By: Ahlia Kitwana
What is a professional pitch? It’s an answer you give to the question, “So what do you do?” or, “Tell me about yourself.”
A professional pitch is a short, sweet sales message so compelling that once you’ve finished whoever you’re talking to likes you enough to hire you, fund you, or connect you to a colleague, etc.
An elevator pitch is often part of the first impression people have of us and should reflect our personal brand. Yet the elevator pitch is often a place where we stumble and miss out on the impression we could be making. Make it real.
Why you need a pitch.
The term “elevator pitch” is derived from the time it takes to complete an elevator ride. The idea is that you want to be able to complete your pitch in the time you can complete that elevator ride. You absolutely need a professional or personal pitch, especially if you are networking or doing job interviews.
Whether interacting with people is a part of your daily job or not, and whether you are intentionally networking or not, you are going to meet new people. Chances are that the people you run into can either help you directly or indirectly in your career AND business aspirations. And yes, you can totally get some meaningful networking in virtually!
The book Back to Business states that recruiting and hiring managers will spend six seconds listening to you before they mentally check out. Six seconds — that’s all you get! Luckily for you, I just spent the last five minutes testing what can be said in six seconds. On average, if you use a conversational cadence, you can say about twenty words in that time. If it’s a well-honed and much-practiced sentence, you WILL be able to hold a person’s attention much longer.
Coming up with a pitch.
Because I own a business and need to tell everyone I run into about it, I need a pitch of my own. I have spent well over a year writing and rewriting my pitch as the business itself has had to pivot (thanks, COVID). As the business has matured and my asks have changed, the pitch changes slightly, as well. Additionally, depending on the audience, the pitch will need to adapt.
Likewise, your professional pitch will shift depending on your ask(s), the audience, what you’re doing in your career, and what you aspire to do. To start, make sure your pitch is short, compelling, and sells what you bring to the table.
Keep it short.
- Bind the pitch by time; for instance, no more than 30–60 seconds (100–165 words).
- Challenge yourself to say it in a tweet — no more than 140 characters. Go for 120 characters if you dare.
- Brevity is your friend.
Make it compelling and interesting enough to spark listeners’ interest in your idea or background. Identify one thing you want your audience to remember. Steve Jobs, famed Apple CEO, was a genius at this. He would tell people that the original iPod allowed you to carry “1,000 songs in your pocket.”
Include your best skills, qualifications, and superpower(s) and why they add value to the organization.
Practice, practice, practice.
- Find a friend (or three) and practice your pitch in front of them.
- Record it and review.
- Practice in front of a mirror.
For a basic pitch framework, check out Pitch Please, Your Professional Pitch at Little Black Buddha.
Pitch 2.0: Getting creative with your pitch
Here are some more creative pitch frameworks that you can try.
The Pixar pitch.
The “Pixar pitch” is a result of a story-telling formula Pixar has perfected over time. You can learn more about Pixar’s story basics and rules from a series of tweets sent out in 2011 and summarized by David A. Price.
Here is a template of how to construct this pitch:
- Once upon a time, there was ___.
- Every day, ___.
- One day, ___.
- Because of that, ___.
- Because of that, ___.
- Until finally, ___.
Finding Nemo, Toy Story, etc. can all be summarized in six sentences. Likewise, you can introduce yourself and what you’re doing in six sentences using this format.
Love, hate, create.
- I love ______________.
- I hate ________________.
- That is why I create ______________.
The one-word pitch.
- Write a fifty-word pitch.
- Reduce it to twenty-five words.
- Then to six words.
- One of the remaining half-dozen is almost certainly your one-word pitch.
You can find several other pitch formats and possibilities here. They are also discussed further in Daniel Pink’s book To Sell is Human. In this book, he not only gives you the framework for several pitches, he also points out that regardless of your job title, chances are that a part of it is convincing other people to do something. Learning how to sell is a valuable tool to learn for your career.
Practice, practice, practice.
Make a note of what you want your listener to know, feel, and do. Ask yourself if you think the “know, feel, and do” is being communicated in your pitch. Keep editing until you feel as though you’ve accomplished this.
Then try it out on some people and ask them what they what they know, feel, and will do as a result of your pitch. If you communicated what you had in mind, you’re golden. If not, keep editing.
As always, practice, practice, practice. Keep the pitch up-to-date. Adjust it as the circumstances, audience, and ask change.
The ask and offer.
This will be the (almost) close of your pitch. It may be a simple request to connect and exchange contact information. You may want this person to connect you to a colleague or recommend a course they took.
In general, people want to help you and love to be asked for advice. Time and time again in my interactions with other humans, as long as the request or ask is reasonable, the person will help. In the cases where they don’t want to help, don’t take it personally and move on.
Now, “Is there anything I can do for you?” This question should come at the close of a conversation, if the pitch advances to a deeper conversation. Yes, this makes the conversation a bit transactional, but if you can help the person in some small way, you are moving beyond networking and toward building a rapport and relationship.
Keep the conversation going.
Be more interested in them than you are in telling them about yourself. Ask them leading questions. Even if they only kind of remember your profession, they’ll remember the impression you made on them — someone who made them feel noticed and important. Being thought of as someone who boosts others’ confidence is a major boost for your personal brand and attracts people to your light.
Follow up and connect. The usual way is via LinkedIn or another social media platform. Or follow up with a thank-you email where you reiterate your offer and possibly include an ask. Happy pitching!
Ahlia Kitwana founded Little Black Buddha, which offers women help in making career transitions and figuring out their next move in their lives and careers. She is developing LBB Pathways, a software/video game which helps people figure out what their transferable skills are and what industries those skills can be used in.
Originally published at https://www.ellevatenetwork.com.