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Three Ways Getting Emotional Can Help You Make Your Pitch

Choosing to invest in a startup or hire somebody for a project is never a strictly rational decision–far from it, actually.

Three Ways Getting Emotional Can Help You Make Your Pitch
[Photo: H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images] [Photo: H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images]

You already know how to pitch, right? You’re practicing telling your story, you know your numbers inside and out, and you’re ready to answer the most likely questions you’ll be asked. Great!

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But doing the basics might not be enough for you to leave with a contract or an investment in hand. That’s because getting somebody to agree to invest in your company or hire you for a project isn’t a strictly rational choice–it’s also an emotional one. And behavioral scientists know that that the art of persuasion is all about tapping into peoples’ feelings, subtly preparing them to choose in your favor by the way you present them with a choice.

So with that in mind, here are three ways to angle your pitch in order to get your listeners’ emotional side on your side.

1. Sell The Dream

Whether you’re pitching investors or trying to sell your work or services to a prospective client, you’re often trying to get money for something that doesn’t yet exist in the real world.

I remember once getting advice from the top salesman at Cray Research, the company that built the first supercomputer. Imagine convincing companies to buy a supercomputer when they only had TRS-80s from RadioShack in their offices. He told me that when you start in sales, you sell the features. When you get better, you sell the benefits. And when you get really good, you sell the dream. If he wanted to make the sale, the sales chief told me, he needed to sell the dream of big data—in 1982.

This isn’t easy to do. It’s hard to conjure up a compelling image of a future that neither you nor your audience have a concrete sense of yet. But to help you get there, start by listing out the features and benefits, then consider what they’ll ultimately allow you to do: Where will they take you? What comes next? What’s the end goal? Ask your potential investors to imagine the future you can build together. By doing so, you’ll make them feel something.

2. Make Money Emotional

Money is fundamentally about numbers, but we always attach feelings to the monetary values, too. When you dig into the financial component of your pitch, you’re never just coldly communicating facts. Money is emotional at all levels, whether you’re a college student asking your parents for a $500 loan or an entrepreneur asking an investor for $2 million.

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I’ll never forget the first time I trained a group of leaders from a local brokerage firm. I was expecting the group to be a bunch of cool, analytical people–after all, numbers are numbers. I was wrong. Because they dealt in money all day, their emotions were tangled up with it in all kinds of ways, and I quickly realized I’d need to tune into that in order to make an impact.

If you want to maximize your chances of success, it helps to work backwards: Consider your listeners’ emotional needs first, then imagine how they use their financial resources to fulfill those. Every investment is a leap of faith. Do they want to place their bets on someone or something that’s bold and brave, or are they more likely to feel confident in someone who is quiet and assured?

3. Show Your Passion

Finally, you need to communicate that you’re committed at a personal level. Investors know that launching a business is not a onetime event–it’s an ongoing process. So what’s the personal connection that creates a meaningful link between you and your idea? Why does it matter to you so much? Investors need to be sure that your personal passion will sustain you through the ups and downs of your venture.

Many years ago, I met with Earl Bakken, one of the founders of the medical-device maker Medtronic. The moment I stepped into his office, I noticed a Frankenstein doll he had placed on a side table. When I asked him about it, he said, “Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been fascinated with the idea of using electricity to bring people to life.” So it wasn’t surprising that he’d go on to start a company that created the first pacemaker. He clearly had a lifelong passion for his work, which had to be essential when he first pitched investors.

Pitching can be nerve-wracking. Your own emotions will probably be running in overdrive as you gear up to make your presentation. But you can channel those feelings in order to make an impact on the other side of the conference table, too. If you do that well, you’ll leave not just with a smile on your face you but with money in your pocket.

About the author

Anett Grant is the CEO of Executive Speaking, Inc. and the author of the new e-book, CEO Speaking: The 6-Minute Guide. Since 1979, Executive Speaking has pioneered breakthrough approaches to helping leaders from all over the world--including leaders from 61 of the Fortune 100 companies--develop leadership presence, communicate complexity, and speak with precision and power.

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