The lore of the elevator pitch comes from the early days of Hollywood when one would hope to trap an executive in an elevator and ‘pitch.’ The Elevator Pitch is an enduring shorthand that represents the simplest description of what you do.
You need brevity and simplicity… but simplicity alone is not your goal! Your goal is to get the other person to say, “I get it!” or “I want to learn more!”
The Elevator Pitch is dead. What we aim for is Elevator Engagement.
We achieve our goal more effectively and efficiently if we focus on the two-way (engagement) and not the one-way (pitch). Instead of spewing for 20-60 seconds (even if succinct), think about one great question you can ask the other person to get them ENGAGED in a conversation.
At our boot camps we do an exercise to illustrate that you can actually communicate WAYYYY more in 60 seconds by simply asking one or two questions than you can by talking (however concise you may be). It works because:
In asking a question, you start with the other person’s construct (or gestalt!).
We become fully engaged when we are talking. So, the simple act of getting the other person to talk changes the level of engagement. (This is Dale Carnegie 101!)
If you start with a question, you immediately learn what is pertinent and non-pertinent. You can use a short amount of time on relevant information.
Finally, we can position our work in their words. LISTENING is one of the most powerful selling skills in the world.
Earlier this year we were helping an organization make a neuroscience pitch to a foundation. The executive director was asked to appear before the foundation board and ‘make a pitch’. We had to reprogram her default, one-way pitch, to instead starting with a question to the panel of eight. She simply asked, “Has anyone ever had experience with a stroke, or a family member that’s had a stroke?” The board chair raised his hand and then spent two minutes talking about the importance of neuroscience research. Others jumped in. They were engaged — fully.
The executive director was able to simply build on the conversation. Though she had eight slides prepared, she found she only needed to use three of them (in response to the conversation). The board said it was one of the best pitches they had ever received – that’s because she didn’t pitch; she engaged.
She was awarded the grant!
Nota bene: There are many circles (usually tied to funding communities, e.g., silicon valley and nyc / financial) where a ‘pitch-deck’ is standard affair. Don’t let the ‘pitch deck’ put you in ‘pitch mode.’ As in the neuroscience story, you should focus on engagement. And, of course, we’re partial to the one-page pitch deck!
Quick Background: This Funding Roadmap has gone through so many iterations over the last 30 years. It started as the Ideal Development Operation in the early 80’s with our work with Catholic high schools. Originally, it was almost all ‘green‘ … focused on funding and fundraising. The IMPACT drives INCOME epiphany changed that thinking in the early 90’s. This version (which could legitimately be v30) has been taught, trained and shared with thousands. Each word has been purposely chosen (and most have been a battle between Tom and Nick). It ain’t perfect and it will probably be tweaked again.
Special, Special, Special Note: Although I’ve tried to take 40 years of fundraising, sales, entrepreneur and business experience and simplify it into 3, 3 and 3 (with some subsets) … there is still maybe too much for many of our Type A, ADD-challenged readers/users.
Here are 9 GUIDING PRINCIPLES to help you ‘sell’ your VISION, your MESSAGE, your PRIORITIES …
Pretty self-explanatory, but there are some ‘notes’ with each one.
CHANGE YOUR VOCABULARY! WORDS ARE IMPORTANT! Stop using all the typical ‘nonprofit’ industry jargon. Start using ‘sales’ terms, ‘business’ terms, ‘common sense’ terms.
Asking for Money
Presenting the Opportunity
THINK BIG. BUILD SIMPLE. ACT NOW! Our absolute favorite Entrepreneur’s Mantra. Also works great for SALES. THINK. BUILD. ACT. BIG. SIMPLE. NOW.
THE RULE OF 3! ‘FORCE’ everything you do into groups of 3! Your Message Points. Your Priorities. Your Buckets. Your Sales Presentation. Trust us. It works.
NO TIMEOUTS. NO SUBSTITUTIONS. NO EXCUSES. OG’s Notre Dame Boxers’ Mantra. Works for sales. Take responsibility for your life. Your actions. Your results.
PREPARE. PRACTICE. PERFORM. You ‘get’ PREPARE and PERFORM. What we never, ever, ever do (in our world) is PRACTICE! PRACTICE YOUR PRESENTATION. Your response to objections and challenges. Your opening. Your close.
FIRST WITH THE HEART. THEN WITH THE HEAD. This is the corollary to a great line in the book, THE POWER OF ONE. Zig Ziglar, über sales trainer, says it perfectly: “People buy on emotion, then justify with logic.”
DO THE MATH. You can’t ‘SELL’ unless you understand all the ‘NUMBERS!’ This is about goals, self-fulfilling prophecy, and the Stockdale Paradox (Face the Brutal Facts).
ASK QUESTIONS. (ACTUALLY) LISTEN TO ANSWERS. This is, without question, the greatest ‘SALES TIP’ … ever!
SHARE THE STORY. PRESENT THE OPPORTUNITY. No explanation necessary. Just do it.
Here is a simple idea you can use to frame your thinking around your funding plan:
RETURN ON ENERGY.
This seems to be especially big for organizations trapped in a transaction-based system of special events (life-sucking, volunteer-draining) with often and incredibly low RETURN ON ENERGY.
If that describes your organization, then think about this rhetorical question: What would happen if you did away with one event. Then, you focused all that energy (time, urgency, people, resources) on building a great relationships with one or two prospects that could invest $1 million in your vision?
Special Events As Fundraisers Stink- they’re not special.
Major Gifts: Raise the most money at the least cost.
97/3: 97% of the money/investments comes from 3% of your family … focus on
I was with a school in Albuquerque. The bulk of the funding strategy revolved around special events … in fact, they were running FIVE events. The board was drained. It made a commitment to CHANGE the way it FUNDED the VISION. In only one week, the board generated more than $80,000 to fund student scholarships by working only a few key phone relationships. To really see the ‘WOW’ you need to know that they these events were consuming hundreds of volunteer hours and netting an average of $30K – $50K each (with a funding cost as high as 70 cents to raise a dollar – yikes).
To me, this is a wonderful example of stopping to think about the RETURN ON ENERGY, making a commitment to change and enjoying IMMEDIATE RESULTS.
This applies to EVERYTHING you’re doing. Take a moment today to think about your RETURN ON ENERGY.
If you’ve seen Tom or I speak … or if you’ve been to a workshop then you’ve probably heard our rant about ‘No More Special Events.’
A bold few always want to challenge this position:
“But that’s how we build relationships.”
“But that’s how we generate awareness.”
No one ever says, “But that’s our CASH COW!”
The reasons most often heard in defending special events are really tied to MARKETING. Substitute the objections above with, “But that’s how we do our marketing!”
Interesting. And, OK. So that begs a question, what about your SALES?
Think about your development efforts in terms of MARKETING and SALES. Right now we don’t use those terms (Enough? At all?) Use MARKETING and SALES as a simple strategic framework. What IF we all agreed that the one big event was going to be the most incredible opportunity for us to tell our story? What if we didn’t pretend it made a ton of money?
If you’re going to keep your event – in the name of building relationships – then tell me what you’re going to be doing to MAXIMIZE RELATIONSHIPS.
If you decide to keep that event, then decide its purpose. If it’s to BUILD RELATIONSHIPS, then set out to make it the best at doing that … but don’t pretend it’s the centerpiece of your funding strategy.
MARKETING and SALES.
BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS and MAXIMIZING RELATIONSHIPS.
A reminder: The best way to MAXIMIZE RELATIONSHIPS is 1:1.
And a question: What if we took that time, energy and effort spent on the event(s) and put that into getting great visits and providing customized experiences with our top 10 or 20 prospects?
It’s the function of marketing to produce qualified leads for sales. I can’t remember where I got this definition, but I favor it as it relates to our development efforts. Once you determine what efforts are marketing and what are sales, then you can ask, “How are we using this marketing effort to find qualified leads for sales?”
In general, organizations spend way too much TIME prepping for fundraising. We’ve seen organizations take TWO YEARS to create systems, hire the right people, put together plans.
Two years later, they’re ‘ready to start’. In that time they’ve made ZERO visits. As an organization, they’ve built a culture of ‘getting ready’… not making any visits.
Unfortunately, this never translates into action in the sales arena.
Sales is about speed. It’s about being in the field and modifying your way to perfection. It’s about ALWAYS growing/learning/building – as an individual and as an organization. Sales is about relationships. You don’t build relationships by planning. You build and maximize relationships by talking to people. As you COMMIT TO SALES we would urge you to ‘Engage. Then Plan!” in the words of Andy Grove.
Or, it it helps, give yourself TWO WEEKS to simplify your message and clarify your plan. Then start making visits. The only way to better the plan, get better at sales and (through both) raise a lot more money for your impact is through more TRIAL, not more TIME.
It shouldn’t take you two years to build momentum with a sales plan. It should take you 20 visits. Do the 20 visits… THEN build a model around what’s working. Oh, and as a bonus, you’ll actually HAVE FUNDS to help you build your model because you’ve been in the field selling along the way.
Since (as you know so well from reading this) YOU’RE IN SALES! (and, GET OVER IT) … I thought this message from Philip Delves Broughton was very, very interesting. Broughton is the author of THE ART OF THE SALE and writes for Financial Times, Wall Street Journal and others.
He writes that what most companies in sales training programs think really matters (in sales) is wrong.(!) He says that when training sales people, they tend to propose one of two things: A sales process with methods and tricks which can move you from prospecting to closing, or a set of behaviors and character traits supposedly typical of great salespeople and worth mimicking.
He and I both agree that these two things are important; but Broughton says neither approach gets to the most important predictor of sales success:
“If sales people think of what they do as at odds with who they are or what they want to achieve in life, they will fail.”
“If they are comfortable with it, they will thrive.”
“Nothing matters more in sales than how each sales person perceives his or her role,
and how the act of selling protects, inflates or undermines his or her sense of self.”
Here’s his bottom line:
“What enables a sales person to succeed is that they have found a MATCH between who they are and what they are being required to do.”
This is why ‘SELLING’ is so satisfying and so much fun in the FOR IMPACT WORLD!