Once you come up with a revolutionary, tech-based solution for attracting new customers, improving processes or growing revenues, you’ll need buy-in from your boss, line managers and possibly outside investors to turn your vision into reality.
Effectively pitching an idea to those approvers can mean the difference between, well, swimming with the sharks and being eaten alive. These tips can help you create a winning pitch:
Develop a Short, Succinct Pitch
Don’t drown your audience in irrelevant facts and details. Grab and hold their attention by limiting your pitch to three main points:
- The opportunity or problem you’re trying to solve
- How your solution works
- The economic benefits
“Create three PowerPoint slides or talking points and spend no more than one minute explaining each one,” advised Peter Cohan, a lecturer at Babson College who teaches strategy and entrepreneurship to undergraduate and MBA students. Cohan believes that if you can’t win over a key decision-maker in those critical three minutes, you will need to keep trying with someone else.
Unless your boss is an engineer, he or she doesn’t want to hear all the technical details, said Robert Brands, an innovation coach and author of several books including “Robert’s Rules of Innovation II: The Art of Implementation.”
“Most audiences have a short attention span,” he added. “Just hit the highlights and let the audience dive deeper if they’re interested.”
Hit a Nerve
You must first establish the need for your solution or your pitch will fall flat. Clearly state the business pain you’re trying to solve, and the problems end users or customers are facing; gain agreement from decision makers before connecting customer needs to a technical solution.
“Investors and executives need to identify with the problem and feel human pain before they’re motivated to take action,” Cohan said. “You need to clearly articulate the client’s pain and why they view this as an urgent need to get approval.”
Having a great idea isn’t enough. You need to arouse passion to get an investor or executive to part with the company’s money.
One storyline does not fit all situations and audiences. To communicate an idea effectively, focus on the audience’s interests and speak in terms they understand.
“You go two levels up in any organization and they speak a different language,” Brands said.
“For instance the CEO doesn’t want to know how an app works. He cares about the cost, the potential ROI and how your solution maximizes existing assets.”
Here’s another tip: Pre-selling your ideas to a financial decision-maker like the CFO or influential line managers can help you develop support and sponsorship for your ideas going into a major pitch.
Paint a Picture
Explain how your solution will solve the problem that you outlined, what it will cost and the economic benefits. Your presentation should address pertinent questions such as:
- How large is the potential market or opportunity?
- What are the projected user adoption rates?
- How will you spend the funds?
- What’s the timeframe for achieving ROI?
Transform your pitch from mediocre to memorable by addressing issues and concerns that are relevant to a particular audience.
Since most investors and executives tend to avoid extreme risk, they will be more inclined to give you the green light if you anticipate potential roadblocks and have solutions at-the-ready that will help you meet deadlines, milestones and budgets, Cohan said.
“Anticipate your audience’s appetite for risk and be prepared to offer mitigation strategies,” Brands added. “Whether that’s working extra hours, cutting costs or tapping outside expertise to stay on schedule.”
Getting to Yes
An all-or-nothing request for a major expenditure is risky because you could walk away empty-handed. Instead, make it easy for decision makers to say “yes” by giving them two reasonable choices. For instance, shoot for approval and funding for the first phase of the project, or permission to gather the requirements, Brands said. Anything that will get the ball rolling.
“Be smart,” he advised. “Take a partial win, get the project started and live to fight another day.”