Ever had your ideas slammed down or stomped dead during a presentation? Sure you have. Rejection is part of the creative process. But that doesn’t make the bitter pill slide down any smoother, does it?
We scream to the rafters about how clients “just don’t get it.” The problem, however, may not be decision makers. The problem may be the way we’re selling ideas.
Do your idea pitches include any of the following statements? If so, start polishing your presentation skills.
Open with that namby-pamby question and decision makers will tune out, figuring they’re in for a rambling, lifeless presentation. Powerful pitches always push off the starting block with potent, attention-grabbing beginnings.
Get pleasantries and icebreakers out of the way when you first walk in the door. Then, when time comes to actually present, pause for a few seconds before saying anything. Lock eyes with your decision makers. Once you gain their full attention, deliver a strong start. Here are three possibilities:
“I’ll begin by telling you a quick story about the time my husband thought he would save money by changing the oil in our cars himself…”
“Our research shows new customers often need related services during their first year with us. What are your thoughts about those opportunities?”
Use a quote. Find a contemporary, pithy quote or, better yet, play back the words of one of your decision makers.
“At last fall’s retreat, you said, ‘If we don’t make our customers happy, somebody else will…’”
Sure, you want to be passionate and enthusiastic about your ideas. But kicking off by saying “You’re going to love this idea!” kick-starts skepticism. Decision makers will usually think, “Oh, yeah?” or “We’ll see about that.” You set yourself up as an easy target.
Instead, dive right into your idea and its solutions. Clients will soon decide whether your idea is worth their precious love and money.
Then why should people waste time listening to you? Don’t expect handouts to do your job. And don’t expect decision makers to slavishly follow along with handouts as you cover each point. They’ll jump ahead. Double back. Or they simply scan from front to back, and then check their smartphones while you listen to yourself talk.
Rather than distributing handouts, tell decision makers you’ll provide leave-behinds at the end of your presentation. Offer compelling and complete content that will persuade and reassure long after you’re gone.
Decision makers aren’t interested in your pain. They’re interested in their pain. They want to know how your idea will ease their pain. Solve their problem. Provide worry-free sleep. So forget your problems and show them your solutions.
As baseball pitcher Johnny Sain put it, “The world doesn’t want to hear about the labor pains. They just want to see the baby.”
Don’t take every frown or objection as a change order. Just because somebody doesn’t like a color or contour doesn’t mean you have to cower and capitulate.
Be prepared to calmly explain all of your decisions–not with a hurt and defensive attitude, but as a professional who is there to advise, guide, and help people better understand all facets of your idea.
It’s fine to dazzle decision makers with jaw-dropping prototypes and breathtaking visuals. But don’t forget every pitch is also a business proposition. You won’t get the go-ahead without getting down to business.
Clients don’t expect you to sound like an MBA–they typically have a passel of those types within slapping distance. They do, however, want to know why they should spend money on your ideas. And that means talking their language, knowing their business, and understanding their end users.
No! For goodness’ sake, when you get nods of approval, quit talking and leave the room–pausing just long enough to tell decision makers when you’ll follow up with details and timelines.
Through the years, I’ve watched many creative people keep droning on, even with go-aheads in their pockets. Before you know it, people are asking questions and having doubts. And it’s soon back to square one.
Once you’ve sold something, don’t buy it back. If they say yes, say thank you and goodbye.
—Sam Harrison is a popular speaker and author on presenting ideas and other creativity-related topics His books include IdeaSelling: Successfully Pitch Your Creative Ideas to Bosses, Clients, and Other Decision Makers, IdeaSpotting: How to Find Your Next Great Idea and Zing!: Five Steps and 101 Tips for Creativity on Command. Find him at www.zingzone.com.