Whatever your life’s work is, you’ll have to pitch at some point.
You might have to pitch a mentor, an advisor, a supplier, a friend, a doctor, your family, your business or even your plumber on why they should charge you less.
Life is one big series of pitches.
I get pitched on a daily basis from friends, colleagues and complete strangers. Many of the pitches are poor and don’t achieve the desired result.
I thought I’d write a quick how-to guide for pitching. It’s dedicated to the person that pitched me three times in the last week on LinkedIn and got upset. I want to help you and this article is the best way I know how.
Here’s how to pitch like a pro:
It’s not about your interests; it’s about theirs.
Having the opening line “This is my business and here’s what we do” is the worst opening line.
Make the opening line about them and why you reached out to them above everyone else. Give an example of their work in the opening line. Mention 1–2 points on why that changed you for the better.
Too many people start pitches with talking about themselves.
These pitches are disrespectful and unsolicited. You might get lucky here and there, but 9.9 times out of ten you’ll be ignored.
No response means NO.
People who offer a lot of value and get lots of pitches will often ignore you.
Understand that ignore means no.
No doesn’t mean don’t try again; it just means be smart, give them some space and try again later.
To get people who’ve done the impossible to help you, you’ll have to learn to be persistent.
Do a 30-second Google Search.
Seriously, don’t pitch me a food business when I have zero interest in food.
I make it easy for people by putting “Inspiring the world through entrepreneurship and personal development.”
A quick scroll of my newsfeed shows loads of posts on kindness, self-improvement, Tony Robbins and homelessness. On this basis, pitching anything food related wouldn’t be wise.
If you don’t do a little bit of research, you’ll be pitching all the wrong people and increasing your failure rate unnecessarily.
One thing to keep in mind is that pitches relating to startups are the most difficult.
Those of us who have worked in startups know how exhausting they can be and high the failure rate is. Sometimes all it takes is for someone to see the word startup and they switch off.
It’s not necessarily your pitch but the mental exhaustion that can be associated with startups that’s the reason for a lack of interest.
Don’t pitch on the first message.
There are always exceptions of course. With that disclaimer in place, I’d almost always never recommend pitch on your first email/message.
When you haven’t got permission to pitch and someone doesn’t know you from a Vegemite sandwich, you’re better off waiting to pitch.
“We’re going to feed one million people and we launch next month.”
A bold vision is great. Take it easy though young Skywalker. If you’re too outlandish with your claims and have nothing to back it up, the receiver of your pitch will call BS faster than you can say “Hot Potato, Cold Potato.”
Sell the dream. Don’t oversell the dream.
Rapport above everything.
When someone likes you and knows you a little, they will start to listen to you, and eventually, your pitch.
Rapport is the art of finding a mutual connection with someone through the work they do, a hobby or even a book they love. When you have some rapport, then it’s a lot easier to pitch.
I’ve seen more pitches with no rapport than I’ve had hot dinners.
Lackluster, rapport lacking, cold pitches feel transactional.
Humans leave transactional relationships to the bottom of the pile where they also put their food scraps.
Carefully refine the pitch.
Short and sharp is key.
A maximum of three paragraphs, with three sentences in each, is more than enough. No one will read your pitch if it’s an essay.
To be able to pitch in such a short amount of words, you have to refine your pitch. I often write my pitches as a Linkedin status or tweet because there is a character limit. It forces me to remove words and keep things succinct.
As you begin sending your pitch out, you’ll get feedback. Use this feedback to refine the pitch more and more. Get it to the point where even a five-year-old child could understand it. Use simple language and get to the point.
Put yourself in the fan category.
By mentioning someone’s work in your pitch, you put yourself in the fan category rather than the annoying category.
No matter how famous someone is, it’s our human nature to respond to a fan.
When people send me messages and come across as a fan that references my work, I’ll almost always respond because fan messages are important to me.
Don’t be fake either. The mention of their work has to sound genuine and ideally, you’ll link it to something that has helped you.
Make the ask ridiculously simple.
“Does what I’m offering align with your current interests?”
“If so, I’d be happy to take a few minutes to explain it to you via email, phone or whatever works for you.”
Respect their time without being silly.
Let’s have a five-minute call? No one will believe that a five-minute call is enough. I’ve found the magic number to be 20 minutes.
I prefer to have the persons permission before pitching a call with a timeframe attached to it. That decision is yours.
Give them an opt-out.
“If you’re not interested that’s completely fine and don’t feel you must reply.”
Take the burden of regret away. Show the person that you’re once again respecting them as a person and the limited time they have.
End on a high.
“On that note, regardless of whether you respond, I’d like to thank you again for the work you do. It has helped me change my life and overcome mental illness which I’m forever in debt to you for.”
This is an example of the last line I sent n a pitch recently. Again, it’s focused on the other person and shows them how they’ve impacted my life.
It ends the pitch on a high and gives them something they can appreciate regardless of whether they ever respond to me.
Pitching is one of the first steps to unlocking your potential.