After working with my Influencer Academy women on pitching, I have recently realized that the second problem is one that doesn’t get enough discussion. Until today. And it’s failing to ask the right questions to get the person, people, or company you are trying to get commitment from to realize s/he or they are a ‘yes’ before you ever have to ask.
In one of our role plays, which I’m going to be a little vague in outlining as I know there are people reading this who will be participating in Influencer Academy next year, the cohort was broken up into teams of four. Each group was charged to develop a pitch for a new book launch for a famous client.
The pitches were creative. They were confident. They were a fit with the client’s culture. But…and this is a big but…the groups pitching spoke 80-90 percent of the time during the pitch and few if any questions were asked of me, who was playing this dream client. As a result, each group was trafficking in quite a few assumptions and had to work unduly hard to “convince me” that they had the best proposal.
Afterward, when we debriefed, each group confessed that they knew they should ask questions but they just weren’t sure which ones to ask. Or they worried that if they asked too much they would come across as unprepared. And I get it. I’ve self-talked my way into over talking rather than asking questions many times in my career. Yet what I know without a doubt — from pitching, being pitched to, and coaching people and organizations on their presentations–is that when people have the opportunity to speak out loud where they are coming from, what they care about, what they fear, or what success will look like and mean for them, the act of speaking their truth organically binds them to the person or people doing the asking. Plus, those asking know where to focus their proposal to make it as relevant and sexy as possible.
If you struggle like many of my Influencer Academy women did with identifying the right questions to ask, here are a few of my favorites from Alan Weiss and the Summit Consulting Group.
- What is the ideal outcome you’d like to experience?
- What results are you trying to accomplish? What will these results mean for you/your organization?
- What harm [or problem] would working together alleviate?
- What is the scope of impact (on employees, customers, vendors)?
- How important is this to you?
- In this past, what has occurred to derail projects like this?
- What, if anything, do you additionally need to hear from me?
- Is there anything at all preventing our working together at this point?
There are likely some subtle shifts you would need to make to these questions for them to be appropriate for you. Nevertheless, having questions like these in your pocket and ready to pull out when trying to move people to take action with you are paramount to getting them to ask you to partner before you ever have to.
If you use questions as part of your pitch strategy–whether you are in the business of selling ideas to your employees, coaching or consulting packages to individual or group clients, or widgets to warehouses– what are some of your favorites? Please share them in the comments below so that we can enhance one another’s pitching and sales success.