How to Win the Pitch When You Don’t Have One Ready

How to Win the Pitch When You Don't Have One Ready

“Pitch me.”

Every now and then, I toss those words out to select people whom I think may be beneficial to my business. They seem engaged, smart and able to help me, so I offer them their chance to make me their client.

Now, you’d think hearing those words (especially when uttered by someone like me to someone looking for work) would send business owners into a tizzy. After all, how often do you get handed a wide-open invitation to convince someone to hire you?

But almost invariably, people hear “pitch me” and completely fall apart.

They don’t know what to say. They don’t know what to offer. They don’t know what to do.

They weren’t ready.

Some of them try to cover that up. “Oh, sure, I can offer you something… but I don’t have enough information. Could you tell me more about your goals? Maybe a little about your business? What were you looking for, exactly?”

Hey, I dunno. You’re the expert. Look over my website and see what I do. What do YOU think I need?

A good expert already knows what I need – or at the very least, can take an educated guess. If you’re a crack copywriter, you know in a glance how you can improve website copy. A web designer? Same thing. You know if that opt-in is ugly or if that dull olive green theme is hurting your eyes. A consultant? Be smart, here. You should be able to figure out at least some sort of change you could help create.

But nothing? Not a clue? Not even a tiny shot-in-the-dark suggestion?

Seriously?

Look, you don’t get a second chance to pitch yourself. No one will wait around with their wallet open while you get it together. And opportunity’s knocking while you fumble around.

It’s not patient, either.

When you get asked to pitch but aren’t even the least bit prepared to step up to the plate, you lose your chance to make someone your client. That’s very unfortunate. People rarely hand out open invitations like that.

So if someone asks how you could help them… jeez. Jump on it, would you?

Don’t make potential clients tell you what they want, because they don’t really know. What they do know is that you’ve piqued their interest, think you might be a good match and are looking for reasons to hire you. They’ve already halfway decided – they just don’t know for what.

You’ve pretty much got the job.

PITCH THEM.

Don’t have a pretty little elevator pitch prepared? You don’t need one.

You know your stuff. You know what you can do – and how you can change that person’s business for the better. You know what works and what doesn’t. You don’t have to whisper words of magic, here – you just have to recognize a need that the person hasn’t spotted.

Point out what you’ve noticed – that this is missing or that isn’t done quite right or that you overheard an exasperated comment last week and want to make that frustration a thing of the past.

Tell the person how you can make their work, their business or their life better. Don’t ask them to think; think FOR them.

Tell them what you can do, how that’ll change their game, and why they should care.

That’s it. It’s that simple.

Now I want to hear it from you: I know many of you have been in this “oh shit what do I say now” situation. What did you do? Did you scramble something up and win the pitch? Did you freeze up with anxiety and miss the chance? What would you do differently next time?

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.

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  1. Our local city council ran a night school for entrepreneurs. They brought in various experts and held some free introductory seminars about startups. To get into the second part of the course we had to describe our pitch in 100 words or less, which really made you focus on getting across the key value proposition and unique selling point. Of course it also made their lives easier in selecting the participants for the second part of the course.

    The big thing of course, was once you had your 100 words then that was your pitch and you could then use variations of it whenever you had to pitch your idea.

    But now I’m not so sure. I think it’s more important to have “the customer’s” 100 words. See the problem as the potential customer thinks about it. The founder’s 100 words probably aren’t good enough because they don’t have the same world view as the customer does. Talk about how the customer will benefit and nothing else matters.

    Still, it’s a useful exercise to get you thinking about things.

    • Great point about having “the customer’s 100 words.” Never thought of it that way, but it seems like you’re guaranteed to win the pitch that way because 1) you’ve highlighted their problem and positioned yourself as their solution, and 2) not many people think that way because they’re so focused on themselves, which will make you stand out from the competition.

  2. Excellent James,

    Another way to take this a step further is to explain how you recently accomplished what you are recommending for them.

    People know it’s easier to make promises that it is to show proof.

    Use a case study where you changed a design and noticed an increase in pageviews.
    or
    Show them how a recent post that you published decreased bounce rate.
    or
    Send them a link to a guest post that resulted in new email subscribers, etc.

    I’ve found this really motivates clients that are stuck on the fence.

  3. A professional sales person who is serious about being successful is never without a pitch because they have will have already developed their USA (unique selling approach). The USA is a statement that addresses the areas you stated – “what you can do, how that’ll change their game, and why they should care.” A sales person who does not have a unique approach will probably never achieve the success they desire.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Ever have to suddenly pitch a potential client but aren't prepared? No fancy USP at the ready, no elevator pitch… Click here to know how to win the pitch? … So if someone asks how you could help them… jeez. Jump on it, would you? Don’t make potential clients tell you what they want, because they don’t really know. What they do know is that you’ve piqued their interest, think you might be a good match and are looking for reasons to hire you. They’ve already halfway decided – they just don’t know for what. You’ve pretty much got the job….  [...]

  2. [...] Every have to suddenly pitch a potential client but aren't prepared? No fancy USP at the ready, no elevator pitch… Click here to know how to win the pitch?  [...]

  3. [...] How to Win the Pitch When You Don’t Have One Ready by James Chartrand at Men with Pens. I’ve always appreciated the way that James Chartrand tells it the way it is. In this post, she tackles how to pitch effectively. [...]

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