Foundation Sales Skills



Perfect Pitches

Nick Fawbert
/ Categories: Sales, Toolset

In an earlier tutorial, we discussed AIDA. You can read more about AIDA here.

It remains the most powerful foundation for sales and business development in existence, but it has a shortcoming: it’s a one way conversation.

The emphasis on preparing and delivering a tight script means little consideration is given to the individual needs of a customer.

That means it works best when your customer is already familiar with the types of products and services that you offer.

The question is what you do when it’s a new set of products or services that not only need a customer to recognize the opportunity, but also to understand how it fits in with their existing practices.

For this, we need a new way of thinking.

For that we need to create a two-way conversation… …and for that we need DIPADA.

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.

But first, let’s get a little context.

A Media Revolution

In the UK the media landscape had been stagnant since the launch of commercial television services in the 1950s.

The cost of TV technology had dropped, and that meant that into the 1970s and 1980s TV audiences were surging. In ITV – the only commercial channel – there was a one stop shop for massive brand awareness, and the marketing industry built itself around flagship ITV campaigns and drop-dead amazing TV commercials.

Job done.

But in the 1980s new TV channels started emerging firstly with Channel 4, and by the end of the decade cable and satellite networks like SkyTV had opened their doors.

Lowered costs of production were also creating a new market for high quality magazines, and in the 1990s the advent of the internet delivered a whole new host of opportunities for marketers to acquire new customers.

But for these newcomers this presented an existential crisis…

Big brands were happy with ITV, so a new type of sales team needed to go back to marketing first principles to demonstrate their value and attract new customers.

DIPADA was the perfect platform for success.

It allowed new media companies to go back to first principles with their customers and target the entire marketing funnel.


I can’t source the introduction of DIPADA as an acronym for a sales framework.

It may have surfaced initially in the 1970s, but it may equally have come from the late 1940s or early 1950s when there was a flurry of sales techniques being introduced to satisfy the post-war boom in the US.

But what is clear is the transition from ‘presenting new products’ to ‘satisfying customer needs’.

DIPADA is a tortured but popular mnemonic that addresses a six stage framework for pitching:

  • Define the problem
  • Identify the solution
  • Prove your capability
  • Agree an outcome
  • Stimulate Desire
  • Drive Action

It builds upon the simple premise of AIDA to provide inspiration to the pitch and relevance to the customer.

It works because it not only provides a structure for a casual business conversations, but it also provides a structure for an effective formal pitch.

The casual application of DIPADA is even apparent well outside the business environment. If you’ve had conversations like these, you’ve just been subject to DIPADA:

Hi sweetheart, looking forward to seeing you tonight, how's things?

I'm bored

Well perhaps we should ditch another sad night in and find some entertainment?

Really, how?

You remember that film you loved – Prometheus – well, the sequel is out.

Oh yes?

Yes, it was filmed in IMAX and I hear it's pretty spectacular!

When's it on?

Well, not only is it on now, but I’ve already booked us a taxi at 7pm, Gold Class cinema seats.

That sounds excellent, let me check what time I'm leaving work.

If you let me know straight away I can book us a table for two afterwards at that Italian you like.

OK, I'll sort it out. Book it!

Your significant other has raised the problem of a boring night, proposed a night out as the solution, done all the hard work and built your enthusiasm based on a previous success.

All you have to do is agree.

So we know how effective the approach can be.

It works just as well in business.


Putting a customer in the right frame of mind revolves around establishing you and your services as a problem solver. We need to focus on three key motives:

  • Relevance
  • Importance
  • Urgency

We know that launching into a prepared speech about the virtues of your products and services does none of the above, so we need another approach to get us going.

We are going to generate interest by solving a problem that is quite specific to your customer, so finding out what your customer problems are is a critical process.

To seed a conversation, sources of potential problems are abundant:

  • Government policy
  • Consumers
  • Industry bodies
  • Industry experts
  • Competitors
  • Colleagues
  • Customers

If you’re looking to kickstart a conversation about problem solving, insight and observations from those sources are the best place to start.

But as we progress down the list the importance and relevance of those problems start to scale noticeably.

In the final assessment your customer is only ever going to invest in solving those problems that are unique to them.

That means third party sources are often great stepping stones to build customer confidence, but that’s all they are.

Your primary source is the customer themselves, and that means they need to tell you.

Defining problems leverage two key skills:

  • Questioning technique
  • Listening skills

Your questioning technique reflects the way in which you can use contextual information like current events, industry challenges or competitor activity to prompt insights and clarifications from your customer about their own situation.

Hi, I saw the government announced their commitment to technology and e-commerce in their next five year plan. How is digital transformation going for your team at the moment?

Or there are more risky approaches that go right to the heart of the matter:

Hi, I saw your competitior launched their new e-commerce site last week.

It looks great, but I think it can be beaten.

How are you responding?

Your listening skills reflect the way in which you can distinguish between those problems to which you can only offer empathy and support, and those to which you can offer specific and actionable solutions.

It’s a bit hit and miss at the moment. We have some incredible knowledge in the team, but getting that out there and starting some new initiatives is proving far more problematic.


Translating customer needs into specific and actionable solutions lies at the heart of a great pitch.

An effective approach picks out all the relevant issues and offers them back to customers for affirmation:

…and that’s where we are at the moment.

It’s a great challenge, it looks like we have some issues to address

We need to establish a baseline knowledge of digital opportunities across the company to create a desire for change

We need to develop expert practitioners who can put these ideas into action

And we need to drive creativity and innovation to keep the company one step ahead of your competitors.

If you get agreement, that’s the right time to move on to the next stage, if not, find out what you missed.

A great solution covers the whole problem, not just the products and services your company supplies.

Your ability to recognise and summarise the situation in terms your customer recognises and understands is they key to establishing authority and credibility.


The core of your pitch is proving your capability.

Don’t overreach, pick the points that speak to your core competency:

…so we have a lot going on at the moment, I don't really know where to start.

We help our customers in three of those areas…

Firstly a platform for sharing foundation knowledge that they can explore in their own time

Secondly live workshops where they can put new ideas into play to solve existing business problems

Thirdly expert seminars and challenges where we can inspire innovation and lift your business to new heights

Establishing proof means demonstrating the potential outcome, and leverages another key skill (called FAB) that we explore in more detail in another article:

  • Explain how a feature of your product or services…
  • Delivers benefits to your customers…
  • That offers them an advantage in solving the problem

Effective pitches will focus on a very limited number of provable benefits and provide performance or testimonial evidence to support them.

It may be that you can offer secondary solutions, but your main task is to build an initial working relationship. You can explore these options at a later date.


Don’t be afraid to ask:

...those are the three options that have worked for others in your situation.

How would these work for you?

They look interesting.

If your customer recognises the opportunity, it’s time to move on to the next stage.

If they don’t, ask what they feel are the weaknesses of the solution and aim to address them with more evidence, reassurance or new ideas!


To build desire, aim to support the motivation and incentive for your customer to act immediately.

Aim to visualise the outcome, focus on the benefits and advantages the customer derives, and don’t be afraid to create urgency around areas like:

  • 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

This is often characterized as 'What’s in it for me?'

What do you see as the outcome?

It reduces the time and cost of staff development by 50%.

Customers we work with tell us that they experience so much more energy in the team, greater motivation and excitement, confidence and commitment, creativity and results.

They’re beating their targets and collecting their bonuses.


As illustrated in AIDA, the primary customer action we need is a confirmation of intent.

Typically, this means listing the activities needed to progress, the proposed solutions and the expected outcomes.

Then ask them outright if you are good to move on.

How do we move this forward?

Well, if we get going now, the whole process would take around three months.

That would be just in time for the Christmas rush.

I will see you next week.

Book it in.

We need the nod of the customer and permission to proceed.

The Big Stage

The beauty of DIPADA lies in its scalability and transferability.

Not only does it work in a conversational style, but it also applies to major presentations.

If you’ve done your homework well, and worked hard at establishing business context and challenges that you can overcome, DIPADA provides an effective formula for everything from PowerPoint presentations to keynote speeches.


DIPADA builds upon the simplicity of AIDA to add another layer of complexity, but the beauty of the framework is that it not only offers a view of the overall process, but that it gives you specific actions to focus upon.

  • Define the problem
  • Identify the solution
  • Prove your capability
  • Agree an outcome
  • Stimulate Desire
  • Drive Action

As with all frameworks, success will lie with your ability to use and apply the process in a seamless, casual manner.

Get Started

The easiest way to develop DIPADA skills is through role playing:

  • Imagine customer encounters and scenarios
  • Establish likely problems
  • Identify solutions that your company can resolve
  • Create a library of handy proof points, from research to testimonials
  • Rehearse your approach and take advice from your colleagues

There’s no greater test than the real world, so next time you’re out and about, put the principles into action and see where they take you!

Good luck!

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