Most people really believe that smoking causes lung cancer. No one wants lung cancer, but people still smoke. When we sign up for the gym, we sincerely believe we will go three times a week. Most don't. This naivety of expectation seems built in - we cling to the expectation that if people believe something, they will act accordingly. It's not true.
When we pitch to another party, we want them to do something - lend us money, marry us or appoint us. If you think that the key to persuasion is to present the facts decorated with your insight, foresight and outtasight creativity, then you support the paradigm of belief resulting in action. However, people don't necessarily act according to their beliefs. They may believe you do the best work, but that does not mean they will act to appoint you.
Facts and presentation can make a difference, but essentially clients are looking, not for good work, but for good people. The final decision will be made similar to the way you committed to the biggest purchase of your life - your bond - dictated by your feelings. People make the final decision, not from a belief in you, but a belief in their feelings that you generate - feelings of trust, confidence, hope, ambition and desire. It's not about what you say. It's what your presentation says about you - that you'd be good to work with.
Here are 10 tips to increase your chance of converting belief into action when pitching:
- It's not about the work - it's about creating the impression that you would be good to work with in the future.
- The most important thing you can be is clear.
- Point 2 above is probably the most important point in the entire list.
- It's so important, that I have dedicated three points to it.
- Don't deviate from who you are: people fall in love with character, not perfection.
- Your aim should be to be remembered for one thing after the presentation. That means a degree of risk, but you are not hired for getting it right - you are hired because they think you could get it right.
- Your audience don't need to be fully informed - let them fill in the gaps, but make sure your story has a clear structure with dots that are easy to connect.
- Don't think in terms of a polished presentation - think in terms of polished thinking.
- Empirical evidence shows that having specific knowledge about the prospective client's industry makes no difference to the result. The challenge is to show you know your business and have a valuable contribution to make in a future relationship.
- Rather than working out what you want to say, find out what they need to hear. Subtle difference, powerful advantage.