Your competitive advantage is not to be found in your products, your prices or even your people.
Your competitive advantage rests entirely on your ability to communicate your ideas.
Your competitors can afford people who are just as creative and productive as yours. They have access to the same raw materials, technologies and resources.
What matters most is who gets their ideas across first. And who gets their ideas across most effectively.
I’ve been “pitching” for 25 years – anything from TV shows to corporate training programmes. I’ve learned what works and, just as importantly, what doesn’t.
I’ve gone in with what I thought was a unique idea, only to find that someone had beaten me to it. I’ve also held back on an idea because I thought it was obvious, only to find that I would have been months ahead of my competitors.
Successful ideas are rarely the best or even the first. They were simply the best pitched.
Developing your pitching skills will not make your ideas any better. It won’t make your product or business plan right for your audience. It won’t make your numbers add up any differently. It won’t even make you have your ideas any sooner, although with more confidence, you might well find yourself pitching your ideas much sooner than you would have done otherwise, and that gives you a competitive advantage.
The first thing to think about when you create your pitch is the audience. Specifically, what you want them to do.
A good place to start developing a skill is to find someone who already has it. Think of someone who, for you, is an exceptional presenter, trainer, teacher or performer. How would you describe them?
When I ask people this question, I hear:
I like to be specific, so I ask, “How do you know they are confident, or relaxed, or knowledgeable?”
Their answers include:
Smile and make eye contact with the whole audience
Use a full range of emotions
Have a clear outcome
Tell stories (thereby demonstrating knowledge)
Take control of questions
Finish on time or early (tells you they’re in control)
It’s vital that you step back and take a good look at yourself and realise that, whatever your personality, whatever your appearance, whatever your area of expertise, you will be the presenter you choose to be.
You’ll be different from everyone else, and that’s what makes your pitch refreshing for the audience.
Your ideas and words are different to those of your competitors, and that’s what makes you stand out.
Even being a little nervous just shows that you’re human and you’re in touch with the reality of the situation. Presenters who come across as too confident can appear detached, as if they don’t really care, as if the pitch doesn’t matter to them.
When you’re investing in a business or considering spending your heard earned money with a supplier, you really do want to know that they care, that it’s important to them, don’t you? You can imagine yourself in the client’s shoes, and you can see that a slick, over-rehearsed pitch is too detached – you might as well be watching it on TV. Remember: being uncertain – being human – is what connects you with your audience and provides the foundation for your successful pitch.
Extract from the bestselling book The Pitching Bible by Paul Boross. Reproduced with permission from CGW Publishing.
Drawing on a career that has taken him from front-of-camera primetime TV and stand-up comedy to behind-the-scenes production and motivational psychology, Paul Boross (aka The Pitch Doctor) works regularly with the likes of the BBC, Google and MTV, training executives in communication, presentation and pitching.
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