The main issue with pitching is that people often think they only have one chance to get it 'right' and for small businesses, their very survival depends on winning new clients.
Actually the reality is very different from the mountain that many people create for themselves. Most importantly, the pitch is just one step on a journey. Putting all of your energy and focus into the pitch means that you will inevitably lose focus on the other steps and that's what loses business, not a 'bad pitch' in itself.
Clients, believe it or not, are human. They know that no-one is perfect, and they certainly don't expect your pitch to be perfect. But talk to any client or investor and you'll hear the same themes over and over again about what they do need from you.
A generic pitch just won't work for most people and it screams the perception that you're just not interested in winning their business. A generic pitch is like a television advert, aimed at no-one in particular, and it's guaranteed to make your client's mind wander.
When you do your homework and research the client's market and business, you are no longer giving them a generic pitch, you are targeting them specifically and that will always be appealing.
It's not only tough investors on TV shows who want a pitch to be short and direct. If you're in a job where you regularly receive pitches, you have better things to do than look at pictures of company headquarters and hear all about mission statements and corporate values. Get to the point; what is it you're offering, what are the commercial details and why should they choose to work with you?
There's no 'standard' format for a pitch. Some people open with a demonstration, some with the financial details and some with an impactful story. When you're working out your format, think of your pitch as being part of a bigger story. The pitch itself leads the audience on a journey, where the opening must grab their attention and the closing must lead them to clear and specific action.
Your clients aren't stupid; they know you are pitching because you want something; an order, a signature, an investment or something similar. If you tell them what that is as early as possible, you are giving them a fair chance to pay attention to what they need to make a decision about.
Surprisingly, having too much confidence is more damaging than not having enough. If your message is right and you have done your homework, most people will make allowances for a touch of nervousness. But over confidence is a danger signal for many people, telling the audience that you're not listening to their needs and that your own goals are more important than theirs.
Finally, when you think of your pitch as one part of a bigger story, you might see that every success moves you just one step closer to your goal. Getting the client's attention wins you a conversation and a good conversation might win you the chance to submit a proposal, and a good proposal secures a chance to pitch, and so on. When you see your pitch as one important step on that journey, you're already another step closer to your goal.
The Pitching Bible and The Pocket Pitching Bible, both by Paul Boross, are published by CGW Publishing and available from all good book stores.