Pitch perfect


Whether it’s $50 million in venture capital funding or a pay rise for yourself, there are times we all need to persuade others to achieve what we want or think we deserve.
Key Takeaways
  • Top tips: know your yourself, know the other person, build your capability and be able to flex or change
  • We tend to persuade others in the way we ourselves are persuaded
  • Take a growth mindset and as your career progresses, get better and better at being persuasive
target with arrows in the bullseye centre
Image source: Getty Images

How do you make the perfect pitch? Persuasion isn’t a skill we learn at school, although it is a necessary skill for success.

Multi-million-dollar pitch coach Michelle Bowen believes there’s four main approaches to persuading the people around us.

“It’s got nothing to do with gender. It’s how you pitch. It may be that women tend to gravitate toward one or two of those types more than men do. So it may show up as if it’s a gender thing when it really has nothing to do with gender. It’s to do with your personality,” she says.

Personality is not related to your gender, and when we have to persuade someone, we tend to fall back to the approach that worked for us last time, she says.

“That can mean that sometimes we win and sometimes we lose. If you know the formulas that great speakers follow and you learn the formulas and use them, it doesn’t matter if you are virtual, live or whatever, you are going to be successful.

“It’s all about bringing those actions out of your metaphorical communication toolkit so you crack out the thing that they most need in that moment.”

The four types

Wise Owl – persuades with message credibility, thoughtful, logical, make good use of external proof

Commanding Eagle – good at establishing personal authority, confident, powerful, experienced. These people own the room.

Friendly Budgie – establishes goodwill, caring, warm, thoughtful, connected, use eye contact, remember your name and listen properly when you speak.

Captivating Peacock – enthusiasm and passion for the matter, animated, charming, charismatic, expressive, tell great stories that give perspective, take you on an emotional journey.

Every type of persuasion has its downside.

Owl – analysis paralysis

Eagle – overbearing

Budgie – don’t forget your own needs when considering those of others

Peacock – can be a bit too much, a bit overbearing and in your face

“The hilarious thing is that we tend to persuade others in the way we ourselves are persuaded. But we’re not trying to persuade ourselves, we are trying to persuade others.

Based on our personality, we all have a preference for one, sometimes even three of those types, Bowden says. We also have a least-preferred type.

“The key here is that most of the time that we are persuading, we don’t realise we are. We need to recognise the persuasive moment. Often, you don’t have a lot of time to think about what personality you are trying to persuade.”

To combat this you have to know your own preference, be able to pick it in the other person, ideally develop your capability across all four approaches so that you are strong in all four birds, and then adapt or flex your approach to what is required, and ideally, unconsciously, she explains.

“If you work hard at making all of the various actions of the four birds your habit, when you find yourself in a persuasive moment you can naturally do what you need to do in order to persuade the person.

“Sometimes you just have to wing it. If you did just want to wing it, it doesn’t require any emotional intelligence because you’ll just do what comes naturally.”

Top tips: Know your yourself, know the other person, build your capability and be able to flex or change.

“Over time, if you can take a growth mindset and develop some of those actions so they become your habit, you will, as your career progresses, get better and better at being persuasive.

“Anything that makes you more persuasive tomorrow than you were today should be celebrated,” she says.

Top tips for protecting your pitch:

Resourcing – give your pitch team members time to focus on the deal.

Boundaries – set clear rules for each new pitch; set boundaries around people’s roles, communication expectations, processes.

Managing fear – denying, blaming, justifying and quitting are common under stress. Plan to avoid them.

Role modelling – develop a code of conduct that outlines what sort of behaviour is acceptable and ensure your leaders follow it.

Michelle Bowen’s latest book, How to Persuade, the skills you need to get what you want, is published by John Wiley & Sons Australia.