I’m not big on cricket metaphors. But when it comes to explaining one of the most important concepts in selling and pitching, I couldn’t help myself. Trust me on this, cricket pitches and idea pitches are remarkably similar.
Let's talk about cricket
In cricket, there are several different styles of bowling. Fast bowling, spin bowling, seam bowling to swing bowling. Each bowling style has several different types of deliveries. Yorkers, bouncers, in-swingers, wrong-uns, googlies and a collection of other fanciful names.
Despite what anybody will tell you, there is no perfect delivery or silver bullet that would, under all circumstances, take a wicket. Sure there are better deliveries than others and there are some deliveries with notably higher chances of success. But, there are no guarantees. That is because, out of all the variables the bowler needs to consider in his delivery, the most difficult one to predict is the batsman.
Under most circumstances, a short ball or bouncer is despatched by the majority of batsmen to the boundary without even breaking a sweat. However, under the right circumstances, short deliveries can shake up a batsman, making them nervous. While this may or may not result in a wicket immediately, it can result in a wicket a few deliveries later, now that the batsman is unsettled.
On the other hand, a good yorker is regarded by many experts as one of the most difficult deliveries to face as a batsman. Except under one circumstance – when the batsman knows it’s coming and is prepared for it.
So what's the key here?
The pitch or delivery is not about the bowler, it’s about the batsman. One of the most celebrated pitching exercises, and one which was made famous by Wolf of Wall Street, Jordan Belfort, is the famous “Sell me this pen” exercise. The exercise is simple; the prospective buyer tells the seller to simply sell him or her a pen. Easy right?
Well, most people end up failing the exercise because they focus on the pen and its intrinsic features like, what makes it a good pen and what pens good for. The crux of the exercise lies in getting information from the prospective buyer. The seller can then use this information, relevant to their usage of pens or not, to then develop a pitch that suits the needs of the buyer.
Bowling for success
Too often I have seen sales people develop a pitch without any consideration for who is going to be receiving the pitch. Sometimes, the client representative shares the interests and motivations of the pitcher, and the pitch is successful. But, when invited to a second round pitch with individuals focussing on other areas, they fail because they never adjusted their sales pitch to the new audience.
Whether you regularly pitch ideas to new potential clients or only pitch a few times a year, I highly recommend doing a bit of detective work to find out about who is going to be in the room hearing your pitch. The information isn’t even that difficult to come by, nothing that a bit of networking and some LinkedIn or Facebook research won’t uncover.
It’s important to do so, not least of all to provide context on the individual - to assist in humanising a potentially nerve wracking encounter for yourself, but also to perhaps gain insights into their motivations.
When you know who you are pitching to, what they are expecting and what their motivations may be, you are much better equipped to tailor your pitch to them and bowl the perfect delivery.