There’s No Hope in Pitching
Strange title for a post from someone who has been called “The Pitch Doctor” by some clients.
My goal is to make my clients’ pitches stronger, more persuasive, more distinctive. And, often, to insert more confidence (I like to say “swagger”) into their presentations. And this last point is sometimes the hardest one to accomplish. When in a high-stress, high-stakes situation, sellers and presenters often
- use the word “hope” frequently, as in “I hope I’ve answered your questions,” or “We hope we’ve shown our capabilities” or “We hope you’ll let us go to the next round.”
- go over the top with displays of thanks and appreciation, to a point that approaches groveling.
- won’t take a stand or make a choice, instead showing the prospect too many options to the point of confusion.
Art Markman (@abmarkman) from the University of Texas, author of Smart Thinking, notes in this blog article that we all use ambiguous language from time to time to save face. And that’s OK. As Dr. Markman points out ambiguous words are helpful when delivering difficult messages.
So why then do so many pitch teams get ambiguous in the pitch? Why all the “I hopes”? Why the reluctance to take a stand, to use positive, declarative statements?
I think many pitch teams grant too much power to the prospect. They’re afraid of undermining the impression of partnership or collaboration. They might not even be completely sure in the strength of their own solutions or capabilities.
A pitch is not the time to display these concerns. Winning teams approach pitches with confidence. They believe they belong in the pitch, and their solution will make a difference. They communicate that with strong, simple, targeted messages. They put a stake in the ground.
And they have to. When a prospect issues an RFP, it’s often because they’ve realized they have a problem. They feel they’re lost in the woods. They don’t want to hire someone who says “I hope I have a way out.” They want someone who has the map and the compass. Someone who knows the way out, not someone who would be fun or humble to be lost with.
So there’s no hope in pitching. There are answers and the people confident enough to bring them.