Don’t pitch: hold a conversation instead


I’ve just read Paul Boross’ book The Pitching Bible.

Once again, the concept of having conversations comes up, in this case in the context of pitching for business.

I’ve been in more pitches for PR business than I care to count, and I’ve been on the receiving end of plenty as well. Few ended up being conversations, and the ones that were most successful, and indeed which led to the longest relationships (both as a pitcher, and as a receiver) were those that were closest to being conversations. One of two literally were conversations, which morphed almost imperceptibly into strategy discussions, and from there into business.

Paul also talks about how, by being in the room with a prospective client, that prospect has already made an investment in hearing what you have to say, and has already done his background research. Don’t waste his time or yours restating stuff he already knows – which brings you back to having a conversation.

Let me add my own observation here: use these conversations to add value. It’s a good start to what will hopefully be a long and beautiful relationship.

About alansmithoz

Head of Strategic Business Communications at Australian social analytics technology company Digivizer, with a background in corporate public relations and marketing. I do what I do because I believe communications can make a difference.
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7 Responses to Don’t pitch: hold a conversation instead

  1. harrimanj says:

    I like your perspective on converstations within a pitch, it is so much more human like! When a conversation includes strategy it becomes so much more interesting 🙂

    • alansmithoz says:

      I think, too, that conversations imply two-way exchanges. As Boross points out in his book (take a look!) the pitch is about the audience, not about you.

      Pitching is a good thing because it leads to business. Having a conversation makes the pitch work better.

  2. Mark Hubble says:

    The difference between a pitch and a conversation is the cornerstone element known as “respect”, which should of course be present in every relationship.
    This is possibly why I struggle with formal religion and evangelism, real estate sales and car sales, what the hell – commission driven endeavors of any kind.

    Adding strategy is a bit like wrapping up a gift you know the person isn’t going to like or want. Your just delaying the inevitable.

    As you say Alan – “use these conversations to add value”. I would add to that – if you can’t add value – just stop talking and leave the oxygen for those that can.

    • alansmithoz says:

      And how many pitches have we both been part of where that implicit (explicit, even) respect has been missing? It all gets a bit soulless when this is the case.

      Strategy is OK, because it sets context and structure (and it’s especially OK if the audience has asked for a strategy). As always (and as Boross notes, not me) check what the audience wants.

      Adding value turns the conversation from a nice chat to a conversation with a result, a set of actions, at its end. As you say, otherwise, stop.

  3. Dr Tim O'Brien says:

    I ‘observed’ a pitch recently where someone interacted more with his powerpoint presentation than he did with his ‘audience’. Dreadful. You are so right about conversations (as is Paul Boross). It’s about human interaction, rapport, connection, checking meaning…..

  4. alansmithoz says:

    I think we’d all argue that PowerPoints should be banned from any pitch claiming to be a) original, b) meaningful. All the information in written form can be posted or sent beforehand or afterwards. If you can deduce the learning styles of the audience beforehand, you should be able to present the support information for those who prefer their data in written form.

    What we’re all discussing here is thinking about each pitch as individual and unique. In other words, hard work. It’s not about changing the name of the company on the last pitch you gave.

  5. alansmithoz says:

    Thank you, everyone, for the conversation (how apt!). Appreciate your interest.

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