There are some great tips and refreshers for all of us in the attached guidance. Whether you're at the stage of pitching to investors, or your key focus is your customers, or a new distribution partner, the same tools and techniques are relevant. There are few markets these days which aren't either very crowded with lots of rivals offering 'me too' propositions that all look the same, or that don't have established incumbents who always seem to have everything sewn up. Even if you have spotted a gap in the market and a real opportunity to do something different, convincing others to back you, with their money or their custom, is no mean feat.
And yet, you're not pounding against a heavy door. Investors and customers are constantly on the look out for something new, better, different, easier... We all are. And why? Because we've all grown to expect it. Apple taught us how to use our technology - phones, computers, watches - differently. They re-educated us to tap, swipe, rotate and they empowered us to live our lives on the go. Google taught us to trust it in telling us where to go to find something we want fast. And we can have that service on our terms, when we want it, wherever we want it, for free. Netflix gave us films whenever we wanted them, without needing a library, without having to wait and a lot more cheaply. Amazon did the same with ebooks and the Kindle. True pioneers of today's sharing economy, Uber, Deliveroo and Airbnb give us great services, opening up a whole gamut of options and access to information and great products that we never had before, always on our terms, fully mobile, day or night, without them in fact holding any assets themselves. I don't know about you, but it feels like as consumers and businesses, we can't get enough of these new ideas and what they do for us. We're more curious and more open-minded than we've ever been before.
Which is why you could say that pitching should be easier than ever. We're all waiting for the next small thing that's going to become big. We're genuinely willing the innovators, brand new or established, to get it right and to persuade us to pick them next.
So how do you do it? How do you cleave a path through the crowded market to get your voice heard and/or push established players to one side in favour of your offering so that you do get picked next?
Before you get out the PowerPoint slides and your financial projections, pause a moment and think about what it is that your audience wants to know - what's the single most important thing that they're going to be thinking when they first encounter you? Forget what you want to tell them. Especially erase from your intended presentation anything that uses cliched terms or phrases that we've all got used to reeling off but which are often pretty meaningless. Tell them what they most want to know first. And after that, above all, make it all about them. What do you understand of their needs? Demonstrate this. Show them what their world looks like with you in it - how much better it will be. For this is your unique selling proposition. If you're on to something, this is what will convince them to pick you.
I've sat on the receiving end of many pitch presentations from many different types of business provider. And I've been involved in many myself. Whether you win, is not about whether you're first or last on the list of hopefuls. It's often not about how long you take - though shorter and concise is always better. Winners are those who are the most memorable at the end of the day for all the right reasons. They are the ones that understood what you need (even if you didn't know you needed it!) and then showed you a vision of your world that you want to buy into. It wasn't just words. You felt it. You saw your business in 3D as they presented what they can do. And you felt you could sell their proposition to others - whether to internal colleagues, investors, your own customers or business partners. With them, you see how much stronger your position could be.
The best way I can describe it is by comparison to going into a shop and being offered a sample, or a taster or a trial of what's on offer and having the chance to ask questions and form opinions directly, meaningfully. Suddenly, what's being offered is tangible and you can experience it. It's not just words calling out 'pick me'.
So the next time you're pitching, take a step back and think about what difference you can make to your audience and how you can show them that. If you're struggling to do that, no amount of brilliantly formatted materials or expert time-keeping will win you the gig.
And if you are struggling to do that, go back to your testing process, check your target customers really do want what you're offering and whether it really does everything that they want. If you can tick those boxes, then it's definitely time to fine-tune your pitch approach.
Your proposal should be visually stimulating; use charts and images to bring your presentation to life and make sure it’s not too wordy. Think of it as a trailer for a movie that entices its audience.