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Out of the Elevator and in the Bullpen

CEBU, Philippines - I was about to enter the elevator, when my guest, David, motioned towards the stairs. We went down four flights of stairs leaving the elevator serviceable for the group of students behind us. Throughout the three-minute short descent (he got long strides, and I got short but quick steps), he started his anti-elevator pitch – why we should start using the stairs instead of the elevator. His reasons for not using the Otis invention were convincing enough for me – saves energy, which reduces the electric consumption, which leads to greater energy conservation.

For climate change expert David Noble, his anti-elevator pitch was a clever way to sell his idea. With that pitch, he encouraged me to start changing behaviors, which may seem innocuous, but when added up, are environmentally devastating and ecologically crippling.

I was completely sold by his anti-elevator pitch that I’ve never used the machine since then. My law classmates never knew the reason behind my aberrant behavior. They all thought I was severely claustrophobic.

On the other hand, elevator pitches are 1-3 minutes sales speeches ideally delivered during quick elevator rides to introduce one’s self and one’s product, service or idea to another, and how the latter can benefit from the use of the product, availment of the service, or adoption of the idea.

There are plenty of ways to make a pitch. It follows, too, that there are tons of places where pitches are thrown. Hence, let us momentarily step out of the elevator and I shall bring you to where pitches are practiced and delivered – right in a bullpen.

Before we can start throwing baseballs, let us first get acquainted with the phases of pitching. Experts have identified five different phases, but for the sake of parsimony, this discussion shall only mention three: cocking/preparatory phase, acceleration/delivery phase, and follow-through phase.

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The cocking phase begins when the shoulders, elbows, legs, knees, hips, and arms (in that order) are in motion. The acceleration phase happens when the baseball leaves the fingers of the pitcher. The follow through phase occurs from the point of ball release to the completion of motion.

These three phases can be used to illustrate how to deliver sales pitches. In Toastmasters, or in any organization for that matter, we need to hone this useful marketing skill. A well-oiled pitcher is one whose movements are smooth and continuous. So, too, for a seasoned salesperson, his pitches must be smooth and continuous and delivered within a relatively short period of time.

The cocking/preparatory phase. This phase is where everything is ready to be set in motion. This phase includes gathering information about the features, benefits and values of the product, service or idea. It also includes knowing the target audience. The key is to identify the usefulness and uniqueness of your proposal to the audience. Baseball pitchers’ cocking stances are unique to them, but they never step foot on the pitcher’s mound without preparation.

The acceleration/delivery phase. Having gathered the pertinent information and prepared for its delivery, the acceleration/delivery phase is where the message is delivered to the audience. The pitch must also be right on spot and within the strike zone. The key is to make the message sound important, fresh, and interesting. Baseball pitchers throw a variety of pitches such as fastballs, breaking balls or changeups to keep the batter hooked, and the play fair.

The follow-through phase. Having relayed the message, the follow-through phase is where the target makes time to react. If the pitch was crisp and well-thrown, the audience will ask always questions. The key is to make the follow-up discussion lively. Baseball pitchers can see the reaction of the batters 18 meters away. It is also on this phase that they regain composure to get ready to throw another pitch.

After the pitch, the baseball either connects with the slugger’s bat, or lands safely in the catcher’s mitt. In our narration, we intend for the baseball to make contact with the bat. After all that exercise, we certainly do not want the batter to be swinging, and missing the baseball, right? Yes, the baseball. The message of our pitch. And verily, the point of this here, our pitching lessons. (FREEMAN)

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