Selling Something? Know your Pitch

By Valerie Hendel

THE PITCH … If you are interested in selling something—your business, service, idea, book, etc.—you’re likely familiar with the pitch. The pitch, in short, is your message packaged neatly and concisely and pitched to your listener. They are the precious seconds in the elevator when a writer tells an agent about a book idea, the minute an employee has to sell a strategy to his boss, or the sentence in the email subject line that a business owner has to tell prospective customer about a new service. Thirty seconds, a minute, or a line. Very often, you don’t get much more than that.

So many important opportunities come down to one moment. The pitch therefore is carefully prepared and kept in the top left pocket, ready at a moment’s notice. What’s amazing about crafting a pitch is that creating it forces you to eliminate extraneous information that gets in the way of the listener hearing you. You finally hear your message from another point of view, and the idea is crystallized to a finely focused concept that your listener can hear. One fine nugget … that’s a pitch. So, when do you have your potential customer’s ear? The world of marketing is all about creating such moments, and businesses spend a pretty penny to buy them. Radio and television ads, events, websites, emails, and blogs are created at great expense … all to drive customers to your business’s threshold. An enormous amount of energy spent, so you can hear your front door ring … but your potential customers may call first. And when they call, seven out of nine times, you will place them on hold. Think of your on-hold advertisement then as a pitch, a golden moment.

TEN SECONDS OR LESS TO ENGAGE AND THE ON-HOLD PITCH … When you place a caller on hold, you have a short amount of time to engage your listener and make the most of their attention span before they tune out. You have a little competition for your audience’s attention, because as your callers are hanging, some are checking their emails, filling out paperwork, their kids are pulling at their pant leg asking for a snack, or they’re listening in on the office gossip in the next cubicle.  When was the last time you got to make a phone call without extra environmental noise, right? Presenters and educators understand the idea of attention span. Susan Weinschenk in “What is the length of an audience’s attention span?” says that your audience will tune out in about seven seconds if they’re not engaged. The Statistic Brain Research Institute cites the average attention span in 2015 is 8.25 seconds. If you can engage your listener and give them breaks, you can hold them for about 10 minutes.

When you place your potential customers on hold, they aren’t sitting there with a piece of paper and pencil in hand taking notes, and they can’t rewind to listen to the part of the ad they missed. You’ve stripped away the long lists of detailed information, because you know that most people don’t retain lists. What happens when your partner starts telling you a list of things to pick up at the grocery store? At item three you ask for a text list. What do you want them to take away from your ad? You want them to take away a single impression, feel something, and connect in one way that is meaningful to them.

WRITING YOUR ON-HOLD PITCH … Your on-hold environment will include several professionally written ads—pitches—each focusing on an important idea or value to which your listener can respond. Your on-hold ads then present to your listener, in the golden opportunity of that single moment, a crystal-clear idea. You pitch, and if it connects to your listener, you score a home run.


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