Innovation by definition is a commercial and monitisable concept. Based on research into successful entrepreneurs, their single most important quality is their ability to spark interest and convince others.
Whether your innovative idea is an internal solution or a pitch for external customers, your pitching skills need to be honed to eradicate any fear, uncertainty and doubt, instill confidence in your audience and showcase all positive aspects.
You will need to clearly articulate your idea in simple terms, provide evidence of winning use-case examples and show what the innovation can bring to all the key stakeholders.
Your key job is to deliver the pitch that will motivate, sell and succeed. You not only have to just promise, but show how you will make it a reality with the actions, products and services of a team behind you.
The key ingredient of a successful pitch is for you to articulate the problem that you are solving before actually trying to showcase a solution.
The most successful pitches of innovative new products or ideas involve offering a direct solution to a customer’s problem, rather than just listing the relevant features of the products and services that you want to sell to them.
People often buy a drilling machine not because it has certain features but because they want to drill a hole. Your pitch should be focused on the customer problem you are trying to solve and how your idea is relevant to them, rather than explaining how good your innovative product or service is.
The bottom line when crafting a pitch is to make sure you are talking about the benefits that interest your audience the most. Selling your ideas is a process of making other people take ownership of them – how to make your idea not just yours any more.
Your pitch should therefore include the team that will be involved in making it a reality and credit must be paid where credit is due.
When it comes to pitching an innovative business solution to CEOs and board members, they want to know what it is, why they will buy it, what makes it different, and who else thinks it’s good.
Articulating the above upfront with facts, truthfully and memorably, does the trick most of the time.
By the time you have finished, you will have facilitated discussions among your audience and the successful person pitching the idea will walk away with not just an approval for funding, but also a load of contacts from a powerful C-suite and board.
Here are ten pieces of advice gained from accomplished pitchers.
1. Do your homework
Gather as much information as possible on the idea, competition, value proposition, industry positioning, customer comments and intent, and the interests of those who you are speaking to. You should be able to answer questions with passion and authority.
2. Start with end in mind
Do not jump to details. Let your senior audience get an upfront view of what you are pitching. Answer the four key questions mentioned earlier.
3. Showcase the benefit of your innovation
Make the benefits clear and quantified in a clear business case that is framed positively. Be prepared to offer alternatives and prove that you have considered these.
4. Request a clear commitment
Make a very clear and explicit request of what you want the senior management to do in terms of the next steps. This may include funding, hiring new staff, providing capital or necessary facilities to support your innovation process.
5. Be specific and fact based
List concrete recommendations that focus on return on investment (ROI).
6. Be passionate
Look everyone in the eye when you talk. You must refrain from reading!
7. Pitch to the point
Senior leaders are providing you with their valuable time so make your point persuasive and concise.
8. Showcase your ability to deliver
Prove that your idea will be a winner by providing any evidence in the beginning. Later you will show this by meeting deadlines and sharing small successes along the way with senior management as well as the rest of the organisation.
9. Bring a customer
If you really want to win, bring a customer or prospect to show support or a letter of intent for a pilot.
10. Practice makes perfect
Not every pitch may be successful but you will be a better persuader as you go through the process.
Remember: no matter how well you pitch a bad idea, it will always be seen as such. Know when to cut your losses and move on to the next innovation – you will be successful eventually.
To quote Josh Weltman, co-producer of Mad Men: “There’s a saying in Hollywood that a hero is only as good as a villain is bad. Having another idea to triumph over may help you generate stronger, more competitive ideas. David may be a good idea. But David beating Goliath? That’s a big idea.”
Sourced from Subramanian Gopalaratnam, global head of innovation and technology at Xchanging