You constantly engage your power of persuasion at work — even when you aren’t aware of it.
Think about how you got your current position. Education, expertise, and skills played a part, but telling an engaging story in your interview was equally important.
You convinced a recruiter to follow up on your resume, persuaded a hiring manager you were the right person for the job, and negotiated your pay and benefits to receive the top end of the company’s salary range.
Pitching ideas effectively is all about leveraging this ability to persuade. You’re likely already using this ability — you just need to harness it when learning how to pitch ideas.
What’s a pitch?
The dictionary definition of a pitch is “to throw something with a particular objective or toward a particular point.” When you pitch an idea, you do the same thing: you deliver a story that leads the listener down the path to your desired conclusion.
Successful stories follow the same template: a captivating introduction, an engaging climactic moment, and a satisfactory conclusion. A successful pitch uses this storytelling outline to persuade someone the presented idea is the best option. It immediately captivates an audience’s attention, explains a problem the listener cares about, and finishes with a solution and next steps.
4 types of pitches
Different ideas require unique pitching methods. Here are four of the most common pitch types:
Sales pitch: This pitch type outlines a product or service’s costs and benefits to persuade a client to purchase. Imagine a door-to-door salesperson or retailer.
Business pitch: Here you’d outline the business plan of a startup or existing business to earn investment capital or fundraising from potential partners or investors. A good example is an app developer that needs capital to design an innovative new dating app or the owner of a trucking business that needs investment to buy more trucks and expand into a new region.
Idea pitch: For this pitch type, you wouldn’t sell a specific product or service but rather the big picture of your idea. For example, if you want to convince your marketing team to expand their work plan into a new social media platform, your pitch would highlight benefits and how-tos.
Elevator pitch: This regards a pitch you can give in the time it typically takes someone to ride the elevator — about a minute. A good elevator pitch doesn’t tell the whole story but gets the listener interested in hearing more.
Why are business pitches important?
Whether you’re an employee, entrepreneur, or organization leader, you’re propelled forward by your work goals. Learning to communicate and sell your ideas effectively with business pitches marks the difference between accomplishing these goals and staying stagnant. These pitches also help you get ahead in the workplace.
For example, if you convince your boss to give you a raise or get noticed for suggesting an innovative solution to a stubborn problem.
Here are a few situations where you can benefit from an efficient pitch:
- Assure leaders you deserve a promotion
- Gain investment for your own business
- Convince workers, managers, and investors that an out-of-the-box idea is the best course of action, potentially producing more revenue and business expansion
- Persuade a friend to go into business with you
- Build confidence in partners and investors about a product’s potential
- Improve your workplace for everyone by convincing management to implement better policies
- Persuade leaders to analyze the business model to better understand present issues and future potential
8 simple steps to pitch your idea
No matter the pitch type you’re practicing, here are eight tips to help you tell your story effectively and persuade your listener.
1. Understand your audience
No idea is a fit for everybody. To bring someone on board, they must think your idea is plausible and realistic.
Analyze the decision-makers you’re speaking with thoughtfully. Consider their motivations, goals, and limitations. Ask yourself: how does my idea fit into their reality?
For example, if you’re drafting a sales pitch, consider the listener’s budget limitations, earnings, and the stage of the business. You’ll pitch a startup much differently than a multi-million dollar organization because what they think is plausible and realistic differs.
2. Tell a story
People need to feel emotionally connected to become persuaded by a story. Studies show that emotion-affecting storytelling is important even when presenting scientific arguments — facts and accurate data aren’t enough.
Whether you’re talking to venture capitalists or getting the green light from stakeholders, imagine you’re telling an emotion-driven story. Structure it with an engaging opening, a middle with a problem to overcome, and a solution-driven finale. This will help you connect with your audience on a more human level and speak to something they care about.
3. Know the pain points
Above all else, a pitch answers a single question: how does this solve my problem? This problem is one of your listener’s pain points.
To analyze their pain points, you can use the P-A-S framework, which stands for Pain, Agitate, and Solution. It’s a three-step model that presents a problem, frames it as an issue that requires a solution, and creates a CTA to solve it.
For example, a marketing company’s pain point might be tracking leads. You could mention this issue, provide a solution (perhaps your customer relationship management software), and close by offering a free demo.
Likewise, it’s important to analyze all the potential pain points of your product and pitch. Practice your pitch for the first time with others and invite constructive feedback regarding your communication skills. Use that feedback to tweak your final pitching presentation.
4. Create consensus
Humans are often swayed to make decisions based on others’ behavior. While this influence doesn’t last forever (about three days), you may need your listener to decide before then. Find a way to link your pitch to larger social norms and shared behaviors to persuade your audience to follow suit.
According to a story in the Wall Street Journal on consensus and persuasion, a hotel increased the reuse of towels by 26% when they left signs in rooms that said, “75% of customers who stay in this hotel reuse their towels.”
When they edited the sign to read “75% of customers who stayed in this room reuse their towels,” the rate grew another 33%. People wanted to follow other users’ behavior by also reusing their towels.
5. Show, don’t just tell
Seeing is believing. When pitching your idea, use interactive models, visuals, or a pitch deck in real-time to get your audience involved and to complement your public speaking skills.
Studies show that a mix of creative, interactive elements and articulate communication gets listeners to engage more deeply and adopt and implement the idea.
If you’re trying to sell a new product, for example, give a mixed presentation with a demo that shows how the product works and a PowerPoint that informs how the product will disrupt the market.
6. Back it up
Storytelling will engage your audience, but a perfect pitch provides results. These metrics look different depending on the pitch, but it’s one of the most important parts of demonstrating your value proposition.
If you’re pitching a new business to potential investors, include projected metrics for growth, monetization, and market reach in your business plan to demonstrate their return on investment.
Likewise, if you’re proposing a strategy to your manager that signifies big changes, estimate how it will impact organizational priorities such as productivity, work performance, and the company’s bottom line.
7. Present your best self
Good entrepreneurship isn’t just about presenting your idea. You must also present the entrepreneur behind it — you.
Practice your public speaking skills. A timid sales pitch could tell your listener the idea’s execution will also be timid. Use eye contact, a confident tone, and nonverbal cues like hand gestures and shifting your view around the audience to demonstrate strength and self-esteem.
For in-person presentations, consider adopting a power pose to express confidence in your ideas — because if you don’t believe in yourself, why would others?
Likewise, practice self-awareness. Your pitch will likely garner some criticism. Be sure that you can roll with the punches without losing your cool. How you pitch and respond lets people know what you’ll be like to work with.
8. Finish with a CTA
You crafted a great opening and delivered your argument with convincing numbers, narrative style, and energy. Your PowerPoint had eye-catching visuals, and your demo allowed the audience to experience the pitch first-hand. Now what?
Let your audience know how to continue, and be as specific and directed as possible. For example, if you pitch to investors, let them know how much of an investment you’re seeking and the rate of return. If you’re trying to sell a subscription service to a new customer, finish with purchasing and installment details. Lead them over the finish line so you accomplish your pitch’s goal.
Do we have a deal?
Even the greatest ideas need a good sales pitch. No matter where you are in your career, it’s always possible to learn how to pitch ideas more effectively.
It takes practice, careful thought, and a burst of energy and confidence, but if you take the time to nail the pitch, you’re one step closer to making the sale.