The first session in MIPTV’s new Producer’s Hub this morning saw MIP regular, business coach and “Pitch Doctor” Paul Boross, give specific advice to producers on getting themselves noticed: and ultimately, their programmes sold.
“A lot of people think that pitching is about what you say. But in fact a lot of pitching is about what you hear. All the best pitchers in the world are the people who listen the best,” he began.
“The great pitchers are looking into the eyes of the person in front of them for the clues.” We’re hard-wired to read subtle human features from the hundreds of muscles in our faces, he said; and using those crucial cues, “The John De Mols of this world change constantly.”
Because in a pitch, very subtle things are happening. “People buy from people they like. So you need to know how to make sure that you are at least in the game, rather than somebody that they’ve already decided is ‘not my kind of person’.”
After this compelling opening, he ran us through a lengthy but useful list of essentials for positive pitching:
- Passion. Many have passion but don’t sound passionate; you have to get excited.
- Belief. “A belief system is, do you believe that you are the kind of person who can sell shows? Is the answer yes? Because some people go into a meeting with the belief system that ‘they’ll never buy this from me’.” Usually, they are right.
- Utilise nerves. Everyone gets nervous. Use that adrenaline to power your pitch instead of crumbling beneath the pressure.
- Build strong relationships. “85% of all your success in life will be down to the quality of your relationships,” Boross said.
- Present powerfully; use your body language. “People buy confidence,” he reminded us.
- Clarity. Consider the efficacy of Clinton’s trademark message: “It’s the economy, stupid.” Here’s how people will judge you, according to Boross: “A, do I like you, B, can you deliver, and C, are you clear about what you’re pitching?”
- Anchor powerful states. The best way to put people in the state you want is to be in that state yourself.
- Build instant rapport — “that instant trust and connection” that makes people feel good about buying from you. “Lend the impression to the person you’re pitching to that you’re the kind of person they can like and trust,” Boross elaborated.
- Strategic positioning. “People place things psychologically in certain places.” For example, the boardroom chair where the Chairman sits is the literal seat of power. Move around when you pitch; when you get stuck, change positions. “Notice what becomes different and better” based on where you’re standing.
- Use your voice, tonality, pitch and pace. “If you are very, very dull in the way you speak, you cannot expect anybody to be passionate or get excited,” said Boross.
- Use eye contact powerfully, but not in a weird way — don’t look directly in peoples’ eyes. Boross recommends looking in one eye and finding out the eye colour of the person. This act instantly connects you. Also, wish the person well while making eye contact; it will relax the muscles in your face and make you more pleasant to behold.
- Non verbal communication. “Don’t think that just because you have a fantastic sizzle reel … that you are going to sell anything. People are reading you constantly,” Boross emphasised.
Also, ask obvious questions that nobody ever bothers to. Are you pitching a document or in person? “If you’re pitching in person you need to know exactly how to communicate,” he stressed.
Who are you pitching to? “Very often I see people pitch … who don’t even know anything about the person.” Details about the person are highly useful for building rapport.
Also, ask people how much time they have. Don’t be afraid of asking, “What can I tell you in the next 5 minutes that will convince you to buy the show now?”
And don’t sales dump onto people. A Google exec once confessed to Boross that “people in my company just like to show up and throw up” – that is, they regurgitate everything they know. You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
Among these and other lessons, Boross also taught us how to quell our dangerous inner voices. “One of the key things is what you say to yourself,” he said. Control your inner voice — it manifests.
95% of your emotions (positive and negative) are influenced by how you talk to yourself. Boross recommends a few tricks:
- If you can’t quiet your inner naysayer, change his/her voice to a Mickey Mouse voice or a seductive one. It’ll change the way you approach what that voice is saying.
- Stand straight, hold your chin up and smile. It’s harder to think nasty thoughts when you’re composed, because your body directly impacts your mind (and vice versa).
But the most important takeaway lies in remembering that in a pitch, it’s all about the other person. “It’s not about you, it’s not about your format, it’s all about putting your attention on them,” Boross said.
Your shortlist the habits of great pitchers:
- Don’t complicate things.
- Be enthusiastic
- Be knowledgeable. “If you’re pitching something you beter know what you’re talking about. That’s the least they expect,” Boross said.
- Tell stories. It’s easier for people to remember that way.
- Focus on the audience. Remember that the pitch doesn’t start at the first slide; it starts when the audience buys the ticket. That is your very first connection to them.