24.11.2014

Perfect Pitch

Do you want your customers, colleagues and investors to Understand you, instead of just Hearing you?

In music, perfect pitch refers to the ability to identify musical notes by ear. Just by listening to a song, someone with perfect pitch can easily decode the structure of the music, write it down in musical notation, or replay it on an instrument of choice. It’s not just a stunning party trick – perfect pitch plays a monumental role in Undertanding music, as opposed to just Hearing it.

If we talk business, the perfect pitch is about condensing your dreams, unique value proposition and strategy into a compact, fascinating story. It’s about using 5 or 10 minutes to paint a universe so rich in colours and finesse that you make your audience believe in it. The same time slot filled with a mediocre pitch, on the other hand, will come across as disjointed buzzwords, spam-like marketing jargon – or just dullness.

Where the good pitches roam

At Slush 2014, I heard a lot of really good – some quite perfect – pitches.  Hungry, poor but passionate people wooing investors with their bold plans. Wow.

I also heard a lot of really bad pitches. One observation (not scientifically proven): it seems like the bigger companies get, the more they struggle to keep their pitches crystal clear. Instead of being excited about a Burning Problem to Solve, these up-and-growing companies easily get tangled up in product features, technicalities and company facts which have zero wow-factor. Then, if you look towards really big and established corporations, which have a polished brand and highly skilled salesmen on stage, the storytelling can be really good. But the rethetoric tends to be too rooted in a fanatic belief in that Our Corporation is your Only Path To Salvation.

Tune up your own pitches

The art of pitching makes a lot of sense within corporations, so there’s a lot you could gain by learning from the startup scene – even if it feels remote from your daily work at Enterprise Inc. Here are some of the ingredients you should consider in all communication where you expect to get buy-in or traction:

  1. During the first half minute or so, get the full attention of the audience. Poke their brains with something that provokes reaction. Humor, anger, recognition, or a sting in the heart. Whatever wakes them up from the “yet another boring meeting” drowse.
  2. Don’t jump to the solution/product until you’ve set the stage and defined the burning, fascinating problem you want to address. Make sure the audience knows why they should be interested in your solution!
  3. Just when the audience thinks “yeah, been-there-done-that, why is this guy giving us old news?”, add a twist or new angle. Make the existing competition or known solutions irrelevant by redefining the problem. Without doubt, this will be the trickest bit of your pitch. But ah so essential, if you want to stand out.
  4. Give highlights of your unique features / capabilities / idea, but don’t dive too deep until you’ve secured that the audience is already hooked.
  5. All companies should be about growth, and your pitch should address this as well even if you’re not pitching at investors. Try to prove that your solution can easily be rolled-out to answer a generic problem, rather than being a resource-heavy fix to a one-off issue.

So the next time you’re going into a team event, sales presentation or stakeholder meeting – try to tell a compelling story with the above ingredients. Maybe it won’t be the elusive perfect pitch, but practice makes perfect.

And yes, if you are wondering – musicians can train their ears as well, even if they weren’t fortunate enough to be born with perfect pitch…

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Blog writer

Mathias Hjelt

Country Manager, Sweden. Director, Portfolio & Offering.