You had me at hello...
The line above is from the 1996 hit movie Jerry Maguire starring Tom Cruise and Renee Zellweger. Looking back, this film produced several lines that have become part of our everyday vernacular. For example, who hasn't said "Show me the money!" as they went out to close a deal? Or maybe you remember the famous interrogation scene in the Dark Knight when the Joker maniacally shares with Batman that he has no desire to kill him because " you complete me." And finally, there's "help me to help you," the battle cry of all good consultants. Jerry says this as he tries to understand the needs of his one remaining client.
But back to the incredibly romantic "you had me at hello" finale. After coming to several important realizations, Jerry walks into a room full of women and delivers a meaningful and impassioned speech to win back his now estranged wife, Dorothy. It's a powerful speech but I'll admit it - it's hard not to choke up when Dorothy says "shut up - just shut up - you had me at Hello." Cue the violins, hugs all around etc...
I'm no psychologist but I think there's a reason this scene resonates with us and moves us. The idea that the very first sentence - in fact the very first word - of his "pitch" could have won over such a tough audience is powerful. Yes, I realize we're applying a great deal of meaning to a Romantic Comedy here. It's the movies, it's Tom Cruise, it's 1996 (he would have texted her from the airport if the movies was made today) so I recognize it's pretty far from everyday reality.
But let's face it, we're all in sales at various times in our lives personally and professionally. Whether our goal is to win over the officer at the BigCo Foundation or persuade the one we love to spend their lives with us, we're often engaged in the fine art of persuasion. What could be more powerful than knowing - or at least buying into the idea - that the opening line of a speech or presentation could have such power, connection and the ability to move hearts and minds?
Since my hunch is that most folks that read this will be mere mortals and not movies stars, here are three suggestion to help you deliver your version of "hello" when you do your next big pitch. Chances are the President of BigCo (substitute the name of Your Big Prospect) won't say "you had me at hello" but you may have a better chance of sealing the deal if you:
1. Know Your Client/Prospect: In Jerry's case, he had some history with Dorothy and they both knew the other's history and baggage - he even addresses this in his speech. Do all the back research possible on your prospects so you know their hot buttons, what works and doesn't work for them and pretty much anything else you can find. And don't just Google them! Network, ask around, email your linkedin contacts that know people they know and do some serious Bond-style sleuthing.
2. Know How Can You Help Them: Now that you know everything about your prospective partner, you of course know how to deliver. In the business world, this can be fairly straight forward: Come up with a solution to their problem. In a nonprofit setting, be able to define HOW and WHY your service or program connects with the objectives of a funder or collaborator. It's critical that your offering be delivered flawlessly to the point where they'll brag about their partnership with your organization. It's equally important to confidently ask for the value that your organization brings to the table.
3. Say It Right Up Front: While anticipation can be fun in certain circumstances , this isn't one of them. I noted in a recent post that the average attention span for adults has dwindled from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds as of 2013. Tell your prospect why you and you and your organization are a fit right up front when you've got the best shot that they're paying complete attention. Even better, can you find that word or sentence that can capture the essence of what you offer (your own version of the "Maguire Hello")? It's worth it to spend some time on this possibility. Once your prospect or client knows you've got what they want, let the rest of your pitch be the icing on their birthday cake.
See you at the movies!
Robert is an Executive and Business Development Coach. You can read him here or on www.younonprofitnow.com