Sometimes people I work with on their pitches say: „we do not really solve a problem” or „there’s no real consumer pain we heal”. And I agree. Sometimes the contrasting scheme of problem/solution in a pitch simply does not work. And then you can use a different scenario. Take your audience to the promise land but don’t talk abut problems. Tell them about the change that is happening. The one that is inevitable. The one that will make them rich. The one that – if underestimated and neglected – will make them losers. As with every change there are winners and losers. There you have it – a slightly different approach to a pitch in 5 steps.
Step 1. Big, Relevant Change in the World is Coming
Don’t kick off a sales presentation by talking about your product, your headquarters locations, your investors, your clients, or anything about yourself.
Instead, name the undeniable shift in the world that creates both (a) big stakes and (b) huge urgency for your prospect. The undeniable shift can be a social forces, a technological one or a legal one. The change or trend needs to be strong and understandable for your prospects. By highlighting the shift to your prospects, you open them up to it. It’s up to them to decide whether they fear the change or are willing to benefit from it. It’s different from telling the audience there is a ‚problem’ that needs to be solved. When you assert that your prospects have a problem, you put them on the defensive. They may be unaware of the problem, or uncomfortable admitting they suffer from it.
When you highlight a shift in the world, you get prospects to open up about how that shift affects them, how it scares them, and where they see opportunities. Most importantly, you grab their attention. Why? Everything that changes grabs our attention. That’s how our perception is designed. To be razor-sharp-observant about the change. After you’ve made the audience aware of the change, it’s time to go to step 2.
Step 2. Winners and Losers
We all suffer from what economists call “loss aversion.” Humans tend to avoid a possible loss by sticking to the status quo, rather than risk a possible gain by opting for change. To combat that natural loss aversion, you must prove that the change you presented will create big winners and big losers. In other words you give your prospects two options. They either:
- adapt to the change you cited and will enjoy a positive future or;
- fail to adopt and thus will have to deal with an unacceptably negative future.
Change is something people fear. But they look forward to it once you tease them the promise land. And that is what we do in step 3.
Step 3. Tease the Promised Land
Just like in the regular pitch template that includes problem/solution part you might be tempted at this point to jump into the details of your product or service. I know it’s hard. you know every detailed feature of your product or service. You are so proud of it. You think its best to show how it works right now. But brace yourself. Resist that urge. No matter what pitch template you choose ff you introduce product/service details too soon, people won’t yet have enough context for why those details are important, and they’ll tune out. And you do not want that.
So instead of bragging about the PRODUCT, present a “teaser” vision of the happily-ever-after that your product/service will help the prospect achieve—what I call the Promised Land. As opposed to Hell Is Real.
Your Promised Land should be both desirable (obviously) and difficult for the prospect to achieve without outside help. Otherwise, why do you bother them with your product? It’s time to also show how competitors fail to deliver exact same value or are not able to take your audience to the Promised Land.
Note that the Promised Land is a new future state, not your product or service. It is the world you take them to with your product or service. The New Jerusalem. But fear not. Now it’s time to talk product or service.
Step 4. Features as “Magic Gifts” for Overcoming Obstacles to the Promised Land
Successful sales decks follow the same narrative structure as epic films and fairy tales. Your prospect is Frodo, and you’re Gandalf, helping him on a crusade. Wielding wizardry to help him destroy the ring.
When you introduce your product or service, do so by positioning its capabilities like the wizardry and spells—as “magic gifts” for helping your main character (prospect) reach that much-desired Promised Land. Do you trust Gandalf? I do. And so will your audience but we need to lubricate the situation a bit. And that is precisely what we do in step 5.
Step 5. Present Evidence that You Can Make the Story Come True
In pitching this way, you’re making a commitment to prospects: If they go with you, you’ll get them to the Promised Land. They must trust you. The road to the Promised Land is, by definition, littered with obstacles, so people are rightly skeptical of your ability to deliver. I would say even if you are Elon Musk they might be sceptical about your Tesla Power Wall. The last piece of the pitch, then, is the best evidence you can offer that you can make the story you’re telling come true.
The most effective type of evidence is a success story about how you’ve already helped someone else (who is similar to the prospect) reach the Promised Land. For that you can use either of the Cialdini-documented-persuasion techniques. The authority or social proof. Or both. Quote high status figures that have trusted you or show high numbers of satisfied users so far.
And that’s about it. You can further elaborate on the details but the basic structure of that kind of pitch consists of the 5 steps. Announcing the change. Asserting there will be winners and losers. Describing the promise land. Showing the magic of the features that will get us there. And finally presenting evidence that we are the ones they should trust to get them there.