The topic of this article is part of a series of interviews I’m doing focused on the four skills that enable a 25% higher income for product managers and innovators. The 4 skills were first discussed in a previous interview I did with Rebecca Kalogeris. They are:
- Pitch artist – the ability to present and sell your ideas and conclusions.
- Exec debater — being the president of the product and standing up for what is needed and challenging executive teams.
- Inspire others — great products are built by great teams but these aren’t necessarily teams that product managers personally manage. Instead, product managers need to inspire them and share the vision of the product.
- Truth to power – being good at raising inconvenient truths and not running away from an unpopular message.
The topic of this article focuses on being a pitch artist. To explore how to excel as a pitch artist, I contacted and interviewed Chris Westfall. He is a world-class pitch artist – having won the US National Elevator Pitch Championship. He is also the official “pitch coach” at the fifth-largest university in the United States, where his strategies have helped raise millions of dollars for student start-ups, launching over 50 businesses and creating hundreds of jobs. He’s coached clients onto Shark Tank, Shark Tank Australia and Dragon’s Den, and successfully re-branded products and services around the globe. His message to product managers and organizations to understand the new rules of engagement is simple: use authentic persuasion that’s not pushy, “sales-y” or fake.
In this interview, you’ll learn about:
- when pitches are important,
- why product managers must be good pitch artists, and
- how to give a good pitch.
Below is a summary of questions discussed followed by a link to the interview.
How did winning the US National Elevator Pitch Championship impact you?
I was surprised and thrilled. The recognition really started me on a path to share the skills that I’ve developed over the course of my career and the knowledge I gained based on a great deal of research. I wanted to help others engineer persuasive conversations. That’s really what my work has been about since receiving the honor.
When are pitches important?
Anytime you want to persuade someone is the time to prepare a pitch. Someone could mean your boss, the people on your team, a person that you’re meeting for the first time who could have an impact on your business or your life. It also means influencing the people and the relationships that matter most to you. Maybe that’s your wife, your boyfriend, or your kids. The idea that a pitch just happens in an elevator or that it’s 30 seconds long is a myth. It’s an artificial construct. What’s real and what happens every day, is there are people looking at you and they’re wondering, what is it that we might be able to do together? What are your ideas, and if you have great ideas, those ideas deserve to be heard properly. Having a pitch is really nothing more than understanding how to have a persuasive conversation.
How can product managers construct an effective pitch?
All pitches are about change. If a product manager is pitching an idea, that is about change too. Constructing and delivering an effective pitch follows these steps:
- Start with your listener or audience – understand what is in their best interest. The context always trumps content.
- Consider what they haven’t heard before – what would be surprising or unexpected to them. People listen more closely to the unexpected and are more likely to give you a “tell me more” response.
- Contemplate the questions that you hope you get asked and those you hope you don’t get asked.
- Incorporate the empty chair concept – a metaphor for who the change is really about, such as the customer. Find common ground by focusing on the story of how the change will bring value to the customer.
- Bring the persuasive conversation to a close with an invitation to take action – identify and share the next logical step to take now that you have persuaded them.
Listen to the interview with Chris on the Everyday Innovator Podcast.
image credit: depositphotos.com
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Chad McAllister, Ph.D. is a product innovation guide, innovation management educator, and recovering engineer. He leads Product Innovation Educators, which trains product managers to create products customers love. He also hosts The Everyday Innovator weekly podcast, sharing knowledge from innovation thought leaders and practitioners. Follow @ChadMcAllister