If you're experiencing anxiety about an upcoming meeting, it could be because after months in semi-isolation you're thinking of it as a pitch, and are making the outcome all about you. Here's how to get back to the core principles of making a sale in-person:

1. Don't Pitch

Most of my clients are founders in the creative sector, so they are often seeking support for projects which have yet to be made. The beauty of any nascent project is that it can be co-created with input from the buyer to perfectly suit their needs. Yet very often there's a temptation to craft a perfect pitch, using PowerPoint, video, or slides, giving the illusion of something that is fixed and immutable.

We pitch like this because we want the buyer to love what we're selling and say yes to our proposal. The problem is that when we pitch at a potential buyer, they can become completely focused on hitting it out of the ballpark. In fact, the very moment you start to pitch, they're trying to figure out how to say no.

Think about the last time you bought a car. All you wanted was the chance to take it for a spin and experience how you felt behind the wheel. An enthusiastic salesperson listing all of the car's features and promising you'd love it could only have detracted from your experience.The moment they started to pitch, you were figuring out how to make a fast escape.

Your client is not your adversary. If they agree to your idea, you'll become partners, and you'll end up tailoring your offer to their needs--so why not treat them as a teammate from the get go? Instead of an adversarial pitch, pass them the project. Let them see what it feels like in their hands. Let them make a suggestion or two before passing it back. Feeling like a co-creator in the project will foster an early sense of shared ownership.

2. Build the Offer Together

When you're selling a finished product off the rack, the sale will likely be made on quality, price, prestige, or how well the same thing sold in other markets. But when you're enrolling a potential buyer in anything remotely original, it helps to keep the conversation fluid. Even if you're pretty certain about what you think you ultimately want to sell, make it feel like you're designing it to order--not just for them, but with them. 

You may know you have a flair for grilling on the barbecue and have some great jumbo prawns in the freezer. But if you ask, "Would you like to come over for some spicy barbecued prawns next Thursday?" you're not taking into account the possibility that your potential dinner partner may be allergic to shellfish, hate spicy food, had a traumatic incident involving fire, has an aversion to al fresco dining, and is not free next Thursday. It's way better to break it down, starting with the most important element:

  • I would love the chance to cook for you. How would you feel about that?
  • What date would work best for you?
  • If the weather is good, I was thinking it could be fun to have a barbecue?
  • I'm curious, do you enjoy spicy food?
  • I could grill some meat, fish, or vegetables, depending on what you like. I noticed my fishmonger had some amazing jumbo prawns I could prepare--how does that sound?

When every element of your offer is negotiable, by the time you've finished, you'll have turned your guest (or reluctant buyer) into your dinner party planner. They will be salivating at the exciting promise of a meal they've helped create, and they will be looking
forward to the lightness and fun of collaborating with a founder who already feels a lot like a business partner.

3. It's Not About You

It's no wonder that, after lockdown, we long for the feeling we get when a buyer finally says yes. Attachment is a personal contract founders too often make that says, "If they want what I'm offering then I'm a success, and if they don't want it, I'm a failure."

Being attached to a positive outcome, or even just to being liked, can make us so focused on ourselves--what we're offering, and how we appear--that we stop being curious, and we don't tend to the needs and wants of whoever else is in the room. Even when they are the buyer.

Being committed without being attached is a new contract with yourself that says, "I will do everything in my power to make this happen, but I will not make the outcome all about me." This way of being includes the possibility of experiencing lightness and fun.

When as a founder you're committed but not attached, you'll say things like, "I had a thought I'd love to share with you," "How about this?" "Maybe we could try it a different way?" or "I'd love your input." And when we're on the receiving end of someone who is committed but not attached, we feel much more free to try out whatever it is they're proposing.