Perfect pitches or pitch-perfect?

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There will come a time in your life when you’ll experience a so-called ‘light bulb’ moment – that hopefully original idea that’s just amazing in its simplicity. This could range from an idea for an evolutionary traffic system to a simpler way to boil an egg, but it’s pretty well guaranteed that everyone will have at least one. 

If this ‘revelation’ is work-oriented, you will probably want it to be taken up and so you must pitch the idea to someone who can make it happen. This is essentially the sales pitch and to do it successfully demands both preparation and careful execution.

How often over the Covid period have you had an idea that will dramatically improve the working environment for you and others, or offer a way to increase your department's efficiency? How do you make it happen? 

You may want to float the idea to colleagues and test the water, but then you’ll need to ‘sell’ it to your boss. (After all, if this flash of genius is acted upon you should get the credit.) But if you want to impress a busy person, you must first plan your pitch to ensure that the idea takes hold immediately. Often pitches flounder due to a lack of preparation, resulting in the boss losing interest and dismissing it as a waste of their time. You must first deploy the hook that will grab their attention – and then you can go into more detail.

So, ask yourself the key question: what one thing is it about your idea that will offer e.g. greater efficiency? a better environment? increased profitability? If you put yourself in their shoes, what would you rather hear?

“Er, Douglas, do you have a minute? Just wanted to chat to you about an idea I have.” Mm. Probably not. Or: 

“Hi Adele, I’ve been thinking. I have an idea that could improve the department’s efficiency by at least 20%, almost overnight. Can I tell you about it?” Well, why not?

Your boss will at least want to know what this idea is before either a) wanting to expand it further or b) dismiss it out of hand. Either way, you’ll have created the hook that at least will make them want to hear more. You are now into the second phase of your pitch, and if the interest has been developed, you will want to build on that.

You may be familiar with the so-called ‘elevator pitch’ - where you’re expected to deliver a concise summary of yourself or your ideas to a total stranger as you both head upwards together in a lift. Maximum time given: 60 seconds (and that’s either a very high, or a very slow lift). However, a successful pitch should not be a one-sided monologue, bombarding your audience with facts. It should evolve naturally into a discussion and the best way to do that is to ask relevant questions. Do they, for example, believe that there are areas within the department that could be improved? How do they believe that your ideas might achieve this? Suddenly your pitch has become a conversation and has begun to take root.

A pitch is simply a way of putting your ideas over in a way that they will appeal to the listener. Do your research, try to think like they do, know what is important to them and then offer a solution to their problems or a way of making life better for them. That will gain their attention. The perfect pitch.

So many pitches fail because of a lack of preparation or understanding of the needs of the target audience and how your idea will address those needs. You have first to think as they think: what would really make them sit up and take notice? Then your pitch must be to the point (not rambling) and able to create a discussion between you. Once that is achieved, your pitch will have done its job.

Key Points

  • Know the key selling point of your idea
  • Discuss its merits (or otherwise) with colleagues
  • Approach your boss – or person of influence
  • Create the ‘hook’ that will immediately draw them in
  • Ask relevant questions
  • Turn it into a conversation

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