Seven tips and one quibble from Joey Asher’s book “How to Win a Pitch”

If you give sales presentations I recommend you read “How to Win a Pitch“. I admire Joey Asher’s blog Talking Points, so I did expect to be impressed. And I was.

The book has the same discipline as a well-planned presentation. Joey Asher distills five key fundamentals that will help you stand out in a competitive situation. Here’s three reasons to read this book:

1. Joey Asher is an experienced pitch coach. He knows what works and he’s put his winning formula into a book. If you can’t hire Joey to help you, reading his book is the next best thing.

2. There are many worked examples so that you can see how to put the advice into practice for your own business. These are not just stories – they’re step-by-step examples, showing you exactly what you might say.

3. This book doesn’t cover everything there is to know about making a winning pitch. It highlights the most important things you can immediately do to make a difference to your chances.

Here are the tips that I particularly liked and which are applicable to all presentations not just sales presentations:

1. A presentation is like a bridge with a weight limit

This is a great metaphor.  A presentation is a poor medium for transferring lots of information. It’s a great medium for convincing your audience of a single message.

2. Make your presentation about the audience, not about you

Joey Asher speaks out against “capabilities presentations” –  presentations which talk about your company’s history and services. He recommends focusing your presentation on your audience’s problems and how you can solve that problem. You can apply this same thinking to any presentation. What problem can you solve for your audience during your presentation?

3. Refuse to pitch when you’re going in “cold”

Joey Asher recommends that you always speak to key stakeholders before a pitch presentation so that you can focus your presentation on what’s important to them. His experience is that cold pitches are rarely successful.

This applies to all presentations. If you have no idea what your audience is interested in, find out. Your presentation will be more successful.

4. Give evidence for every point you make

Joey Asher stresses the importance of stories to back up every point you make. I particularly like the benefits he gives of telling stories in a pitch presentation:

  1. When you’re selling a service, stories give the prospect a “taste of the intangible thing that they’re buying – a satisfactory result.”
  2. Stories de-commoditize your business. Many businesses sell similar services – by telling your own unique stories you show how you’re different from the competition.
  3. Stories highlight your firm’s qualifications. Instead of an overt “credentials” section, your success stories subtly reinforce your expertise.

These benefits of telling stories apply to all presentations:

  1. Stories make the abstract, concrete. They enable your audience to visualise what you’re talking about.
  2. Even if you’re giving your audience facts or tips they’ve heard before, your stories will make your presentation original.
  3. Your personal stories establish your credibility without bragging.

5. Choose rehearsal over creating PowerPoint slides

Plenty of people are great presenters without PowerPoint. No one is great without rehearsal.

Joey Asher believes in rehearsal. Rehearsal is one of his five fundamentals that helps you stand out from the competition. I agree.

Instead of rehearsing, presenters create and fine-tune PowerPoint slides. And using PowerPoint slides as our notes has lulled us into a false sense of security – and less rehearsal.

6. Find your “Maximum You”

I like this way of putting it. Be yourself – at your best. Joey Asher recommends that you imagine yourself having dinner with your best friend and talking about something that you’re really excited about.

7. Encourage questions throughout your presentation

We’re stuck in a paradigm of Q&A coming at the end of a presentation. How formal and rigid is that? It’s based on the need of the presenter to stay in control.

Joey Asher says that the most successful pitches are those that become a discussion about the best way to solve the prospect’s problems. So encourage questions – ask for them, leave time for them and answer them enthusiastically.

One quibble

Joey Asher uses the words “points” and “messages” interchangeably. Here’s an example that Joey gives of the beginning of an insurance pitch:

There are three core messages I’d like to focus on:

  • Risk management policies and procedures to minimize your total cost of risk
  • Implementation of your policies and procedures
  • Monitoring your policies and procedures and adjusting our approach.

Here’s my quibble – these are not messages. These are points or topics. They don’t say anything in themselves. A message, in my view, conveys an opinion or fact. Here’s how I would rephrase the points so that they become messages:

Here are the three core messages we want to convey to you today:

  • We can minimise your total cost of risk
  • We will implement your policies and procedures seamlessly
  • We’ll adjust our approach to respond to events.

A point is a wasted opportunity to say something meaningful. Convert your points into messages.

Buy the book

If you makes sales presentations, reading this book and putting Joey’s advice into practice will help you win more business. If you buy the book through the links on this page, I’ll make a few cents through a commission from Amazon – so that I can buy more of the books on my wishlist :-).

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4 Comments

  1. “A presentation is like a bridge with a weight limit.”

    Brilliant!

    Thanks for pointing me towards Joey – I hadn’t come across his work before.

  2. Olivia,

    When I work with technical teams making bids on large government contracts, they always want to lead off with any number of slides about their capabilities — their size, annual revenues, awards, etc. — as if the customer doesn’t already know. I always ask the customer’s “so what?” question. So what do all of your awards do for me? The funny thing is, this is all coming not from marketing or sales people but from technical people who hate being on the receiving end of such presentations.

    I love the distinction you make between points and messages.

  3. It’s typical to ask prospects to hold their questions until the end. It’s intriguing that Asher encourages questions throughout the presentation. At that point it’s not really a presentation any more, but a conversation.

    As usual, really good stuff, Olivia.

  4. Informative article! Given the number of presentations that happen across the world every day, it is surprising that people still dislike –attending and presenting so much.

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