Have you ever seen something you wanted so badly you nearly (or actually) shouted “SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!”?

Futurama gif Shut up and Take My Money

It’s happened to me, but I’ll never forget the first time I experienced it from the other side: when I was the one with something to offer.

I’ve watched this happen to my students & my friends. It’s unbelievably life-affirming and awesome, when somebody wants to give you their money even before you are ready to take it. It’s an act of faith.

I’d say it’s “magical,” but in fact, it’s something that comes predictably and repeatably from having & applying the right process for pitching your products.

Yep, you heard me – process for pitching.

Having a great product isn’t enough. You can have the best product in the world, but unless would-be customers start drooling when you talk, that best product is worthless.

That’s the power of a good pitch.

But before you read another line, let me admit something up front:

I make pitching mistakes on a daily basis.

Yup, it’s true. It’s sooooo easy to get off on the wrong foot with a pitch, even when you know exactly what you ought to be doing.

Here’s a scenario that happens to me a lot:

Potential customer at cocktail party: So, what’s Every Time Zone?

Me: Every Time Zone is a new tool for comparing times across time zones. It solves the problem of clunky time pickers and….

Whisssssssstle THUNK poof. This kind of “pitch” is a B-O-M-B bomb.

What’s wrong with this pitch? It’s the kind of thing we all see, and say, day in and day out.

It’s even the kind of thing that people “practice”, trying to distill their product down to a single sentence or two.

But it’s a total flub. Not just stylistically; I’m saying this form of pitch has never gotten me any meaningful action, ever.

There are lots of reasons, but here are the top 3:

  1. Boring as fuck. ETZ may legitimately be all these things, but wow, is that boring. Using sexier terms and punchier sentences, however, won’t solve the problem, because…
  2. Too abstract. All those abstract nouns — tool, time zones, time pickers. No imagery. But still, swapping out abstraction for concrete nouns won’t really help, because…
  3. Self-absorbed. I responded to the question that was actually asked, not what the customer is interested in.

In short: a total conversation-stopper. There’s nothing for my conversation partner to grab onto for a point of reference; there’s no room for them in what I’m saying.

The thing is, this totally ineffective pitch is what comes naturally. Somebody asks you “What is x?” and the most instinctive thing in the world is to respond “X is…” That’s even what they teach us in school: to answer in complete sentences.

It’s a trap!

This kind of pitch makes eyes glaze over and jaws go slack — it certainly doesn’t motivate anyone to reach for their wallets. And that’s the job of the pitch: to motivate action. Monetary action, or at least tell-me-more! action.

This is not “Shut up and take my money!” territory, folks. Not even close.

I’m telling you this because I’m a pitching expert. That’s how I make my living — from my products, and therefore from the act of selling my products.

Despite my limp-wristed Every Time Zone pitch above, I do know how to sell it compellingly: Hundreds of people put down their precious email address for the ETZ Pro launch announcement. People who are influential in our audience (people who work on remote teams) tweet about it, with enthusiasm.

And still the urge to respond “ETZ is…” is nearly irresistible.

The best way to conquer it is to remember to keep the focus on the customer. Don’t talk about “my product i,” talk about what the customer is interested in. Talk about a problem the customer has.

I’ve finally trained myself to ignore the leading question of “What’s Every Time Zone” and override the natural response. Now I say…

Potential customer at cocktail party: So, what’s ETZ?

Me: Do you work with people in other time zones? Yeah, me too. Ever goof up the time zone math? Everybody does. Or tryto find that ONE time that works for multiple people across multiple time zones? Right, it’s the worst! Have you ever missed an important meeting because you saved it in your calendar with the wrong time zone? So….

This is a pitch without a pitch, isn’t it? It’s really a conversation… it’s an opener. And it gets results.

The right people are intrigued by this point. Most of the time, they suffer through this dance multiple times a week, maybe even multiple times a day, and they never even thought to question if there was another way. So to hear me diagnose it as a serious problem worthy of attention? Their ears perk up so hard you can almost see their neck muscles pop.

The wrong people are clearly disinterested by this opener. Maybe half the time, this strategy gets negative results (“Nope, I don’t know what you’re talking about”) — but that’s valuable, too. Saves us both time and effort, because they’re never going to want ETZ and I can take the conversation in a different direction like talking about vintage chairs or art or our cats. 😂

This isn’t easy.

In fact, remembering to pitch this way is really hard. Even I have to ritually sharpen my own saw. When I haven’t prepared and practiced enough, I’ll run my mouth in Complete Sentences, answering the question asked, talking about myself or my product.

Take this episode of Patrick McKenzie’s podcast, for example, where I blather on about the history of 30x500 because I didn’t practice enough in advance. Whoops.

Bad pitching is a terribly hard habit to break, even when you know what you’re supposed to be doing. The cost of success is constant vigilance!

Because, once you realize that…

  1. The best product in the world won’t sell without a great pitch
  2. There’s no point in making a product if you can’t sell it
  3. The strength of a pitch must be backed up by the strength of the product

There’s only one conclusion to come to:

Get your pitch right FIRST with PDD.

If you’re a developer, designer, or a product manager there’s a good chance you’ve heard of things like test driven development (TDD), Behavior-Driven Development (BDD), even Acceptance Test–Driven Development (ATDD).

My approach of choice is PDD: Pitch First Development.

Craft a compelling pitch… then build a product to match it.

You know my deal by now.

Don’t create a product, then figure out how to sell it. Instead, figure out what (& how!) to sell, then create it.

Pitches are a critical part of figuring out what to sell, not an afterthought.

Work on the pitch — and on your pitching skills — instead of diving ahead and building a product you can’t even sell.

That’s what we do, and what we teach in 30x500, by the way.

Find a customer. Figure out what they want. Figure out how to communicate it. Then build it.

How do you make your first sale?

Follow our FREE roadmap from $0 to $10k and start your product business one small, achievable win at a time.

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Want to know more? Read all about 30×500 in nauseating detail

PS — Here’s a student review from James: Why bootstrapping is better than an accelerator program. Here’s a student review from Brennan, before he started making any money with what he learned. (Now, of course, he’s doing quite well indeed — that post’s about $2k of sales but he just told me he crossed the $10k mark today.) Noah wrote about his journey to earning his $1,000 in product revenue and 30×500 — Why?