Amazon’s hit series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel recently won an Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series. Set in the 1950s, Midge Maisel’s idyllic life is upended when her husband leaves her, starting her down a path that leads to her discovering and developing a talent for stand-up comedy, making new friends and, most of all, finding new ways to express her personality. Can Midge’s experience teach you to do a stand-up job with your sales pitches?
Fear is an emotion that we can all relate to, especially as a new business venture tests us at every turn. Business leaders in growth companies have to wear many hats and pitch to an endless set of prospects and partners, facing possible rejection each time they pitch.
Rachel Brosnahan, the actress who plays Midge Maisel, has described that fear, saying: “I’m still nervous every day. Comedy is horrifying, it’s absolutely terrifying, it’s the worst thing I can imagine anyone doing to themselves. It’s stage fright like I’ve never experienced.” This from the actress playing a comedienne, whose outcome has been pre-determined by the writers. And she can find out what happens if she just flips ahead a few pages in her script!
For the rest of us whose outcomes are not determined by Hollywood screenwriters, we’ve got to face our fears each day while discovering and honing our talent like Midge. Here are some lessons Midge taught me that can help you be marvelous at your next sales pitch.
Hone Your Pitch
First, I loved how Midge honed her comedy act. She didn’t follow the conventional wisdom of the day and merely “borrow” Bob Newhart’s material. Even before she took to the stage, she did extensive research, tracking another comedian’s laughs in a notebook. She recognized that even a holey sweater could help you introduce yourself in a way that others can relate to, and that how you deliver that insight is everything.
Midge drew on her own experiences. Big failures led to big successes. From her dramatic family dinners came fantastic rants.
Sales pitching should be similar. Do your research. Listen to others. Hone your pitch to convincingly transform what you’ve learned through research and at the school of hard knocks into an insightful and convincing presentation.
Borrowing from that old chestnut, how do you get to the Comedy Cellar? Practice, practice, practice. Practice your pitch every opportunity you can. Tell your neighbor, your dog, your kids, your electrician, your butcher! Midge seized the opportunity to squeeze in a funny story before introducing a band. Whether it’s at a backyard barbecue or talking to a definite tire kicker at a tradeshow, practicing your pitch helps you see what message lands and what doesn’t.
How better to hear where jargon is creating a hang-up and that you need to provide a simpler, clearer explanation? If your barber or hairdresser can’t understand your vision, why are you sure the CEO at your most important prospect will?
Practice will ensure you get it right before you go for the big venues.
Take Good Counsel
When you’re practicing and talking to others, you’re certain to receive a lot of free advice. Midge’s parents, in-laws, and friends never hesitated to weigh in on how she should proceed. But even the people closest to you may not be able to provide the counsel you need. They know you well, but they probably don’t know your market or your business challenges.
Find good counsel. You can’t plan to stumble into opportunities accidentally, like Midge did when she bailed out Lenny Bruce or when she found a terrific manager who recognized her talent. But you can surround yourself with coaches and advisors to support you as you develop your pitch. Whether you use a marketing firm to conduct market research, or network through industry associations to find a contact who can keep you tuned into your prospects’ top-of-mind issues, the advice you take can help you find the best audience and deliver the most compelling pitch.
Ready to Be Marvelous?
Katzcy has helped many tech firms hone their pitches. Whether it’s providing industry insights, fine-tuning your slide deck and presentation materials, or filming you practice your delivery to provide feedback before you get in front of your biggest clients, we can help you be marvelous at your next sales pitch.