Passing “The Eyebrow Test”: How to win your next pitch by perfecting your patter

Does your elevator pitch pass the “Eyebrow Test”?

Coined by Sam Horn, founder of The Intrigue Agency, the phrase “Eyebrow Test” refers to an instantaneous feedback mechanism that can make or break the future of any entrepreneur pitching to an investor. It can just as easily derail an emerging leader selling a big business idea to her leader(s).

Sam Horn, who has trained some of the world’s top entrepreneurs and executives to communicate clearly, compellingly and convincingly, says that when you introduce yourself or your idea to someone for the first time, “If their eyebrows don’t move at all; it means they’re unmoved.”

If, however, their eyebrows go up, Horn explains, your pitch has succeeded. “They’re engaged, curious,” she explains. “They want to know more.”

Think about the last time you introduced yourself or your business to someone new. Be honest: did your introductory patter bore them? Confuse them? Or did they lean in a little closer, interested and engaged, ready to learn more? In other words, did you pass – or fail – the “Eyebrow Test”?

Jeanne M. Sullivan is the Founder and Chief Inspiration Officer of Sullivan Adventures, an advisor, connector, speaker and angel investor. As co-founder and an investor in the venture capital business for more than 25 years, Sullivan has been part of venture teams investing in 100 companies and has judged many business plan competitions. As a result, she’s seen literally thousands of pitches by entrepreneurs.

“Why, then,” remarks Sullivan, “do I continue to be surprised when a talented and dynamic individual with an outstanding pedigree blows it when they describe their business?”

Four Points for Perfecting Your Patter

Sullivan refers to a quick, well articulated overview of one’s background, business or product as “The Patter”. But when it comes to presenting their Patter, what do many people show up with? “Lots of talk, talk, talk,” she says.

Here are Sullivan’s tips on how to perfect your patter, for the next time you need to pitch yourself, your business or your idea.

1.) What’s the point?

According to Sullivan, getting your patter down starts with turning complex business platforms or models into simple, easy to understand and compelling stories.

The first step, advises Sullivan, is to write your story. “Describe the business, the vision, and goals. Define your ‘unfair competitive advantage. You will face competition, so how are YOU going to win?”

And whatever you do, “Don’t’ start with a demo of your product” says Sullivan. “Most investors want to hear the ‘Business of the Business’ first.”

2.) Net out your background

Have you had a varied business career? If so, Sullivan advises you to “net it out”. In other words, you must connect the dots for the listener so that they understand you are a subject matter expert.

Have you experienced business failures? “Turn them into learning experiences and talk about lessons learned,” Sullivan suggests.

3.) Make it repeatable

In order to make the most impact with your Patter, Sullivan advises you to speak in bullet points that are not only easy to remember, but easy to repeat. She adds, “Use humor and be brief. Don’t you know? Most people have the attention span of a flea!”

In fact, Sam Horn will tell you that a Goldfish has a longer attention span than a human!

“Talk it through with people you trust who can give you feedback, and refine your patter over time. Make it as succinct (and compelling) as possible.”

The greatest danger, according to Sullivan, is that you won’t get the second meeting, be it a job interview or an investor pitch. But if you present an intriguing and memorable story, your listener will soon be telling that story to his or her boss or partner. They will win the second meeting for you, all because you made your story repeatable.

4.) Know your numbers.

Finally, if you are heading into an investor pitch or trying to sell your big idea to your senior leaders, Sullivan implores you to understand the numbers. “It is critical,” she says, “to be able to answer the following:

• What are the capital needs over time?
• How will the business scale?
• What is the pricing model?
• What are the revenue streams?
• What are the margins over time?
• What are the drivers to the business to get to break even?”

Don’t be intimidated, Sullivan says, adding, “You can learn this stuff! Get someone at your side to teach you the financial skills required.”

The Takeaway

Sullivan has one final word of advice for budding entrepreneurs and emerging leaders: “Your patter is figured out. You know the numbers. You are ready to pass the Eyebrow Test. Now, go get the meeting!”

Read more about the “Eyebrow Test” in Sam Horn’s new book “Got Your Attention?” and at Sam’s website www.samhorn.com

Connect with Jeanne M. Sullivan on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Jo Miller

A leading authority on women’s leadership, Jo Miller is a sought-after, dynamic, and engaging speaker, delivering more than 70 speaking presentations annually to audiences of up to 1,200 women. Her expertise lies in helping women lead, climb, and thrive in their corporate careers. Jo has traveled widely in Europe, North America, Asia Pacific, and the Middle East to deliver keynotes and teach workshops for women’s leadership conferences, women’s professional associations, and Fortune 1000 corporate women’s initiatives. Jo is CEO of leadership development, consulting and research firm Be Leaderly. Learn more about her speaking engagements at www.JoMiller.net and follow @Jo_Miller on Twitter.

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