It must be fun being star Wharton business professor Adam Grant. Not only do you get to enjoy the royalties from all those best-selling books and the approbation of flattering New York Times Magazine profiles, but you can also scratch nearly any intellectual itch that crops up.
For instance, if you're curious what billionaire entrepreneur and Shark Tank investor Mark Cuban knows about powerfully pitching your ideas, you can just call him up and ask him for a little demonstration.
"I wanted to learn from the best, so I sat down with entrepreneurs who mastered the pitch, made billions, and became investors themselves. Now they're on the other side of the table--they spend their days listening to other people's pitches. And I couldn't resist turning the tables on them," he wrote of his research for his book Originals recently on Medium.
He claims he learned three things from watching these business greats, including Cuban, in action.
1. Pitch the problem, not just the solution.
Hopefully, when you walk into a room to pitch your product or idea, you know pretty much everything there is to know about your niche. But don't forget that the person listening to your pitch is much less well informed -- and will probably need to be convinced not just of your solution, but of the importance of the problem itself too.
"Before people will believe that your idea will make the world better, you have to explain what's wrong with the world right now," insists Grant. Cuban understands this. When he pitched his app Cyber Dust to Grant, "he warned us that when sending an email or text message, 'The minute you hit send, you no longer own that message, but you are still completely responsible for it--for the rest of your life. How scary is that?'"
2. Involve your audience.
It's easier to tune out a monologue than an interactive discussion with real back and forth. Smart entrepreneurs (and employees lobbying their bosses) leverage this reality. Cuban demonstrated how you can achieve this, even if your time is limited, with his demonstration pitch.
"Mark spoke directly to the audience about how his app could solve their problem, and challenged them to reflect on it," reports Grant.
"Every message you send expands your digital footprint... anybody can take anything that you've said, add a little context, and turn you into a monster. Download Cyber Dust, you'll have access to me, I'll answer your questions, and you'll also protect yourself, and protect your future... Every time you send a message, I want you to think to yourself, 'I no longer own this, but I am responsible for it for the rest of my life,'" Cuban said.
3. Acknowledge your limitations.
Uniform positivity doesn't convey confidence. It conveys shadiness. If you can't frankly discuss the downsides of your business or idea, you're either deluded by arrogance or being less than forthright. Neither is a turn on for investors or anyone else you might be pitching your idea.
"The very worst judge of your abilities is you," Cuban told Grant. "We lie to ourselves... You have to look at yourself as if you were competing against yourself. If I were trying to put Mark Cuban out of business, what would I do?"