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An example of using a prop in winning a pitch

 In Message creation

A number of years ago I suggested to a client that they buy a crystal ball (they paid $500 for one) to be used in their multi-million dollar pitch presentation to a prospective client. I’m not suggesting you do the same when you’re pitching for a significant piece of business, but do suggest you think about what prop, or other device or image you could use that would be positively memorable in the mind of the prospect – and that could give you the edge in winning the business.

Let me explain the thinking behind recommending the use of the crystal ball and why it would be silently selling my client in the longer term. The pitch occurred in the late 1990s. In the consulting with the pitch team we were searching for something that would hook the client to listen. The crystal ball was suggested because it tied into the key message of the pitch. That is, how my client’s company was able to help the prospect positively handle the imminent changes in their market landscape.

Here’s how the lead pitch person opened the pitch. (holding up the crystal ball) he said: “Imagine we could gaze into this crystal ball . . . what would it say about your company three years from now –  in October 2001 . . . (placing the ball in front of the CEO prospect he continued) . . . let me tell you what I see and how we can help you ensure you keep your market leading position as your market landscape is radically transformed”.

My client went on to flesh out the key message and the upshot was that the business was won. But in addition to a large piece of business being won, there was an additional benefit. When the crystal ball was bought we had the prospect’s company name engraved on a name plate at the base of the structure on which the ball was mounted. We believed, that whether the business was won or lost, the CEO prospect would not discard a crystal ball with his company name on it.

We believed (and it was proven to be true) that the CEO would place the crystal ball in his office. This is where it became a long-term, memorable prop, ‘selling’ my client’s company. That is, over the years people would comment on the crystal ball and the CEO would relay how he received the ball. The CEO would mention the pitch and potentially mention my client’s company to the person who asked.

In this way the crystal ball would be working for my client, intermittently, in small ways in the long term.

There is a caution on using props and it is this. You need to go through a discussion of how the prospect will perceive your use of the prop. If the prospect will perceive it as cheesy, don’t do it. Before deciding to buy the crystal ball we went through a discussion of the prospect perception. We decided that the prop would not be viewed as cheesy – rather that it would be perceived as novel and positive. Please note though, that most people are too conservative when considering what props could be used to hook the audience and/or to drive home the key message. If your discussion about the prospect perception of you using the prop is positive, go for it. It could be the edge that wins you the business.

The ‘how to apply’ for this post is: Before you do your next important presentation brainstorm what prop, image, video clip could be used make your presentation/pitch positively memorable to the client/audience.


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