AIDA – Simple Frameworks for Perfect Pitches
Learn how sales frameworks provide the recipe for inspiring pitches that drive business growth
It’s easy to get bogged down in an idea, product or service, or to prioritise personal style over business substance, but getting your pitch right means understanding the overall goals.
We need to find ways of effectively communicating an idea in such a way that it not only illustrates the concept, but that it does so in an impactful memorable way that’s easy to share between all stakeholders.
Effective pitches are about both art and science, and an effective framework for delivery combines both factors in equal measure.
Great business people constantly remind us that a picture is worth a thousand words when it comes to sharing great ideas, but like any portrait there’s a lot of ground work goes in first.
The one thing we don’t want to do is come across like a first-grade graffiti artist who scrawls out a half-finished slogan and then runs out of space.
It means we have work to put in – not only choosing the subject matter, but in selecting the points of focus and sketching out the initial framework before committing to the final masterpiece.
Get it wrong, and you’ve wasted everybody’s time.
HINT | Leveraging Frameworks
Great frameworks are like an inspiring recipe. They provide a useful set of ingredients and a general guide for execution.
They give you the flexibility to adjust, adapt and amend to suit your tastes. They empower you to showcase your individual skills and add in the unique ideas that keep people coming back for more.
The real success of a framework lies in your personal touch, the things that you do to make it special.
A successful framework often gets confused with an instruction booklet, but follow the instructions too rigidly and you’ll end up with a bland, predictable outcome that will be instantly forgotten.
So use frameworks wisely: capitalise on the crucial ingredients, but be flexible in your execution.
One Framework to Rule Them All
One simple formula underpins the majority of modern pitch techniques.
Whether it’s a one-to-one conversation or a formal presentation, we have four key ingredients we must leverage on behalf of our audience:
Without those four components all pitches are condemned to failure.
- Without attention our ideas go unseen
- Without interest our proposals go unconsidered
- Without desire our propositions go untested
- Without action our services go unused
In a formal setting it’s tempting to pursue those four objectives in a linear style, and it makes sense to consider them in that light.
Even so, it’s important to recognise that those ingredients must be maintained in a dynamic balance.
We can’t have too much of one to the detriment of the others, and all four components must be maintained throughout the process.
It requires constant attention to how you audience is reacting, and a flexible approach that allows you quickly to alter the balance as you go, to meet their needs and expectations.
AIDA – an acronym devised from attention, interest, desire and action – is documented as a sales process at least as far back as the early 20th century.
Its overriding benefit is simplicity. It’s easy to remember and easy to apply.
Its success derives from the fact that it is so easy to deploy at a moment’s notice. It provides you with a quick checklist for what you’re doing and why you are doing it.
It makes you think less about yourself, and more about how you are being received. It allows you to see yourself from a customer perspective.
What it won’t tell you is what to say – other frameworks such as DIPADA and SPIN are much more helpful from that perspective.
Grabbing a customer’s attention leverages three key attributes:
Typically, these are judged according to an expressed (spoken) or latent (hidden) need.
This is highly sensitive to the context, it’s about responding to the issues that are currently front of mind.
Thankfully in a business context this is most often around their business needs, but always try to be sensitive to the environment. Drawing analogies between the current situation and a problem you’d like to address is a useful skill to have.
For example, in one-to-one environments, this means ‘attention driving’ conversation openers are often establishing contextual relevance with key facts:
- Did you see…
- Have you heard…
- Did you ever…
Poor conversation starters are self-centred:
- I have this…
- Can I tell you…
- Will you…
But this applies equally well in a formal pitch environment.
Great pitch decks don’t kick off with a statement about your products or services, but with contextual challenges or opportunities that need to be addressed.
Maintaining a customer’s interest is about ensuring that your conversation remains relevant and that their investment in you delivers a pay-off.
This means that ongoing conversations tend to revolve around 'problem resolution':
- What are the biggest things that affect…
- What are your biggest priorities…
- How can we resolve…
- What does a solution look like…
Bad conversations revolve around products or services that don’t meet a need:
- We are leaders in…
- We have the best…
- Our latest product is…
In a formal environment where you're using a pitch deck or conversation is more constrained, great options are to present the challenges and obstacles that are faced by direct competitors, and examine the solutions they identified.
Use the experience of other companies as learning points: lessons to absorb or mistakes to avoid.
Building customer desire is about creating a motive to act.
In simple terms this is about ‘problem resolution’. We need to nail down a problem that our products or services can solve, and then create a roadmap for delivery.
This is typically the only time when we are talking about ourselves, and it’s limited only to those factors which meet a need.
The challenge with this approach is that whilst ‘problem resolution’ provides adequate motive to act, it fails to provide incentive to act immediately.
So, effective conversations revolve around both motivation and incentive:
- Risk factors like competitor activity
- Business factors like budget periods
- Time factors like seasonality
- Scarcity factors like availability
- Delivery factors like resources
- Financial factors like discounts
In a formal environment, great pitches will often involve sections of the presentation given over to timely incentives but couched in 'if... then' operational terms such as forecasted outcomes and projected benefits.
The primary customer action we need is a confirmation of intent.
Typically, this means listing the desirable activities, the proposed solutions and the expected outcomes.
We need the nod of the customer and permission to proceed.
In ‘small ticket’ environments where the product cost and associated risks are low, the secondary action point may simply be the opportunity to buy immediately. We deal with ways of doing this in other articles.
However, in ‘big ticket’ environments we often need to establish multiple activities on the route to purchase.
This means documenting a roadmap and establishing the action points and necessary customer confirmations at each stage.
Sensible pitches will contain structured payment terms at each stage of the process, so the customer is aware of the investment that you’re making and the costs they are incurring.
The AIDA framework is simple and by necessity limited.
It provides a top-line structure to assess sales activity both on a one-to-one basis and in more formal environments, and it reminds practitioners of the key components of effective pitches in a memorable format for instant deployment:
But like any framework, use it as a guide, not as an instruction booklet.
Developing effective pitch skills is about practice and execution, there’s little room for theorising and debate: AIDA is about speed and simplicity.
For one-to-one pitch practice there’s no better option than role playing:
- Create ‘briefing’ documents about your favourite customers
- Ask one colleague to play the customer and the other the pitcher
- Devise different contexts and occasions
- Trial different methods of delivering the AIDA process
For formal pitch environments:
- Review recent proposals or presentations
- Compare them with the AIDA structure
- Identify what worked and what didn’t
- Create a template for future pitches
Either way, it’s time to get going…