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The Art of the Pitch

A thought that turned into a fun experiment today: prepare a pitch for anything.

I got really excited thinking up a sales spiel for a ball pen. Not because I believed the ball pen was good (I’ve never even seen it, it was hypothetical). And not because I like sales so much – it’s how I work, but not how I want to live everyday.
The reason is this: a sales process is art. In some cases it’s painful to watch, and in others just cheesy. But the right kind of sale seems to me to be a thing worth pursuing, and going through the spiel and the pitch might be a valuable step in the process.
Even if it rarely gets you there. Even if you would go through this only to remind yourself of the futility and theatricality of a pitch. Even if your heart wasn’t in it, as you sold an imaginary thing to a random person. Even if (crucially if) the purpose of this spiel is just to get it out of the system.

If Mr Burroughs is right about language being a virus –  

If Mr Durden is right about finding things out after work – 

If you are right about being fed up with sales that don’t connect, don’t deliver or convince –  

Maybe it’s necessary to get through a lot of the bad ones before you start having good conversations.  And maybe it’s the bad ones you need to simulate and practice, so that the good ones are free to happen for real.

Think about this: a group of people meets every month. They draw names of objects from a hat – or draw the objects themselves. They have 5 minutes to prepare their spiel. After 5 minutes, they will choose a “prospect” from the group and try to sell. Instructions to the salesperson: be as over-the-top as you like, use the oldest tricks in the dustiest books, con, cajole, say the first thing on your mind – without filtering. Instructions to the “prospect’ – be reasonable, object, ask sensible questions, interrupt and try to break the pitch mid-way, refuse to agree to stuff you don’t like (just as you would in real life). Others are free to look and comment (if feedback is asked for afterwards). The spiel is max. 3 minutes. After that, the next pair is on.

What doesn’t happen is a productive, healthy sale.

What will happen is this: you will get the TV salesperson out of your system, and be comfortable around your worst possible performance. The time limit, the random product, the simulated prospect – all are carefully chosen to ensure you do your worst. And this may bring about a positive change: you may become more relaxed and open to what the other person is saying, more inclined to keep eye contact, more aware of the body language and everything else that happens as you yammer away…

Repeat every month. And in between those grotesque anti-sales carnivals, make sure you leave the tricks behind and feel free to focus on finding out the important stuff about selling. 

(Oh, and don’t tell me you don’t really work in sales.) 



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