Creating a sales pitch is hard, especially when you're busy doing other things, like ...
- running a company,
- spending time with your family,
- and just living your life.
The good news is that a powerful sales pitch can (and should be) be pretty much formulaic.
And ... here's the formula:
Step 1. Paint an exciting big idea that solves a problem,
Step 2. Outline the obstacles that prevent your big idea from happening,
Step 3. Then show how you’re an expert in overcoming those obstacles.
Next, you have to ask for the money.
To create a truly powerful sales pitch ...
Let me share with you one of the most important things to get right:
RAISE THE STAKES.
Because NOBODY cares what you have to say until you raise the stakes.
But how do you go about building powerful stakes?
“Raising the stakes” is the art of providing information that increases the importance of your idea in the listener’s mind.
For example, last week I got an urgent call asking me to speak at a luxurious resort in Mexico.
They needed me there in less than 24 hours and told me 300 people and a large check would be waiting for me to arrive.
“YES,” I answered before I knew what I was saying, “I will be there for sure.”
I hung up the phone, booked tickets for myself, my wife, and my 5-year-old son, and started packing immediately.
There was only one flight that would get me there on time, it was $5,800 for three of us and it was leaving in exactly 3 hours and 20 minutes ... this was going to be close.
We finished up breakfast, threw vacation clothes into suitcases, and dashed out to the curb to catch our Uber XL. I did the math in my head and calculated that—if traffic wasn’t too bad—we’d be at the airport just in time.
We didn’t have a moment to waste.
And then... I looked at my phone to see why the driver hadn’t arrived.
While I wasn’t looking ....
THE UBER HAD CANCELLED ME.
I quickly order another car. “No Uber XL currently available in your area,” it said. “Estimated wait time: 25 minutes.”
Arrrrrggggh. This was turning into a catastrophe.
My bags were packed, I was standing on the curb with my family, and the clock was ticking. This wasn’t just about the money or surprise 8-day vacation adventure, it was about my commitment to be there to speak. I had made a promise to these people. I was going to keep it...somehow.
What you can see from my true story above, “Raising the stakes” is the art of providing information that increases the importance of your message in the listener’s mind.
For example, a cancelled Uber isn’t a big deal on its own ... until you know that this Uber was my only hope for making it to a speech and there were 300 people counting on me to be there and my reputation was at risk. Now the Uber suddenly becomes more important. The stakes have been raised with this additional information.
There are three main things you can tell someone in order to raise the stakes:
- Money will be won, or lost
- There is a ticking time bomb
(A ticking time bomb connected to your buyer’s key problem is a great way to immediately boost tension and raise the stakes. Your buyer may have an important goal they need to achieve, but why not make things a little bit more interesting by suggesting a time limit in which they have to achieve it?)
- An important reputation may be damaged or lost.
Stakes like these create attention, intrigue and emotional connection.
For instance, I haven’t told you whether I actually made it to Mexico on time or not. You have to keep reading to find out.
How Can You Tell If Your Story's Stakes Are High Enough?
You may be able to tell on instinct that your story's stakes aren't high enough.
Here’s a simple test:
- What will happen if your customer fails to achieve his goal?
- What are they risking by waiting to decide ... what might they lose?
- What if they pick the wrong solution to their problem?
What To Do To Raise Your Story's Stakes
There are several ways you can go about raising the stakes of any sales presentation. I listed three above. Most importantly, you must ensure that everyone at the table has Consequences – even you.
Every choice made at the meeting must have consequences, and sometimes these consequences will be negative.
For example, if I am giving a presentation and the audience isn’t engaged, I highlight this behavior and introduce consequences by saying, “guys, if this isn’t right for you, I can take my toys and go home. I’m super busy and none of us have to waste time on kabuki theatre.”
Here’s the ultimate raise the stakes script that will work in every situation:
“I have about 45 minutes set aside to talk about your problem today, and I will suggest the best way to solve it. By the end of that time our goals should be to decide that we will take steps to work together or, sorry, there’s no way to sugar coat this, or we won’t, but let’s commit to each other that we aren’t going to end on a ‘maybe’. Our team is super busy this time of year, and I know you are as well. Let’s make the most out of our time together, it’s really a big commitment of time here, so let's both work to get to a solid yes/no.”
By the way, I did end up making it to Mexico—barely. It was a great crowd and a fun time. If you need a speaker for your next event, please give me AT LEAST a few weeks notice!