Beef up your pitching skills

In today’s economic climate, everybody is trying to drum up business. If you own or run a small business, pitching new business is probably not far from the top of your agenda anyway. So there’s never a bad time to take a good look at your whole relationship with sales.

Whether you employ 499 or just yourself, selling is an ongoing activity for any CEO or proprietor. Even if you’re already working at full capacity, things can change instantly. You want to come across as busy (i.e., successful) but not hair-on-fire busy. And when an opportunity presents itself, you want to be ready. That’s part of being an effective ambassador for your business and brand.

A great pitch contains these 6 basic elements:

1. Questions aimed at eliciting as much info as possible. Be genuinely inquisitive and interested, but not nosy or pushy.
2. What your business does and who you are––the type of customers or businesses you serve
3. Some indication of your success: Awards/honors you’ve won, years you’ve been operating, milestones you’ve achieved, new products or services you’ve recently expanded into.
4. How you achieve your results, with enough details about your process to pique the prospect’s interest
5. Examples of customers you’ve helped, explained in terms the prospect can relate to (avoid name-dropping).
6. Your unique selling proposition (aka sustainable competitive advantage): what makes your business better than similar ones; what it is about your business that keeps customers coming back again and again. This element requires careful thought and preparation. It’s as important as a mission statement. But when you’ve distilled it and are comfortable with it, you can use it in a wide range of scenarios, and adapt it for any specific prospect.

Before deploying your basic pitch, practice it. Memorize it, either verbatim or at least the bullet points. If you know you’ll be pitching a particular prospect, do some research and learn what you can about the person and the company. Even if you’re pitching impromptu, (like in an elevator), observe the person’s demeanor, behavior and appearance. You should be looking for clues on how your unique selling proposition (USP) can solve the prospect’s challenges.

More tips to remember:

Think fast on your feet. Be prepared to tailor your pitch as you gain new relevant information.
Focus like a laser on the prospect. Make sure the people you’re pitching know they have your full attention. Model the attentive behavior you want to see in them.
Be respectful of time. If you’ve reserved time on someone’s calendar, arrive promptly (even a little early) and don’t stretch beyond your agreed ending time unless asked. If it’s an impromptu meeting, look for cues that the prospect’s attention has moved on. Take the cue and follow up later.
Have realistic expectations. Don’t expect to walk away from an initial pitch with an order in hand. But make an effort to arouse the prospect’s interest. Ask if they’d like to discuss next steps.
Thank the prospect for their time—either as you leave, in a same-day email, handwritten note or business letter.

For any small business owner, selling is an essential skill set. For additional tips on making the most of your sales activities, contact our small business funding specialists for guidance. Call 1-855-WHY-PANGO (1-855-949-7264).