The adrenalin is pumping but you’re trying to sound professional. This elusive pitch / meeting with Mr / Mrs Big took months to set up. And as you present the opportunity, you sense their attention drifting…and then come the difficult questions.
Here are two big reasons why fundraising pitches and asks which could have succeeded, often get torn apart on the jagged rocks of the donor’s objections.
1) The fundraiser thought their first job was to present information (eg about the possible partnership or where the money goes etc).
2) When objections arise, the fundraiser defends what they said against the objection.
Whereas in fact, your job is:
1) To say and do things that will help the other person want to say YES.
2) To align with the person who has the objection, and solve it with them.
Get prepared to be able to really persuade
For the nine years I have had the privilege of working with thousands of fundraisers who have wanted to be more successful. I have found there are five things that every fundraiser needs to know about reducing and handling objections. I help people apply them using my SAURA Gold System. Given how high the stakes are in these key meetings, if you don’t know these five ideas, your job is probably much harder than it needs to be.
Here is the first idea. For entirely understandable reasons, given the way information is used by your senior colleagues in most charities – most objections stem from the fundraiser saying the wrong things in the pitch.
Are you preparing a pitch that covers all the bases in the brief, and that is entirely logical? However much common sense this makes, if you do, you will continue to get lots of difficult questions, and it will be hard to get the gift or partnership.
The reason for this is explained in Oren Klaff’s Pitch Anything. He shows that we have both a modern, analytic brain, the neo-cortex, and the much older, limbic brain (what Seth Godin calls the lizard brain) which reacts in terms of basic desires and survival instincts. Pitching to the other person’s neo-cortex is an open invitation to Object and Ask Difficult Questions.
Anthony Robbins’ explains influence in this way: Contrary to the popular view, people do not buy what they need, they buy what they want. If we really needed our smart phone, we would have literally struggled to survive 10 years ago. Marketing messages have created a wanting, which we justify as a need. There are specific ways to create a want. If you are not designing your pitch in order to create a WANTING in your audience, you will continue to find yourself on the back foot, handling critical questions fired straight from the neo-cortex of the donor.
You will never eradicate all objections. But studying the psychology of influence will help hugely (eg Try Robert Cialdini’s Influence, Science and Practice>, or Oren Klaff’s fascinating Pitch Anything). You will become more shrewd in helping them view you (not them) as the prize. So they’ll object less and say yes more.
When you start to read more deeply into this, there are many tactics to practice. But for now, the most powerful advice I can give you is to find and practice far more stories than you currently do. Stories are different to case studies. Case studies often lose their power when sanitised and written down. Stories are short, real, concrete anecdotes, and usually involve people.
There are two kinds of stories which are essential:
A) Stories which evoke the problem that exists. (ie your cause – how bad things can be; or the business problems their company would like to solve).
Evoke the motivations they would like to move away from. As Anthony Robbins tells us, ‘an undisturbed prospect will not buy’.
B) Stories that show the impact of your charity in solving these problems.
This might seem obvious but it is different from what most of us prepare. Most people try to explain what your charity does, eg to solve the social ill or indeed to help the company increase footfall to its shops or raise staff morale.
What you do can be interesting, but whether or not it is effective (ie showing that it does prevent young women refugees from being raped or it does help the company get more customers) is far more powerful in making them WANT to be your partner.
Align with them
When faced with an objection, the most common mistake is to defend your point of view. Defending requires opposition, and opposition hinders persuasion.
As Blair Warren says in One Sentence Persuasion, ineffective influencers seek to correct and convince…instead, the very best influencers seek to validate and intrigue.
Align yourself with the person who raised the objection. You don’t need to agree with what they’ve said, but you do need to empathise with why they might have said it, and find something in their original intention that you could respect and respond to.
I will explain how you can apply these two ideas in practice, as well as sharing the other three ideas from my SAURA Gold System, when I present, Handle the objections and win the deal on 1st July at the IOF Convention in London. This will include my tool for preparing a neat re-frame for their most likely objections.