Imagine if Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., or Mother Teresa of Calcutta had been unable to effectively communicate their vision. What a different world this would be. Great leaders know how to describe a desired future state and generate the commitment to get there. In the world of sales, this is respectfully called a ‘pitch.’ Whether it’s a lofty humanitarian vision, or selling a prospect or client on your latest offering, the same communication techniques apply for getting the word out in a meaningful way. Try these six tips for polishing your pitch and communicating with influence:
1. Craft your “elevator pitch.”
When Franklin D. Roosevelt gave advice to his son James on giving a speech, he wrote, “Be sincere; be brief; be seated.” Today, it’s often called the “elevator pitch.” In two minutes or less, be able to communicate your offering in a clear, concise, convincing way. In one or two sentences each, include these five elements:
Problem: What pain does your solution or offering address or alleviate? Solution: How does your solution solve the issue? Benefits: What does your solution deliver? Evidence: What are the proven results for others? Next steps: What do you want your listener to do?
In your own words, using your own natural style, prepare and practice a concise compelling elevator pitch and you’ll be amazed how often you use it to sell your vision and grow your business.
2. Craft a compelling story.
“Once upon a time…” From Beowulf and Aesop’s Fables, to Little Red Riding Hood and Harry Potter, stories engage our emotions and connect us to the characters. Similarly, your story will engage new prospects and clients if it contains the right ingredients. Your story is about a journey. You started somewhere; you faced a challenge, followed by a moment of truth that taught you an important lesson. As a result you move forward with new insight—a vision to improve the world around you in the form of a product or service. Articulate the ‘big picture’ of your vision in the form of a captivating story, and you’ll not only inspire others, you’ll likely gain their buy-in and support.
3. Create a short simple hook.
A short effective catchphrase captures attention, communicates value, and helps others remember your message. Consider these examples: Martin Luther King, Jr. repeated the phrase, “Let Freedom Ring” ten times in his “I Have A Dream” speech. CEO Jeff Bezos tells every audience that his vision for Amazon is to be “The Earth’s Most Customer Centric Company.” Fundraisers for United Way ask us to help in their cause to “Achieve Human Potential Through Education, Income, And Health.” One of America’s major cathedrals draws thousands because it creates “Sacred Space For The City.” Apple’s vision is to provide “The World’s Best Personal Computing Experience,” while Google makes “The World’s Information Universally Accessible And Useful.” In seven words or less, what’s your visionary head line?
4. Schedule face-to-face conversations.
Sixty years ago Albert Einstein wrote, “It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.” I wonder what he would say today. Through email, social media, webinars and teleconferences are efficient, there are certain supporters who may desire and require ‘to see the whites of your eyes,’ as one CEO recently told me. Identify and meet with key stakeholders, partners, customers, vendors, and supporters who will motivate others to buy into your vision.
5. Back it up with action.
“Vision without execution is hallucination,” asserted Thomas Edison as he brought his vision to ‘light.’ Whatever you’re creating or building, roll up your sleeves and get into it. In thought, word, and deed diligently manifest your vision step by step. When you ‘walk the talk’ and bolster vision with behavior others will believe.
6. Prepare and practice a dynamic presentation.
When it’s time to formally address an audience, prepare your message in three parts: an attention-getting opener, a body with three crystal-clear points, and a close that calls for action. Support the message with easy-to-understand slides and visual aids. Next, practice the message aloud several times until it flows naturally and conversationally. Rehearsal is key for a confident credible delivery. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Practice is nine-tenths.”