Talk less and listen more in a Pitch.

I’ve been on thousands of pitches.  Literally thousands. And, the one thing that I see happening in more cases than not is that the person making the pitch talks too much.  It might even be a person who is otherwise fairly quiet but when they get into a pitch, the faucet turns on full blast.

Maybe they talk because they are nervous. They might talk so much because they think that it is their job in a pitch.  Or, they talk because there was a pause in the action which they think they have to fill.  Whatever the reason, they talk. And talk. And talk.

It’s perfectly justified to talk too much if you are nervous. It’s a natural reaction.  But, you must train yourself to recognize what nervous ticks you have in a pitch and learn to control them.  Some people laugh too much. Some people get very serious. Many people just start talking.  When you get in touch with your nervous energy take it as a signal and shut down the talking.  The people on the other side of the table will often see that talking as nervous chatter, which they translate to mean that you are not confident in what you are presenting.  When you’re perceived as not confident, it is very hard to make a sale.

You might talk too much because you think it is your job to speak from the moment you are on stage until the second you leave the room.  Wall to wall talking.  Some people consider that a fine attribute of a pitch.  When you talk that much, the prospect gets to talk a lot less.  That’s bad. The more the prospect talks, the better your chances of winning the business.

The amount you talk has a lot to do with what stage of the pitch you are in.  If it is an early stage, such as an initial meeting, you should invoke the 20% rule. Talk 20% of the time and have the prospect do the rest. And the talking you do should be to ask questions. Ask about the problems the prospect is experiencing and the implications to the problems in his/her business.  Avoid trying to solve the problem.  Just ask questions.  The more that prospect talks, the smarter he will perceive you. If you are asked about your business and skills, by all means answer.

If the pitch is further down the road where you are expected to present your ideas and solution, then of course, the floor is yours.  But, keep your ears and eyes open for opportunities to allow the prospect to talk and ask questions. And, if a question is asked, answer the question. Don’t blather about how smart the prospect is to ask that question. And don’t delay the answer by saying you’ll get to that question later in the proposal. A prospect’s question always trumps your presentation.  Even if the question derails your presentation, answer it.

That’s all the talking I’m going to do on this subject.

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