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How Would You Pitch Your Business To Alan Sugar?

How Would You Pitch Your Business To Alan Sugar?

by | Marketing

How would you react if you had the chance to make a 30-second pitch to Lord Sugar? It’s a good way of defining what you do and for whom – and a great networking tool, says Robert Craven.

Imagine stepping into a lift and finding yourself face to face with Sir Alan Sugar. You’re both going to the top floor, and, and you have 30 seconds to ‘sell’ him your business idea.

In America where it was conceived it’s known as the ‘Elevator Pitch’ (in the US the fellow traveller was Bill Gates) – and it’s a great way of concentrating your mind on precisely what you are selling, and to whom.

Great businesses have a focus on specific people (target customers) who have specific problems and issues. The best businesses are those that communicate that clearly and concisely.

However, the process of establishing your pitch is about so much more than just figuring out what you say after you say ‘hello’.

By working out how to pitch your business, you are thinking about how and why people should buy your product – and why they should buy it from you.

After all, if you are the same as the competition then why should people bother to buy from you? Working out your pitch, gets you to think about how all your business communications should be positioned – brochures, websites, sales pitches should all focus on the customer’s ‘hurts’ and how you can help to sort them out.

The Typical Pitch

Most of us are particularly bad at introducing ourselves, and our business, to people. In fact, I will go further than that – most of us are ghastly at all this networking stuff that so many people claim to be the new wave of the future.

The typical pitch goes something like (and I quote from recent meetings): ‘Hello, my name is Gerald… I am… what I suppose… some people might call… an accountant.’ or another was:

“Hello, my name is Norman and I run a newsagent… it is very interesting because in 1992, me and my wife moved here from Chester because my wife’s brother-in-law was sent here during the war… anyway, we had been working together in the Post Office in Chester, well actually it wasn’t exactly in Chester so much as near Chester… and we felt that we could come here and start up our own newsagent so in the Spring of that year we made a few enquiries…”

It was at this point that I gave up the will to live!

Most of us are just dreadful at connecting with other people in a way that is in any way helpful – is it any wonder that most of us feel that networking doesn’t work so well for us?

The reality is that you almost certainly cannot remember the last five business people you met at some event, party or networking meeting. And even if you remember the people, then I bet that you can’t remember what most of them did for a living.

And the reason you can’t remember them is… because… they were not memorable! Isn’t this a sad indictment on the state of affairs? People spend most of their waking hours flogging their guts out to run a better business and then you can’t even remember them, never mind what their business does.

There is, however, a fairly simple way of overcoming this.

Piecing together your elevator pitch, or 30-second intro, is a great way to start thinking about what you are trying to say about your business. Remember, people buy for one of two reasons: to be made happier or to be made richer… there is no other reason why people will buy… so why are they buying from you?

A 30-second pitch is a succinct explanation of what you and your business do.

So, how clearly would you explain your business?

If the usual mediocrity that I see at networking events is anything to go by, then I bet that you’d be pretty poor at it.

How well can you explain what you do to a stranger?
Do you sound convincing to the stranger when you talk about your business? Or,
Do you open your mouth and out splutters a whole series of indecipherable jargon and gobbledygook that leaves the listener none the wiser?

Your pitch should be easily understood. If you are in doubt about its simplicity, try the ’12-year-old test’; a 12-year-old child should easily understand your statement. This is the writing level used by tabloid newspapers.

The Script

There is a formula to work to in order to create a compelling elevator pitch and it goes as follows:

We work with…
Who have a problem with…
What we do is…
So that…
Which means…

As discussed, it should only last around 30 seconds – but most, I am afraid to say, go on much longer!

So step-by-step, here goes…

1. ‘We Work With…’

Be specific about who you work with

  • Type of business
  • Age of business
  • Type of person by
  • Sex
  • Colour
  • Creed
  • Religion
  • Geography

‘Who Have A Problem With’

Focus on what is wrong for them or what hurts. It is far more powerful. People listen up if you focus on what is wrong (their hurt) rather than focus on how nice things could be. People hear and respond to negatives better than they respond to positives.

Let me explain: The psychologists talk about two types of motivation: motivation towards something and motivation away from something. To get people to be decisive you need to work on their motivation away from before you talk about motivation towards. For example, most people give up smoking because of away from motivations, eg they don’t want to die, they have bad breath, they have smelly clothes. These are stronger ‘calls to action’ than the nice motivation towards issues like feel healthier, taste your food and so on.

If you can, figure out what your target customer’s ‘hurt’ is… then you can design the presentation of your offering around how you can relieve them of that hurt.

Talk about :
‘… who have bad skin…’

Rather than talk about:
‘… who want clear skin…’

Talk about :
‘… who miss their appointments…’

Rather than talk about:
‘…who want to be good time-keepers…’

Talk about :
‘…who can’t get enough clients…’

Rather than talk about:
‘…who want an effective marketing strategy…’

Talk about :
‘…who can’t sleep well at night…’

Rather than talk about:
‘…who want a good night’s sleep…’

2. ‘What We Do Is…’

Explain what it is that you do that resolves the problem.

‘…test your skin type…’
‘…show you a structured way of managing your time…’
‘…provide a way of doubling your sales…’
‘…give you a simple device that fits on your nose…’

Be clear and be simple and use language that is easy to understand. This is not a sales pitch and you are not trying to prove how clever you are. All you are doing is giving them an easy-to-understand explanation of what you do.

3. ‘So That…’

Give a simple explanation of the function that the user/client/customer gets…

  • You can use an appropriate diet and ointments
  • Log all your appointments and priorities
  • Hit your profit targets
  • You can breathe more easily

4. ‘Which Means That…’

List the benefits:

  • ‘…you get a clean, clear complexion.’
  • ‘…you never miss another appointment.’
  • ‘…you get your bonus.’
  • ‘…you get a great night’s sleep.’

Action Point

Now practice your delivery, putting yourself in the imaginary situation we started off with. You bump into Sir Alan Sugar as you get into a lift. He asks: ‘What does your company do?’

You have 30 seconds, maybe a few moments longer, to answer the question. Don’t tell him your job title, but do tell him what you do for people – focus on benefits and proofs rather than the features of your trade.
Write down your answer, now.


Does your pitch:

  • Sound convincing?
  • Explain what your business does?
  • Roll off the tongue smoothly?
  • Make the listener understand what your business does?
  • Pass the ’12-year-old test’?

To conclude, people prefer to buy from an expert, someone who has a focus -a niche that focuses.

This expertise can be communicated in how clearly you can explain what it is that you do, so use the 30-second pitch:

‘We work with… who have a problem with…, what we do is…, which means…, so that…’

This 30-second pitch can be used right through your business – in your brochure, on the home page of your website, at the bottom of invoices, even on your office wall.

It’s a great way to communicate to your clients and to your staff. The process of defining how to pitch your business gets you to think about why people buy from you and what they get from you.

After all, if you don’t know exactly what you do then no-one else will know either!


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