Confidently pitching the importance of UX to your manager for the first time can definitely be tricky. Just like approaching strangers in a bar, it can be nerve wracking, exciting, fearful, you may have read lots of books on one liners and can mostly come across like you know what you are doing, but its always an unknown experience. However, when pitching you can practice your pitch, refine it using colleagues and friends, without the fear of rejection to really make sure you create an impact when you pitch for the first time.
Practice the art of seduction
On a first date, is your partner going to be more impressed if you never stop talking about yourself, or seem interested in them, ask questions and actually listen? Pitching and sales is very much the same. The image of sales people is often tarnished by the rude, brash, sales rep who just won’t stop talking about their product. This is not good sales practice and a good sales person will always ask questions about your business before trying to sell you a product to fix a problem they probably have no idea about.
Prior to your pitch you have to ask questions of your manager, those who report to your manager and anyone else relevant in your organisation who will be at the pitch (customer service are usually a great starting point as they bear the brunt of poor website design). Find out what the key problems facing the business are? Are sales up, down, or flat? Does your manager have a problem with the current website? If so what is it and why? Is he aware that “x” is currently causing a problem? You have to then actively listen, which is very different to listening. When you actively listen you ask questions depending on the response given. So if you hear that sales are flat, you should ask if any possible causes have been identified. If they have, what are they? Leads have dipped from the website? The GFC causing problems in the marketplace? A competitor has recently launched a better product? By actively listening and asking pertinent questions you will usually be able to get to a root cause of the problem, which you will hopefully be able to fix by improving the design of your website.
Everyone needs a good wingman/woman
Once you have a platform to work from, start meeting with key members who will be at your pitch informally, take them for a coffee. For example, if the customer service manager has said that they have seen an increase in complaints directly due to a problem with the website, resulting in extra overtime, which has subsequently increased costs, find out what has caused that issue, engage them and then leave them in no uncertain terms that the solution you are proposing will help ease these problems.
Have sales leads dipped on the website? If so, speak to the sales director, find out what impact this has had on sales? Do leads via the website have a higher conversion rate than cold calling? If you could deliver “x” % more leads, what affect would that have on revenue? Whatever the problem is, find an angle where you can make a difference, but get key people on your side prior to the meeting. You need to have allies in the room, just like you need a good wingman/woman when approaching a pair of strangers in a bar.
Flirting – practice makes perfect
Once you understand the problems and have worked out a good angle toapproach the pitch from, practice in front of the mirror, to your friends, colleagues, wife, husband, and anyone who will listen. Good sales people and presenters are not naturally born with the gift of how to pitch and present. It takes practice, much like refining your flirting techniques over time. You know when a bad one liner doesn’t work, so you wouldn’ t use it again, right? So whilst practising your presentation flow, if something doesn’t work or feel right, you know not to use it during your pitch. When the time comes to actually pitch, it should not be the first time you have gone through the material. It should be the 5th time, at least. This isn’t to make you word perfect, but so that you know the material and understand the flow of the presentation. Read Scott Berkuns book, confessions of a public speaker to find out more about how to prepare for public speaking and pitching.
Getting to first base
Once you have worked out an angle to approach the pitch from having questioned key members of the team, now you need to work out a way to deliver your message and solution in a compelling manner that will really hit the mark with your manager. This often does not involve pulling together a big pitch. Sometimes it can be a 5 minute hard hitting off the cuff chat, check out my posts on pitching UX creatively and getting sign off in 60 seconds to find out more. You have to decide what will work best within your organisation.
If it’s a full on pitch your boss wants though, you must follow some tried and true sales techniques when structuring your pitch:
- Set the scene – show the problems currently afflicting your site (From your questioning of managers).
- Show the impact of those problems on the business in real terms. I.e. less sales leads are coming in therefore revenue is down X %. Break it down for your manager.
- Get positive reinforcement abd buy in from your allies in the crowd that the above are true. Don’t be afraid to ask them to confirm the impact and potential upside.
- Once you have everyone in agreement on the problems, confidently tell them you can fix these in X weeks, with a cost of X. The solution will drive an estimated X % more sales leads, therefore X more in real revenue. Again, break it down in real terms for your manager.
- Keep it simple, don’t use jargon or big words for the sake of it. ‘Inline contextual help” means nothing to your manager and will only alienate him and make him feel stupid. Keep it simple and to the point, focus on the real benefits of your solution to the business, not the features you will apply to get there.
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