Are you a fan of the TV show Shark Tank? I know lots of business owners who are. It’s interesting to watch both from the perspective of the small business owners pitching the investors, and from the perspective of seeing what information the Sharks want to know to decide if a business has a chance at being successful.
And while there are certainly some hits and misses (did you see the “Man Candle”??), Mark Cuban has said that the worst pitch in five seasons came from two doctors who wanted capital to build a social network to connect doctors and patients.
So why was the pitch so bad?
“The problem was, they didn’t have a business,” Cuban told CNBC. “All they had was a list of buzzwords. So they liked to use ‘security’ and ‘encryption’ and ’email’ and ‘social media,’ and the more questions I asked, the less they had in response.”
How can you avoid ending up as chum in the shark tank when pitching your own business? It’s important to know what kinds of language you should be using — and what kinds of language you should avoid at all costs.
That’s why I put together a cheat sheet — the Words to Use in a Pitch worksheet — as part of the Perfect Pitch Destination Guide.
The guide includes word-for-word scripts, step-by-step formulas, and examples of winning pitches in many different industries to help you increase your confidence, make your offer stand out, and quickly and easily craft your own perfect pitch.
The full Guide is available only to Business Class members, but I’m making the Buzzwords worksheet, with lists of terms to use and those to avoid and a place to brainstorm your own power words, available to you for free today. Just click here to grab it now.
Use industry terms
Every industry has terms specific to it that people outside the industry may not be familiar with. Screenwriters might talk about story beats, while actors talk about leaving a beat in the dialogue, and musicians talk about beats in a measure — and they all mean different things. Your industry almost certainly has jargon like this as well.
When you and the audience you are pitching to are in the same industry, you can feel comfortable using industry terms that you will both understand.
Because you want to frame yourself in a powerful way, you want to come across as an expert. One way to demonstrate expertise quickly is to use insider industry terms and jargon that signify that you know what you’re talking about.
However, you do not want to talk over the other person or use words they don’t understand. If you’re a computer programmer and your audience is an investor, she may not understand your jargon about code, and you do not want to make her feel stupid. But both of you understand business and can talk about things like profit and loss reports or conversion rates.
Use authentic words
Authentic words have to do with your personal style and personality, and it’s important that you inject your pitch with these kinds of words as well.
Too often business owners look at pitches as being important Business Opportunities (with capital letters), and it makes them get all stiff and formal — even if they would never speak that way in real life.
I once met a business owner who ran spiritual surfing camps for professional women. You might expect her website to be full of colorful surfer lingo and a warm and welcoming tone, but instead, her copy read like a lawyer had written it!
While she certainly didn’t need to add “Cowabunga!” and “Hang ten!” to the end of every sentence, the formal tone she had adopted to pitch her business didn’t feel authentic at all, and left the audience with a strange sense of disconnect.
Whether you love colorful metaphors, call everybody “darlin’”, or speak the Queen’s English, let your personality shine through in your pitch by including words and phrases that are authentic to you.
DON’T use clichés
The business world is full of meaningless clichés and catch-all phrases that will only dilute the power of your message.
Think about terms like “visionary,” “revolutionary,” and “synergy”; they’ve been used so often in business that their impact has become completely watered down.
The same goes for popular terms like “ninja” and “rockstar.” Unless you’re literally carrying around a katana or getting up on stage, you want to avoid these kinds of meaningless cliches.
Just like industry jargon, every industry has clichés that wax and wane in popularity. “Heart-centered” was one that was very popular in coaching businesses for a while, as was “badass.”
In business-to-business circles, I see a lot of people talk about being “results-oriented” (I should hope so!) and “empowering.” But these kinds of words get used so often that they start to lose all meaning.
I have more examples of cliché words and phrases in the Words to Use in a Pitch worksheet, part of the Perfect Pitch Destination Guide available only to Business Class members that walks you through every step of crafting a profitable pitch, no matter who you’re pitching or what you’re selling.
It’s important to educate yourself about the best practices of pitching, because it comes up so often in your business, and knowing which words make your pitch more powerful (and which don’t) you can get a leg up in your pitching.
But it all starts with communication, and if you follow these guidelines, you’ll make sure you’re communicating your power and position — without resorting to meaningless clichés.