I am often asked to hold pitching workshops or training sessions and I do so – but with a very critical view of the topic and a different approach to the one I am used to. Here I explain why.
A “pitch” is generally understood to be a presentation of one’s own services in a few minutes in front of a larger audience. Pitches in front of potential investors are very typical. However, we also talk about preparing a pitch before going to potential customers to present your own product and company.
Part of the sales paradigm, which unfortunately still dominates, is that you are naturally expected to present yourself from your very best side. Turnover figures are inflated, customers are referred to as such who may have just had an initial meeting, an alleged demand is suggested or growth rates are quoted that are far removed from reality. The aim is to communicate that we are the greatest and that our counterpart has no choice but to decide in our favour!
What’s so critical about that, you ask?
📣 Spoiler alert: The short version is: You are harming humanity and your social enterprise!
Why is that? Here is the long version:
🤑 Pitching in front of investors
Venture capitalists (VCs) continue to reward this type of exaggeration described above. But this causes a lot of problems for the world: Narcissistic, unscrupulous CEOs are also manipulative, ruthless and toxic towards employees, the environment and often their customers. For example, the founder of Uber, Travis Kalanick. “Alpha leaders follow an ideology that does not reward cooperation but competition, a top-down management style, homogeneity, aggressive ambition and growth at all costs”, Naomi Ryland rightly writes in her book “Starting a Revolution”.
If you behave in the same way, i.e. manipulate and exaggerate excessively, this usually comes to light in the due diligence phase, but at the latest after you have received the financing. This means loss of trust, loss of your freedom and a lot of stress and trouble. What’s more, it’s certainly not in line with your values, is it?
But what do you do when investors who have switched from the venture capitalist world to “impact investors” sit in front of you and expect exactly that?
It is important to prepare for this in a different way than usual: set new rules of the game. Communicate these actively in advance and explain why this is important! My experience with traditional VCs from the time when we founded our open source software company (around 50 pitches), combined with my experience with more recent impact investors, will get you out of this trap! Give me a call and we’ll check in 30 minutes whether and how I can help you.
😨 Pitching in front of customers
Far too much time is typically spent preparing a good presentation, a good pitch to the customer. The beginner’s version is to spend a long time honing an ingenious slide presentation that is universally valid. The advanced version is to adapt it to the (presumed) needs of the customer. The expert variant, on the other hand, is:
It’s better to invest your preparation time in being well prepared for the customer or customers. Research, ask questions, inform yourself. About the market, the organisation, the person. Put yourself in their shoes beforehand and prepare lots of clever questions to really understand them well. Sure, you can prepare a few slides on which important information concepts are visualised. But always go into a first introduction, a first conversation with an authentic curiosity to first understand what drives the other person, what goals he or she is pursuing, what is important for the organisation.
If you do not proceed in this way, but follow the prevailing sales paradigm of presenting your services on slides at the first appointment, you risk boring or overloading your counterpart, overtaxing them, missing the mark, overlooking sensitivities, and much more. If you then also overcharge or manipulate, and an order is nevertheless placed because there is an alpha animal on the other side who rewards alpha behaviour, you will then have to struggle with the wrong expectations during delivery or implementation and, in the worst case, lose not only this one customer, but also your reputation in the industry.
That’s why the only pitch you need to prepare – preferably without slides – and always have ready is ….
🥰 Elevator Pitch
The value proposition lasting one lift ride in just 30-60 seconds. That’s it. Briefly say who (which customer group) do you help (with which task) and how (what do you do) in order to achieve what (their goal achievement)? Prepare a general (for an unknown person) and possibly several more specific elevator pitches and then use the appropriate one depending on the person you are talking to. I am happy to help you with this, for example here.
So after you have briefly communicated your contribution to a better world and your approach to supporting your customers, get back into question mode to better understand your counterpart. Only then will you be able to talk about goals or problems and their solutions in a real dialogue and deliver real added value to your potential customers.