AND WHAT THEY CAN TEACH US ABOUT PITCHING
I have a dirty secret that’s written on my resume in invisible ink: I used to be a telemarketer. Please just know that most of the money I earned by telemarketing was spent on either beer or t-shirts with offensive phrases on them.
There’s a fundamental principle that’s pounded into the heads of any and all those who are brave enough to dabble in the telemarketing profession: Read the pitch script verbatim. No exceptions.
It’s easy to see that what works in telemarketing won’t necessarily work in an entertainment pitch. But while the pitches and presentations for TV shows and movies have infinitely higher stakes, it’s still easy to get lazy and tap into the same formulas.
This applies to all pitches. What telemarketing specifically amplifies are 2 things:
1) The beginning or introduction of a pitch is where you hook (or lose) the audience
2) Your audience could be having the worst day of their lives
That’s not bad advice but what happens with telemarketing: the scripts becomes innate. The precedent becomes reflex. No thought or inflection is put behind the words, whether it’s a pitch for the New York Times, or for the ultimate Snuggie.
And it makes you want to throw your phone into traffic.
Now, there certainly is something to be said about the value of the precedent and/or formula. I’m not saying that it should be completely thrown out, just that there’s room to breathe and tweak within it.
What if the person on the other end of the line actually spoke to you with a shred of humanity? Or asked how you were doing…and actually sounded legitimately interested? All stigmas of telemarketers aside, I argue that you’d definitely be more perceptive to continuing a conversation with them.
That’s what I did. I listened to the person on the other end, and tailored my pitch around the volume of their voice, inflection, accent, etc. Even if I wasn’t able to sell the person something, I had the highest rate of keeping people on the phone – I was consistently able to get them invested in the conversation.
Most of my success as a telemarketer was contingent on the following thought: “The person I’m calling has no interest whatsoever in what I’m selling.” Though it may initially sound defeatist, this thought process challenged me to relate to my “audience” all the more. It provided me with a context that forced me to communicate a flesh and blood humanity over the phone.
Pitches in any arena should be no different – it’s all about opening up the conversation. By the end of a pitch, the client should feel a sense of ownership in whatever is being presented.
I challenge you (dear readers) to do what I did whilst telemarketing: constantly identify sources of unconventional inspiration. Immerse yourself in different creative media; look to an unsuspecting, completely off-the-wall neighbor for inspiration; attempt to have fun.
Because really and truly, these are the kinds of things that made me, to this day, the highest selling telemarketer in my quaint Midwestern tri-region.