Saw an interesting YouTube video where Ryan Foland talks about pitching products or services in a sales context. The video’s 15 minutes long and worth a watch, although it gets a bit repetitive.

He makes three key points about the three aspects of making a pitch – The Problem, The Solution and The Market. It’s the first two of his points that struck me the most, and they seem to apply whether you’re “selling” a physical product, a creative product like music or writing, a service of some kind or just an idea you feel strongly about and want others to respond to in some way. In fact, the “idea” scenario is probably the most common for many of us.

So here are the two points. They look like common sense – and they are. But, as the guy says, if we’re routinely applying them how come nobody cares about what it is we do / say / offer / make?

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Point #1 – What’s the problem and why should I care?

If the person I’m putting the idea to doesn’t see that there’s a problem to solve, they won’t care about my idea. No matter how obvious it is to me, if they don’t get it, they won’t care.

Examples:

  • I’m offering a product that solves a problem they only see as a minor irritation – not one that warrants buying a product to fix.
  • I write witty, insightful blog posts about cyber security – but if they don’t see that as something that could cause them a problem, they won’t care.
  • I see rules being broken in an organisation, but if they just think I’m nit-picking and they don’t understand the consequences of that rule-breaking, they won’t care.

You get the idea. So the question I have to ask myself is, “Why should anyone else care about this?” If I have no real answer then it’s probably not worth pursuing. (And to acknowledge that can be hard.) If I have an answer, that’s what I need to tell people. Foland says that the person you’re speaking to needs to know that the problem you can solve (or want to address) is more like someone having chopped off their finger than someone getting a paper cut 🙂

Point #2 – The solution: Keep it brief

The message here is Don’t. Talk. Too. Much! Why?

  • Because you’ll baffle / confuse / overload your audience with irrelevant detail instead of focusing on what your solution / idea is and how it relates to the problem. Your enthusiasm will get the better of you!
  • Because you want to stimulate questions. If you just rattle on, people will glaze over and wait for you to finish so they can get away. Questions, on the other hand, create conversations – and increase the chances of engaging whoever you’re addressing.

Now, I realise you won’t always be operating in a context where questions and conversation can ensue. But I think the principle is still a good one. Say less than you think you ought to because that’ll probably be right. Droning on and on about how brilliant your thing is won’t persuade someone who isn’t going to get it.

More like someone having chopped off their finger than someone getting a paper cut

So now I’m looking for contexts in which I can apply these ideas. Getting more people to read my blog would probably be a good start!

Use the comments below to let me know what you think.

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