6 Tips for a Successful Idea Pitch | The Garage Group

6 Tips for a Successful Idea Pitch


You might not have any grand visions of showing up on Shark Tank, but the truth is, we’re all salespeople.

Whether you’re actually in the field selling SKUs to Walmart, trying to get a project funded or working to help your team internalize insights from your latest research, we’re all pitching ideas, selling, all the time. The most influential leaders not only recognize this, but they also recognize the importance of these subtle selling contexts to successfully get things done.

So, how do we effectively pitch or sell-in an idea? Behavioral science indicates that there are things within our control that we can do and say to help our brains easily and effectively process the message we’re pitching. Here are a few tips on preparing and perfecting your pitch, leveraging best practices from startups, classic leaders like Dale Carnegie (author, How to Win Friends and Influence People) as well as selling masters like Oren Klaff (author, Pitch Anything):

1. Understand what you’re trying to sell. Often, this step is forgotten because most of our daily meetings center around informing each other of what we know, versus focusing on what we want the group to do. As a result, we share endless slides of interesting data and charts and lose people in the details. Before your meeting or presentation, boil down what you’re trying to sell into one sentence. Focus your pitch around this simple message, and cut everything else out.

2. Understand and leverage frames. Oren Klaff goes into significant detail on the power of frames (we highly recommend his book, Pitch Anything). Klaff states that every meeting, pitch or presentation is a social encounter governed by frames. Frames are a subconscious point of view, a perspective, a position that each of us comes into a conversation with. Behavioral science tells us that frames do not combine or mix–either your frame will be absorbed by the other person or vice versa.

According to Klaff, the most important part of a sales pitch is to gain frame control using various strategies. The most typical frame you’ll encounter is the “power frame,” which is highlighted through arrogance (e.g., someone is higher ranked than you, shows up 15 minutes late to a meeting, makes you meet them in their office, etc). Rather than “play to” their power, re-establish frame control. If your audience says “I only have 15 minutes,” use humor and say “well, that’s ok! I only have 12,” which easily and effectively negates his power frame.

Another important frame to keep in mind is the analyst frame, which fixates on granular details (your audience getting into the nitty-gritty details, poking on specific facts, etc). Recognize that when your audience gets into the data, it’s primarily because you haven’t hit the emotional side of their brain. Human beings are unable to process both hot (desires) and cold (problem solving) cognition simultaneously. Negate this frame by answering quickly with summary data, and then immediately return to the emotional side of your story; analysis comes later. To learn more about frames, check out this video.

3. Establish a simple framework for your pitch. Klaff recommends an easy, 4-step framework of your pitch to allow for easy brain processing.

4. Create an “eager want.” Dale Carnegie explains that the most successful salesmen arouse in people a fundamental emotion or desire to get what they want. To do this, though, leverage the technique of push-pull–highlighting the fundamental desire of why people would want to agree to buy what you’re selling, but also highlighting that you’re not needy (“I’m not sure that we’re the right company to do this, but this is absolutely the right opportunity…”)

5. Keep it short. For reference, it only took Watson and Crick 5 minutes to present the double helix DNA model, so not only should it not be necessary to pitch longer than 15 minutes, but behavioral science also tells us that our brains will check out after that period of time. Focus on visuals, storytelling and only the absolutely necessary data points.

6. Know when to stop talking. Once you get the head nod or OK, stop talking. Our natural inclination is to keep talking since we’re “on a roll,” but all we’re doing is proving more reason not to proceed forward. Take the yes and go celebrate.

Next time you’re leading a meeting or trying to influence your management, try some of these out! The more you practice these techniques in everyday conversations, the more natural it will become. Happy selling!

The Garage Group helps corporate brands and teams to innovate and grow like startups, including Idea Generation, Development and Pitch Competition Workshops for well-established organizations.

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