When pitching, the prospects you are trying to sell to seem extra critical. It’s hard to persuade them. This is because they are scared of making the wrong choice.
People don’t like making choices. Because making choices mean you can make the wrong choice. And if you make the wrong choice, you will feel regret. Or even worse: you will lose status amongst your peers.
This is why at pitch presentations, the recipients seem extra critical. They are trying to avoid making the wrong choice rather than making the right choice.
You can make them feel at ease more by first acknowledging the fact that the choice they have to make is indeed hard and by telling them stories.
Pitching is often seen as hard-core sales. You are there to convince your audience to buy your product or service. Or to invest in your company. All you are after is ‘winning’. Closing the deal.
That’s why many believe pitching is all about broadcasting your message. About stating facts. And about convincing by showing how amazing you are.
These people are dead wrong. In pitching, it is about one thing only: trust. If you are capable of winning the trust of those listening to your pitch, they will buy anything. That is why pitching should be about winning trust. And what better way to win trust, than to tell a story?
Storytelling is often referred to as a marketing tactic. Telling stories isn’t often seen as a good pitch strategy. But it should. Because it is. And for more reasons than winning trust. In pitching, storytelling skills are important. Let me explain why.
Stories will take people out of the role of the critic
Someone who is listening to pitches has one role that they want to play. One that they feel they have to play: that of the critic.
As a potential client or investor, I’m thinking: “You are trying to sell me something. And I don’t that. I want to make my own decision.”
And because I want to make my own decision, I want to prove that it wasn’t you persuading me. To do that, I must be as critical as possible. This is why those listening to a pitch, will focus on finding loopholes. They will try to find something wrong with your product or service.
The best way to get people out of this role is storytelling. The mind works in mysterious ways. And one way is that when we hear stories, we become part of it.
When people listen to stories, they will step into another world. No longer are they the critics. They are listeners, trying to relate to the hero in your story.
A story will show real life
If there is one thing that those listening to a pitch think is ‘how does this fit into my life or business?’. We want to make sure that what we buy is something that will help us forward. It has to improve our lives.
Listening to a ‘dry’ pitch means that we have to do the translation to real life ourselves. We hear the facts, we see the functionalities of a product. But how will that work in our real-life situation? It is hard to imagine.
If you’re presenting in a pitch, you can help your audience imagine real life. By telling a story. It will make it easier for the listener to imagine how things will work in real life. Because they show a part of reality. Even if they are fictional. It takes people into a world where they can picture themselves in a new situation. Using your product or service.
Stories get them to talk
A misconception about pitches is that it’s all about the salesman talking. Trying to show the product or service. If a pitch goes well, the ‘receiving end’, those that are making the decisions, are talking a lot as well. In fact, the more you get them to talk, the higher the chance you will make the sale.
A great way to get people to talk is to tell a story. It will trigger them to relate to and talk about their own experiences. It will open them up.
They will hear something, will relate and when you let them, they will talk.
A story trigger emotions
We think we are all rational buyers. We buy products and services based on checklists. On functionalities. And on well-researched documentation. Right? Wrong!
Most of our buying decisions, both personal and professional, are emotional. In fact, over 80% of our buying decisions based on emotion. Because we feel good about a product. Because we like the salesperson. Or because of peer pressure. Our friends have it, or even worse: our competitors. That’s why we need it as well!
A story is a great way to trigger emotions. Once the listener can relate to the problem, it will feel emotionally close to the hero. This means that the emotion is decisive when buying. Because they feel a relationship. They can see themselves. And if they are emotionally involved in the story, it will mean they will make the right decision. Buying into your product or service.
Storytelling is crucial in a pitch
You see? Storytelling is very important in pitching. In fact, it’s crucial! When you use stories, you will have a bigger chance of winning the pitch. Go for it! Tell that story!
And if you need help, we have the Story Pyramid Template for you that will help you create a story or take our Storytelling Class below!
There are speakers who draw great crowds. Not only during their session, but after as well. People come up to them, ask them questions, take pictures and often enough, become clients.
How do they do that? Of course, with a good presentation. But there is a way to get that attention as well. Here’s how…
Hey! How are you doing? Sometimes, when you’re preparing for a presentation, you will find that you have too much material. You just can’t put it all into your presentation and that sometimes… It sucks, it’s not nice… But it might be something that you can use for your own benefit. Let me tell you why.
Sometimes you want people to come up to you after your talk. You want them to get engaged with you during the breaks. Now, the extra material that you can’t put into your presentation, might actually be something that can help you trigger to get people to come up to you after your talk.
Imagine that at the end of your talk you are almost done and you explain to the audience that you may have a lot more stories about a certain topic. You go like “oh I wish I could tell this now but we don’t have the time for that. But you know what, if you really want to hear the story come up to me afterward and I’ll tell you the story.”
Chances are people will come up to you to hear that last bit, that last story that you couldn’t tell in your presentation. So don’t just rule out the extra information the extra stuff that you have prepared. Use it for your own benefit. Use it after your talk.
I’ve often talked to people at conferences who would like to be speakers themselves. They come up to me after a talk and share their own eagerness to be on stage. When I ask them why they are not, often the answer is in the lines of ‘my boss won’t let me’.
Unfortunately, it’s something you hear a lot. Management doesn’t feel speaking at a conference benefits the business. Why share “secrets”? Why take away valuable time from office work? They feel the conference is more of a day off than actual work.
They are wrong, of course. There are plenty of reasons for businesses to pursue speaking opportunities. But it isn’t easy to convince them otherwise. Once they make up their mind, you won’t convince them that easy.
Yet you can convince them. It only needs a little bit of persuasion ;-).
You need to focus on two things: making it worth their while and getting them involved. All in the right balance of course.
It’s never about you
Before I go into these two things, though, there is one thing you have to realise: it is never about you. Even though you are the one who wants to speak.
When trying to convince management, stay away from your personal reasons. Management isn’t interested in why you want to speak. They don’t care about your personal brand or your ambitions. They care about the business. That’s where you should focus on.
How to convince your boss
Make it worth their while
First of all, when looking for ways to convince management, look at them. Find reasons why it is worth their while that you are speaking at a conference. Why is it better that you are on stage and not at the office? Why does it have to be you and not one of your colleagues? Answer these type of questions. Those are your first steps to speaking at events.
A few examples of ‘reasons’ that could convince them:
Show the financial benefits
A conference usually costs money. You could, of course, show your boss you get a free pass to the event, so it doesn’t cost them anything, but that won’t do it. You have to show the financial benefits for the business.
This means potential clients. You want to show them, you will speak in front of x-number of potential clients. That’s where the financial benefits start. Potential clients equal potential money. And potential money is where management usually gets interested.
Explain what Branding does for the business
Of course being at a conference is much more than potential money. Branding your business will also help the financial growth in the long run. But branding does a lot more. It eases your talks. It opens doors and it gets attention.
Make sure you show how many bloggers wrote about last year’s conference. Show how many people are in the audience. Show what other branding opportunities there are from speaking at conferences.
Second, a big part of convincing your management is making it a team effort. Yes, it will be you on stage, but remember, this is not about you. It’s about the business. Get management (and other internal influencers) involved in the process. If you do so, they will be more inclined to say yes.
A few ways of getting them involved could be:
This is the easy part. As a speaker, you often get an extra pass or a discount on a pass. Don’t invite the colleague you’d like to hang out with, invite your boss. If he or she rejects, at least you got him or her interested (and you can still take your favourite colleague). If he does want to go, great!
This means you get to share the excitement with them. This means you are the person who is going to open up doors for him or her. Doors to new businesses and connections. Your boss will be grateful forever. And will be more likely to say yes to this and future events.
Ask for their help
Finally, ask for their help. Tell them you want to do a great job for the business. And that you need their help with this By creating the best presentation possible. Get them involved in what topic to talk about. Get them involved in practising. They will feel part of the show. They will want to see you succeed. And therefore say yes to your request.
Of course, every boss is different. Every management has their own reasons to say yes or no. Be sure to find out any hesitations and potential reasons for saying ‘no’ before you ask the question. And make sure you have the answers to those problems.
What do you think, will this work for you? Let me know in the comments!
I hope I will see you at one of the next conferences, as a speaker of course! Good luck!
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