How to make the perfect pitch in corporate America

So you’ve finally come up with the next big idea for your company — now you just need to convince your boss that it’s the right thing to invest in. Pitching to corporations is very different than pitching to venture capital (VC) investors because risk tolerance, motivations and success metrics are typically very different. Whether you have just a few minutes to gather interest or a half-hour meeting to make your case, here are six tips to help ensure you get approval for the next step.

Get their attention.

Just because you’ve been granted time to pitch your idea doesn’t mean that you’ll have your audience’s full attention. But if you don’t grab their focus early on, the rest of your pitch won’t matter.

Make sure you can describe your idea clearly in one sentence (two at most) so you can remember it easily, and highlight the potential impact your idea could have early on rather than waiting till the end of your presentation.

Make it relevant.

Most corporations are focused on efficiency and incremental improvements, so they’re generally less risk tolerant than startups or VC firms.

With this in mind, tie your idea to current business initiatives, company strengths or target markets that are well understood. If your idea is totally foreign to your company’s business model, it will likely fall on deaf ears.

Back it up with data.

No matter how much potential your idea has, a risk-averse exec won’t be convinced without supporting data. Data is your best tool for getting skeptical leaders to see that your idea has legs.

Do research in advance to show that your idea is desirable to customers, feasible for your company to execute on and viable in the market.

Outline a game plan.

Ideas are a dime a dozen and aren’t worth much without follow through.

Outline a realistic plan of action with clear milestones that you will achieve as part of this new initiative. If you can’t create a realistic plan for how to execute, you aren’t ready to pitch your idea.

Be passionate but objective.

Execs want energetic leaders for a new initiative, but need leaders who can see things objectively and make tough decisions.

Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.” You won’t have the answers to all questions at first, and pretending that you do will only harm your chances — and your reputation.

Be prepared to pivot.

Even the best-laid plans fall victim to the fog of war. The same goes for business models.

Don’t get too attached to every part of your idea. Take your boss’ advice and contributions into serious consideration. Even better: Ask for guidance and mentorship from senior leadership. There is no better way to get support for a new idea than by asking someone to help shape it.

Have you ever made a pitch for an idea within your company and see any advice we missed? Let us know in the comments below.

 

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