Editor’s note: Whether you’re courting new clients, investors, or simply introducing your business to the neighborhood, it pays to be prepared—and no one knows the power of the pitch better than Precious Williams, a professional speaker, best-selling author, and founder and CEO of Perfect Pitches, an elevator pitch training service.
From a young age, Precious used storytelling to propel her career, from winning national pitch championships to training sales teams for corporate clients. She distills the fundamentals into six key steps to help you stand out from the competition.
1. Start with a surprise
When you begin your pitch, start off with a question, a startling statistic, or a quote. Why? Those who start off with their name and the name of their company—I promise you, nobody cares about that. Your audience wants to make sure you’re really speaking to them. You want them focused on you, so you have to do things differently.
2. Celebrate your difference
Let your perceived flaws be your secret weapon. I’m loud. I’m a full-figured diva. I grew up being told I was never good enough, skinny enough, pretty enough, but that didn’t stop me. Too fat, too Black, no Ivy League degree—and yet I’m a 13-time national elevator pitch champion who’s appeared on “Shark Tank,” CNN, and the Wall Street Journal. I didn’t get here by saying all the things that I wasn’t; I used everything people said was “wrong” with me to move me forward. As you celebrate your difference, others will too.
3. Embrace the unexpected
Be bold and unexpected in your approach. When you’re pitching to the media, you have to make sure that your difference is quantifiable and qualifiable. Others have always told me: “Oh, you need to be quiet, meek, and mild. Take a seat to the back.” No—you go to the front. That’s why I say be bold and unexpected, because they won’t know how to deal with you.
4. Tell a compelling story
You have to tell a compelling story when you’re giving a pitch. It could be your origin story. It could be the time you noticed a gap in the marketplace. What’s different or special about you? Why should I hire you in the first place? If you sound like everybody else, then you’re not bringing anything different to the table. You don’t want to use boring language to describe yourself, your business, your brand, or your product or service, so tell a compelling story and make yourself the Beyoncé of your story—not someone in the background.
5. Know your facts and figures
In addition to having your facts, figures, and statistics when you’re pitching to investors, you want people to know that you have people behind you—people who have bought from you or will purchase from you. [For example, my business Curvy Girlz Lingerie:] “Did you know there are 40 million women size 14 or larger in the United States, just like me, and we all want pretty underwear?” Always ask big, no matter what. You never know who’s in the room who can write a check for you, who loves what you’re doing and wants to partner with you.
6. Create your own lane
Create your own lane. If you’re a motivational speaker, if you’re the killer pitch master, or the world’s greatest florist or graphic designer, let that be known from the jump. You have to make sure that you create your own lane and have people come to you.
This content originally aired at Yelp’s virtual Black in Business Summit. Check out Precious’ session below. You can also register here for a live, virtual event with Precious on Thursday, Oct. 28 at noon ET (9 a.m. PT): The “Killer” Pitch: How to slay all competition.
The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.