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I was asked last week, in an interview as part of the ANZ Business Ready program at #IdeaNation hosted by B-School, what makes a great pitch. Even though a third of my new book Ready To Soar is dedicated to answering that question, I think there is one element that appeals to me most and that is how well the ‘pitcher’ engages with the listener.

All of us in small business pitch for one reason or another. Whether it is to suppliers, customers, banks or potential investors, we need to get the story straight on what we are wanting to achieve.

The thing is, what appeals to me in a pitch may differ from someone else you are pitching too. Have we not seen countless times in pitches on Shark Tank that what appeals to me may not appeal to Steve Baxter or any of the others and visa versa?

Therefore, empathy and understanding about what the listener may be interested in becomes critical to a pitch.

One of my all time favourite pitches from Shark Tank was Scott Boocock from Hegs. Here is an excerpt from Ready to Soar where I talk about his pitch:

Tell the customer story
As soon as you are in front of your potential investor tell your well-practiced vivid story that describes the customer problem. It is important to put your potential financial partners in your world. In each season of Shark Tank literally 100 people would pitch. I would often marvel at how quickly (or not so quickly) I would ‘get’ what they were talking about. One pitch that captured me within the first 30 seconds was Scott Boocock’s HEGS pitch from Shark Tank series one: ‘I found myself standing at the clothes line, trying to work out how to hang my wife’s little black dress so that it did not get peg marks or blow away…I thought “this peg needs hooks”.’ And he went on from there. As soon as he told the story of the problem he went on to talk about the size of the ‘peg’ market – because he knew that none of those he was pitching to was likely to have any experience in the laundry industry.

Clearly there is more to a pitch than telling a story (and you will have to read the book to find out the rest) but I like to start with a story and then move to the numbers and other proof points to back up the story.

My ‘gut’ served me well in the case of Scotty and the peg with hooks known as Hegs.

Hegs chief executive and founder Scott Boocock says “the Shark Tank experience has been a game changer for Hegs Australia, with the business growing beyond all expectations, and the Hegs extraordinary story reaching across the globe”. He quotes a 800% growth rate year-on-year.

Since March last year Hegs are now sold in Australian retailers such as Woolworths, Harvey Norman, Good Guys and Aussie Disposals, along with our inaugural retailers Foodland and Drake Supermarkets, and online with RedBalloon.

In the last twelve months Hegs has begun to export to more than 20 countries around the world and its packaging is translated into more than fifteen languages. The South Australian factory currently assembles 80,000 Hegs each day, providing work for six Australian manufacturing plants and nine Australian assembly service providers, including Orana, which provides employment for people with disabilities. In June 2016 manufacturing will step up to 160,000 Hegs per day to keep up with international demand.

This is just in one year – Hegs has also won awards in Australia and overseas for innovation. This innovation was literally staring Scott Boocock in the face and it is an Aussie story that I am so proud to be a part of.

It all started with the telling of a great story. Pitching is really storytelling with facts.

This article first appeared on Smart Company

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