The last piece of the Pitch Practice structure of a great pitch is “the ask”, and it’s probably the second most difficult piece to get right. Most often, the problem statement is the hardest, but once you get that right, it doesn’t change much. The “ask”, however, might change every single time you say your pitch because your audience might change every time.
Gary Vaynerchuck calls it “jab, jab, jab…right hook” or “give, give, give, give, ask.” We have to give value to our audience before we earn the right to ask for anything. That makes the ask in your pitch even harder and even more important. If you don’t provide value to your audience, your “ask” will fall on deaf ears.
In practicing our pitch, we make it clear that you have to ask for something, because at some point, as an entrepreneur, you’re going to have to ask for money, either from a customer or an investor or both. So, you’d best get used to it, practice it, get comfortable with it, because it’s not going away.
With that in mind, how do you now what to ask for? Here are some ideas.
- Ask for something you can control, if possible. If you’re in an elevator with Paul Judge, and you get the opportunity to say what you do, are you going to give him your card, or are you going to ask him for his? Right! You ask him for his, and ask his permission to call and set up the next meeting (the only goal of the elevator pitch).
- If you’re raising money, that’s your “ask”. Own it. Be specific, and say exactly what you’re going to do with that money.
- Knowing your audience is key. At Pitch Practice, the goal is to get better, which requires feedback on your pitch. That’s an easy way to practice asking for something specific: “I would really like your feedback on my pitch.” See how easy that is?
- If you want the audience to do something, like download your app or follow you on Twitter, make it really easy for them to do it. It’s at this point that you learn whether or not your Twitter handle or app name is easy to understand.
- If you’re at an investor event, like Venture Atlanta at the Georgia Aquarium, and your ask in your pitch is something like “Come by our booth”, make it very specific, like “Please come to our booth number 1234 right in front of the Coffee Station”.
- Remember that the audience, however small, has given you permission to talk. Asking for something makes it about them and not about you. Remember who the star of your show is. Hint: it’s not you. It’s your audience.
Adjust to your audience, particularly with your ask. When you pitch, you are almost always asking for something, even if it’s “Vote for us to win!”, so you should (a) know your audience before you pitch and (b) get very comfortable with asking for whatever it is you want from your audience. It might be referrals, advice, feedback, a vote, or if you’re pitching investors, money! Ask for something you can control, whenever possible, but always, always ask for something.
Over the past 3 years, we’ve received quite a bit of value through offering Pitch Practice. We have been told that the free, open, weekly meetup is a valuable part of the Atlanta startup ecosystem, and for that, we are very grateful. Now we are asking for your help to launch the Pitch Practice podcast to #1 on iTunes’ New & Noteworthy category. All you have to do is subscribe, rate, and review the podcast on June 27th. Will you help us? Click here to join the launch team.