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5 steps for successful business pitches

Steps to a successful pitch

If you have a knack for delivering crummy pitches, you know firsthand how quickly success -- and investors, angel or otherwise -- can walk out the boardroom door. Most likely, it's your pitch strategy that's eighty-sixing your brilliant ideas and, thus, business prospects, says Dr. Eric Threatt, DBA.

A successful pitch -- no matter the idea or the audience -- relies on what Threatt considers a simple, universal process. In fact, Threatt says he's applied the methodology's five logical components throughout his 20 years as a strategy consultant professional for Fortune 100 and 500 companies, including IBM(r).

"I teach this to every single one of my students," says Threatt, who teaches graduate-level operation management and capstone courses in the MBA program for the School of Business at the University of Phoenix Charlotte Campus. "They have to understand that being able to think logically and strategically in a model like this will serve them well," and not just in pitches, he adds. Threatt advises following the methodology in this particular order:

1. Define the goal or problem.

Too often, Threatt says, people launch pitches by posing solutions, without clearly defining the problems. It's great to have a new software product, for example, but you also need to state the problem you wish to solve or goal you wish to achieve.

2. Identify critical success factors.

Critical success factors, Threatt explains, "are those things that absolutely, positively must happen in order for that goal to be achieved or the problem solved. They are non-negotiable." If your goal is to make a company financially solvent, then a critical success factor within a pitch would discuss driving down expenditures, he says. A product-based pitch should incorporate an evaluation of a competitor's profile and how, for example, to offer the product at a lower cost.

3. Address obstacles.

Pitches must address challenges, Threatt says. "If you have to raise $1 million [for example], but you don't have the collateral, an angel investor or the banking relationships to make it happen, you probably need to rethink your goal," he advises.

4. Name the solution, product or answer.

This is your brilliant business idea or innovative product, says Threatt. Sure this is where you started your brainstorming, but Threatt emphasizes that a successful pitch must end -- not start -- here.

5. Check yourself before you sell your concept.

The only time a person should start with a solution is before the pitch when you run a self check or, as Threatt says, "audit" your idea to determine its economic or strategic feasibility. You must ask yourself, stresses Threatt, if this solution overcomes the obstacles, and any identified critical success factors, to the overarching problem. If it does, Threatt says, the likelihood of a successful pitch is in your favor.

IBM is a registered trademark of International Business Machines Corporation.