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Who Should Pitch?


MARCH, 2017


This week I was asked whether I would pitch on behalf of a company, a hired pitcher. I gave a qualified ‘yes but….’ the qualification came because when we pitch there’s always a question of authenticity and who will be the most believable person to pitch.

If you are the only person in the business then you probably have no choice, you will be pitching. But what if delivering your solution involves multiple parties? Whether you are pitching for new business or for funding the likelihood is you will need to decide whom to put in front of your audience.

Often the founder of a company is seen as the best person to pitch after all if they started the business they should know all about it however, as I outline in my blog ‘curse of knowledge‘, it often takes some time for the founder to discover the language the audience can understand. Their curse is having so much knowledge of their business that they fail to communicate in a way the audience can understand. The founder has become so knowledgeable they have unwittingly created a chasm in knowledge between them and their audience.

Steve Jobs was obsessive in his preparation for pitches

Who else could you include in your pitch? Of course the person that brought the deal to the table should be there right? Well, for the sake of continuity and assurance, there is value in having business development people in the pitch. But the real value lies in having the people that will deliver the solution in front of the audience, why? Because they speak with real authenticity and meaning, their words are trusted words.

Granted putting an engineer or specialist in front of an audience does sound risky but here is why they are so valuable.

“But above all, in order to be, never try to seem.” Albert Camus


In the years I have spent evaluating speakers in my speaking club I have come to spot a trend, ironic as it sounds, it is nearly always the novice speaker that is the most compelling speaker. This could be put down to kindness  as one naturally feels some sympathy toward a speaker that is taking their first speech. However, I suspect it is more than that. In my public speaking club the novice speaker must ensure their first speech tells the audience about themselves. As a result the audience receives a speech that is always new (as it is about someone who is new to the audience) and on a subject matter the speaker knows very well, themselves.

This search for authenticity is built into our DNA. Whenever we hear someone speak to us for the first time we subconsciously activate a sophisticated scanning exercise to discover whether the speaker is being disingenuous or not. If the speaker appears to not know what they are talking about we tend to have an uneasy feeling. Our scan tells us they are perhaps not telling the truth. This feeling is a result of a survival instinct we have developed over thousands of years when our lives depended on our ability to tell whether someone was a friend or foe. As a result when we ask someone to talk about an area in which they have deep knowledge they give to the audience a signal that they are telling the truth. In contrast when we ask someone to speak about something they know little about they are seen as less trustworthy. Herein is why people involved in service delivery are seen by audiences as more valuable than business development people (who often have only surface knowledge of their solution).

Of course not everyone likes to present or pitch so persuading non-business development people to get up in front of an audience can be a challenge. One option is to convert people from solution delivery to business development (this often leads to a very compelling pitcher).

NB The Sex of the Pitcher

It is also worth giving some thought to the sexual make-up of your pitch team. I once attended a talk by the founder of the world’s biggest angel investor network, the angels den. Here I heard how women that pitch for funding are 2.7 times more likely to get funding from them than men. The difference was put down to women being less likely to talk-up their prospects and being seen by investors as more realistic and trustworthy than men.

I have yet to speak to a client or funder who bought a solution owing to the dealmaker whereas I have often heard them say the person delivering the solution swung it for them.

Would I pitch for another company? Yes, I would help build the pitch but the lions share of the pitch should be delivered by the person that delivers the solution, not me.