Recently I was watching a high school baseball game. One young pitcher was quite talented, and several people were talking about how well he used and sequenced different types of pitches (for those of you who don’t follow baseball — curved balls, change-up, fast balls, etc.). One man made the statement, “Every pitch has a purpose.” That made me think about the various types of pitches and how important they can be in our professional careers.
We have all heard related phrases like, “pitch an idea,” or “make a pitch for….” The goal of “making” a pitch is to get buy-in from others or approval from a boss or some authority. We have watched colleagues do them with great finesse, and we have watched others fall flat. Are there any rules or guidelines for pitching an idea?
Sometimes, staff are asked to engage in brainstorming sessions. Before it starts, someone goes over the ground rules — all ideas are acceptable, no evaluation, no negative feedback, quick thinking, out-of-the-box suggestions. While these exercises may be an enjoyable break, rarely do great ideas come from them.
For a new business idea to actually be successful, it generally needs to combine creative thinking with detail. It must include a value proposition. Why would a company do it? What will the return on investment be for the company? What will it cost in money and resources? How long will it take to make it happen?
Before you bring a pitch forward, do background research. Be sure your data are current and complete. Always check past company history. Has your idea been suggested or tried before? What happened? Perhaps the boss hated the idea (if so, don’t waste your time). Or the cost figures were incorrect. Or others sabotaged the effort.
Be certain you find some champions for your idea before you make the pitch. Their support will be essential during discussion. If possible, choose your timing. A good idea may fail at the end of a contentious staff meeting or when the boss is trying to get to the airport on time.
As with all proposals, keep your pitch focused and present only what is necessary for a good overview. Include a more detailed written plan at the conclusion of your pitch. Lay out the necessary next steps, and try to get agreement to move forward at least a few steps before the next meeting.
To make a good pitch, you need to be motivated and enthusiastic. You should anticipate and be prepared for hard questions. Most importantly, do not become defensive or angry. That can lead to recklessness, even professional disaster.
During your career, not all of your pitches will be successful. You will win some, and lose some, but similar to pitching in baseball, preparation and practice, as well as focus and confidence, will make the difference.