.
Draw a clear, logical connection between your project and their profit, then present it to them and say exactly how it will help them.
For an added bonus, find out specific projects or initiatives they’re involved in. This will help you target their needs even better and create the perception that you really do care about their success.
If you can’t find a reasonable connection between a certain part of your project, then cut it out of your pitch. It’s either unimportant for them to know about or stretching the truth. Either way, it’s not worth mentioning.
Remember: Every nuance of your idea pitch should focus on helping them achieve their larger personal or business goals. That’s the only way ideas get adopted.
When you’re pitching your ideas to an influential executive or decision maker, remember the following:
- Like Simon Sinek says, start with why. Give a brief, relateable backstory behind why this idea is important.
- Cut the irrelevant details or technical nuances. They distract from the overall message and are often confusing to people who aren’t in your role. This is the quickest way to lose their attention.
- Every aspect of your pitch should pass the “So What?” test. Does every facet of it answer the question “How can this help them meet their goals?”.
Ideas of great magnitude often require the approval and help of high-level decision makers and executives.
Getting others to buy in to your ideas is crucial for your success.
But, doing so requires you to think beyond the details of your idea and focus on what matters to them. You must speak their language as well as they do. Once you do, this is when your idea becomes reality.
Dalton K. Finney