04/09/2015 05:10 pm ET | Updated Jun 08, 2015

Crafting An Effective Pitch


Through my work coaching various companies and professionals I have been able to create the winning formula for crafting a pitch. Recently I re-tested my formula at a Protohack conference in Seattle. I had the honor of being asked to be a "pitch mentor." Now, normally I have a bit more time to work with my clients, but on that rainy Saturday in Seattle, I had 15 minutes - 15 minute slots to work with dozens of different groups of hungry entrepreneurs to take what was in their head as an idea, and mold it into a concise 90 second pitch to move them to the next round, to take home the top prize. I am happy to report that I coached the top two teams who took home first and second place, so I can say with reconfirmed certainty this approach will get you results! Here is my secret sauce.

While working with my clients on how to craft effective, call-to-action pitches, the common theme that always rings true for great pitches is, clarity; Clarity of why, clarity of who, clarity of benefits. With clarity as a base, we can break down a pitch into an easy formula: W+TM+B = P

W: Why
If you have read my other publications or follow my company, you know what a big fan of Simon Sinek's, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, I am. He and I agree that it all starts with why. The simple fact is without a clear and concise why, you will not have any foundation on which to build a solid pitch. To get to the root of your why, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Why is what you do, your product, or your company important?
  2. Why do you do, represent, or sell what you do? (No, money is not a good enough reason why - if that is your only reason there is a bigger underlying issue that you need to do some soul searching and dig deeper)
For example, one of the groups I worked with was talking about a weight loss app. They told me all about the neat things it did, this and that - badges, etc. I let them talk for about a minute, then I asked them the tough question, "why is this important?" Their answer was: "because living a healthy life is important." Valid point, but I wanted something more. I continued to probe and got a better answer - "because so many people have a hard time sticking to their weight loss goals" - now we were getting somewhere! We proceeded to talk about why people do not reach goals, why weight loss is such a hot button, and how to make it easier to stick to it and conquer, but the real breakthrough came from when I asked the founder why he wanted to create this app. His response was simple, but profound: "he was not happy with how he looked and nothing he had done before worked." Phenomenal answer, but again I wanted more. Once we got past the superfluous exterior we finally got to the root - "weight loss is important because it breeds confidence and when you are confident you can take on the world, you can change the world, you can shine as bright as you want, you can finally say I love me" (granted weight is just the tip of the self love iceberg but it is a start!). The bottom line with your why is simple, it is an open door invitation to show people what life would look like on the other side without the pain or pressure they are currently experiencing.

TM: Target Market
Who is your target market? Too often I see people casting a gigantic net and then wonder why they do not have an effective pitch. If you look at Apple and Google products, you will notice they target different "tribes" and while there might be some overlap, they never change their pitch to try to fit everyone; they know who their target market is and they speak their language. The trick with defining your target market is simple, ask yourself: "Who would benefit most from my product or service, who is my tribe?" If we look at the weight loss app I first referenced, the answer to this is simple: Folks who are overweight, it doesn't matter how much, it just matters that they want something to help them get in better shape. Trying to target people who are already on a workout or diet routine would be futile, they would have no interest, however, if you get crystal clear on who benefits the most then you can figure out how to speak specifically to them and their pain. Once you know who you are benefiting most, you can show them how you have the solution to their pain through benefits.

B: Benefits
After you have narrowed down your why and whom your target market is crafting your pitch gets even more fun. Now you get to take some time and talk benefits. I always recommend 20 benefits of your company, your product - whatever you are pitching. Once you have 20, create a top 5. If we continue with the weight loss app example, the top 5 might be: self-confidence, health, accountability, goals, love. The key here is to show what life looks like on the side they are on now (overweight, sad, insecure, etc.) and then show them what life would look like with the benefits of your products, company, app (confident, healthy, vibrant, energetic). I always coach my clients that facts tell, but stories sell. Show them a "before and after." Show them how you have just the solution they have been looking for. Obviously I used an example of an app, but you can apply this to anything, sales, law, medicine, even being a parent. Remember that people do not necessarily care how they get to their goals or relieve their pain, they just care they get there. Sell the destination, not the airplane.

When you put all those together you get to plug it into a simple statement: My company, product, etc (W)____ helps (TM)_____ do/have (any adjective) _____ so they can _____(B). If we once again use the weight loss app it would look something like this:
"My app helps people who struggle with weight loss have a simple and fun system to lose weight so they feel confident, live a more vibrant & energetic life, and ultimately, fall back in love with their body." I think we can all agree that sounds like an exceptional destination to get to!

Again, this works for everyone, no matter the industry. The key to building any great pitch is to always remember to ask the right questions beforehand, so you can uncover what they need and craft a pitch that speaks benefits loud and clear and shows them how life without you would be unthinkable.

P.S. If you want to see me in action come check out ProtoHack on Saturday April, 11th in San Francisco! You can also enroll in my online course From Stagnant to Success - I would love to work with you!