[NOTE: This guest post originally appeared on Bold and Determined on January 16, 2014.]
Note from Vic: Recently my email inbox has seen an epidemic of people who want my help with their product but don’t know how to ask me properly.
When you ask somebody for a favor – somebody you don’t know – you aren’t really asking them for a favor, you are pitching yourself. You’re not selling your product, you’re selling you.
If you don’t pitch properly guess what happens? Nothing. And nothing is the exact opposite of something.
Before I give the mic to Ludvig I want to show you one example of how not to pitch to an influencer.
Subject: Yo Fat FUCK! Stop RUINING MY LIFE
YO Victor, why are you so hateful?
Great, excuse me for my language, I had to get your attention as you are a successful entrepreneur who does not has time for regular Joe’s, neither do I and that is what I like about your website.
Would you like to check out my website, if created it using your guidelines and it can be improved more, would you give me some small advice? the url is: deleted.
you can contact me on deleted.
Have a nice day Uncle Vic,
So and so
Now you know how not to pitch, time to learn from the master on how to pitch properly.
In the past year I’ve pitched a lot of people via email, over the phone, and in person. I’ve had some success in doing this.
I’ve got a background as a phone salesman selling newspaper subscriptions.
Being a phone salesman is one of the least gratifying jobs that exist – when you don’t sell. But it’s very fun when you do sell. There’s a reason salespeople use terms like “made a killing”, because that’s what closing feels like.
Most people are very uncomfortable talking over the phone, and I was no exception when I first started. It was absolutely brutal, but from that job I took some valuable lessons that have proven useful ever since – like learning the basics of pitching.
When you pitch people there are certain things you’ll want to keep in mind. These are the things I’m going to tell you about.
Note: If you’re going to be a professional blogger you need to pay attention and learn this stuff.
Things to Think About When You Pitch
The most important principle to think about anytime you pitch is this:
Am I making it as easy as possible for the other person to say “YES” to my offer?
The second most important principle is this:
Don’t waste people’s time!
Know what you want and don’t fuck around.
Before launching into my pitch, I asked three questions: “How many of the end-uses for rayon must be covered in your campaign?”
Answer: automobile tires, furnishing fabrics, industrial products, women’s clothing, men’s clothing.
“How much money is available?”
“How many people must OK the advertisements?”
Answer: the twelve members of the Committee, representing twelve manufacturers.
“Ring the bell!” I said, and walked out … Too many masters, too many objectives, too little money. –David Ogilvy
Pitching via Email
When you pitch via email you should abide by the following rules if nothing else is specified:
- Keep it short and simple.
- Be clear in what you’re asking for, saying, or offering. There should be no doubts to the other person about what your intention is. State this in the subject line.
- If your pitch requires it, make your opening sentence interesting. Write it in a way that inspires curiosity to read the rest of the message.
- Refer to things you’ve done in a non-bragging and professional way. Social proof is always powerful.
The reason you want to do these things is because you will save the other person time by providing relevant and easily understandable information. This makes it easier for the other person to make a decision.
People dislike having decision anxiety, which is why they’ll like you when you do these things and make their lives easier.
Learn to Adjust the Pitch to the Situation
The agencies which are most successful in new business are those whose spokesmen show the most sensitive insight into the psychological make-up of the prospective client. Rigidity and salesmanship do not combine. –David Ogilvy
Different situations call for different pitches. No two situations are the same.
This is true not only about pitching via email, but pitching in general.
Even though it’s usually a good idea to work by certain rules of thumb, you need to be ready to drop all that and adjust your pitch if the situation requires it.
I recently met an older woman at a party. She had written one press release which she had sent to several newspapers to get publicity for her company.
None of them had accepted it.
Why didn’t they accept it?
Because she hadn’t taken the effort to adjust the pitch to each newspaper. Her press release was way too general. It wasn’t newsworthy enough – it wasn’t remarkable.
Sometimes You Need to Stick to the Rules Despite Being Told the Contrary
I recently pitched a guest post to the biggest self-development blog in the UK.
On their site it says:
“Don’t worry about writing a fancy pitch or impressing me with credentials. Life’s too short for all that malarkey :)”
So what did I do?
They say not to do a formal pitch, but that’s just so that the losers won’t be scared away.
But what does this mean to you?
It means that it’s even more important that you abide by the 4 basic rules for Email-pitching, because they already get a ton of shitty emails and proposals.
You’re competing for their attention.
As you can see, I’m making it very easy for them to say “YES” to me. I’ve provided everything. No extra work is needed on their side.
And how did it go?
I guess it actually pays to bother with “all that malarkey” and impress people with credentials after all…
(In this example it’s a guest post being pitched, but this is essentially how you’d go about pitching anything to a busy person. The fundamentals are the same.)
What Did I Do Here?
- I was to the point. There wasn’t a single unnecessary word in that email. It was an easy read. I even attached an image, told them where I got it, and how long my post was. I saved them time and energy by providing everything they needed to say “YES”.
- I resolved all possible objections they might’ve had, before they even arose. There was no need for them to ask any further questions.
- I identified with their position by saying “I understand how much mail (and pitches) you must be getting”, which, as you saw in the second image, turned out to be absolutely true.
- The message looked professional. I showed my previous writing and made it easy for them to check me out.
- I used social proof. First I mentioned that I have a fast-growing blog (this is risky, don’t do it if it’s not true), and when they check out my blog they see it’s correct. Second, I mention being a contributor to LifeHack, that’s also somewhat impressive. Third, I have written a book, that stands out too. Fourth, I tell them the number of comments on the post and that I was the first person to do a guest post at Bold and Determined.
These things are necessary to use in order to grab the attention of someone who is very busy.
Word of caution:
You do want to make use of these things, but you don’t want to come off as braggadocious. If you have to extend the email just to brag, don’t.
Remember, brevity is of the essence. Short and succinct = powerful and persuasive.
If you want to immerse yourself in a good case study, read Bold and Determined for an entire day and look only at Vic’s comment answers. I’ve done it myself.
I’ve included a couple of the helpful programs that I frequently use in contacting people:
- The Alexa Toolbar to get a gist of how popular a site is and see if it’s worth your time pitching them.
- The WiseStamp email signature to look more professional. You can include your site, social media profiles and a picture of yourself. Personally I think the picture is important because people connect with people – not faceless entities.
- Boomerang for Gmail. This program helps you schedule emails and follow up on interactions if you use Gmail.
- Windows OneNote or EverNote for keeping a digital commonplace. This is where you will collect useful information such as URLs, keep it in one place, and easily find it later. These two programs are great for building your contact list, which we’ll get to shortly.
And don’t worry, these programs are all completely free. The only exception is OneNote. It costs you money if you’re not a Windows user.
Start Building Your Contact List NOW
If you keep a digital commonplace –which you need to start doing if you aren’t already – you will create separate tabs inside of it entitled “CONTACT”, “GUEST POST SUBMISSIONS”, “PITCHES”, and so on.
Starting now, every time you see a website/blog/company/person that you find interesting and would like to pitch or get in contact with, you’re going to copy and paste the URLs to these sections.
The reason you’re doing this is because it’s going to save you a ton of time later.
After a while of doing this you’ll have a huge amount of people and organizations to contact. This is what you will do every day from now on. You’ll make it a seamless part of your daily routine to contact people for various reasons such as pitching, networking, and asking for advice.
At first you will feel uncomfortable contacting people. But don’t let that stop you. Let that be your motivation for doing it!
People are nicer than you might expect.
Rejection Means Try Again
Approach rejection the same way you would when a girls says “NO!” and giggles. Keep at it.
Ask politely if you can get feedback on why your pitch wasn’t accepted. If you do get some feedback, be grateful that the person took the time to answer. Never argue or get defensive.
Then ask if it would be OK for you to pitch them again. If they say yes, read the feedback you got carefully and follow it to the best of your ability.
By doing this consistently you’ll improve your success ratio compared to if you’d just taken a no and walked home with your tail between your legs.
Even when your pitch is successful it can be a good idea to ask for feedback. Arnold Schwarzenegger did this every time after his bodybuilding shows – he always asked the judges for feedback. And well, the rest is history…
(This is also a good way of getting the other person to invest into the interaction.)
Persistence pays off.
So, is Your Content Good Enough or Not?
After having pitched your idea/service/product to enough people you should have gotten plenty of feedback just by seeing if people actually get back to you.
Regardless of what they say – so long as they respond – you‘ll understand whether or not you need to work on your ability to pitch via email.
If you keep getting rejected (but not ignored) that means your content needs work.
Before You Start Pitching, Keep This in Mind
Remember the two most important rules:
1. Make it as easy as possible for the other person to say “YES”. Resolve objections before they even arise.
2. Don’t waste people’s time.
Now you know how to craft an email pitch, use programs to your advantage, build a list, and deal with rejection in a productive way.
But there’s one more thing you need to know before you begin pitching. And it’s important.
When you start out you should first target smaller, less famous sites/people to build referrals and social proof.
You’re then going to use these as leverage for getting on the radar of the big dogs. The reason you need to do this is because they’re busy –and you need all the tricks you can find to spark their interest.
If you don’t have any leverage, chances are that you’ll either be ignored, or possibly laughed at.
Consider yourself informed.
pitching hunting boys!
About the author: Ludvig Sunström runs Start Gaining Momentum where he writes about practical self-development and gives no-nonsense tips for becoming more efficient and stepping up in life. He is also the author of Breaking out of Homeostasis, a book about claiming more control over your life by overcoming the brain’s innate mechanism for staying the same. Feel free to connect with him on Twitter and Google+.