You’d be forgiven if, after reading the title of this post, you asked, “Which one?” Don’t worry, we’re going to leave politics aside, so that narrows it down, at least somewhat.
Instead, I want to discuss a mistake that the President made during his 2018 address to the United Nations. Many speakers make the same mistake, particularly when they are making a sales pitch.
Only 40 seconds into his speech, Trump said, “In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country.“
As the laughter spread throughout the General Assembly, Trump paused. Then he admitted, “Didn’t expect that reaction, but that’s OK.”
I am no fan of the President and I disagree with many of his policies and positions. Nevertheless, I acknowledge the potent simplicity of his speaking style, particularly when it comes to connecting with his base.
And, as my stand-up comedian friend Mel Kelly told me, Trump did respond well to the unexpected reaction by “calling the room”. It’s a technique used by comedians to acknowledge when a joke doesn’t work. So he did win the audience back, at least for a few moments.
But all that aside, Trump made a gaffe when he started his speech by boasting of his accomplishments. Not only did he come across (yet again) as self-centred, many in the room would not consider his accomplishments to be praiseworthy.
So what is the connection with sales pitches? Fortunately, most people are not nearly as self-centred as Trump. However, when they pitch to potential clients, many of them make the same mistake that Trump made at the UN:
They begin by talking about themselves and their companies.
This is putting the cart before the horse. I’m not saying that you or your company or your successes or your ideas aren’t important. They are. But the people in the audience, and the problems with which they are struggling, are more important.
So if you are pitching a product or service to a potential client, start with them. Show them that you understand their problems and then work your way to how you can help. If you want to talk about your company’s reputation to boost your ethos, do it at the end of the presentation.
In their seminal book, Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath write:
The most basic way to make people care is to form an association between something they don’t yet care about and something they do care about. It will come as no surprise that one reliable way of making people care is by invoking self-interest.
So whenever you are pitching a product or service, start with the audience and their problems. Make sure that they understand that you understand them. Then they will care. And when they care, the chances are greater that your sales pitch will be a success and that you’ll leave smiling.