Before any product development project can start, you need to pitch the idea to the customer or your management. And that might be as difficult and critical as coming up with the idea or engineering the product itself. Based on my own experience of hundreds of hours in front of customers pitching our product, IFS Applications—a comprehensive business application that at first sight might be tricky to grasp for a prospect—I have created my own motto. “It’s less important what you say, but how you say it”.
Pitcher’s view vs. client’s view
Sitting on a late flight heading west to the UK for a presentation to a board of directors, I read some official stats in the flight magazine that proved my personal motto when it comes to sales pitches. The stats showed the relation between the pitcher’s view of his own presentation and the clients’ view of the presentation. It’s founded on the premise that any pitch you make will be made up of four elements—style, format, content and chemistry.
Looking at the graph below, you see the client is more likely to be swayed by the format (the way the pitch is presented), and style is almost as important (how it is presented). This indicates the importance of your presentation skills, even over the brilliance of your original idea.
Clients and managers or whoever needs to buy into your ideas have one thing in common with dogs—they can sense fear. So, even if you have all the facts and figures in place to pitch an idea, it will all come down to desire and chemistry.
My tip to you
Remember, ideas have to come from anyone at any level within the organization. However, the challenge might be to penetrate the stream of day-to-day business issues to get the attention of your management. And, as I said above—how is more important than what. So the next time you are about to pitch a great idea, you should ask yourself the following questions;
- Do you have the confidence and chemistry to pitch your idea to upper management, or should you first try to get buy-in from colleagues you trust to support your “sales” process?
- Do you speak the right language? Your focus must be on customer business value and revenue opportunities and less on all the fancy technical aspects of your idea.
- Do you understand (and accept) that paving the way from idea to innovation might take a long time? Be patient. If it didn’t work out the first time, analyze the feedback, fine-tune the pitch and try again…and again.
Passion is the one and only source of energy to turn ideas into innovations. You will face lots of problems along the route till “your” product is ready to hit the market, so if you don’t have the guts and passion to try again and again, the only one to blame is yourself. Passion will be your companion through working weekends and late evenings as well as when you are questioned about exceeding budgets and deadlines.
Oops, am I too negative now? No, I’m just realistic—but with a burning passion for innovation and creativity.