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Provin' It: How to Make Your Case, by John Forde

    • 1367 posts
    June 26, 2019 4:25 PM PDT

    Sneak Preview: What's the best way to prove your point in a pitch? How about a bunch of ways...


    June 25, 2019

    Provin' It: 
    How to Make Your Case


    "Truth is the beginning of every good
    to the gods, and every good to man."

    - Plato

    What's the point of "proof" in a sales pitch?

    We've said before that it's there to build trust. It's also there to "show" rather than "tell." Not to mention, proof that's well presented can simply entertain. 

    Preferably, while it simultaneously sustains the original sales message. 

    All I know is that when I go to buy something online, let's say on Amazon, I follow a pattern. After a keyword search, I scan a product's specs. 

    That's where you'll find what's called factual proof. 

    Then I immediately scroll down to see other customers say. 

    If the product has nothing but four and five-star reviews, plus glowing comments, there's a good chance I'll buy. If there's even one well-written negative comment, I might balk. 

    This is the power of what's called social proof. 

    Most kinds of proof fall into one of those two categories. 

    How much proof does it take to close a sale? Naturally, that depends on what you're selling, who you're selling it to, how new or unknown it is, and how outlandish your promise.

    In just a second, we'll brainstorm a few of those kinds of proof. 

    Generally, you'll want to aim for quality, not just quantity. That is, every piece of proof needs to be clear, simple, and enlightening if not shocking. 

    For your Legal team, it has to be well cited. 

    And it doesn't hurt if, instead of an unrelenting barrage of facts, you hit the good folks you're writing to with "proof in threes." Meaning, three quotes or three charts or three stats and so on. And then, as a guideline, not a rule, take a break for a little narrative before you launch back into your thoroughly researched smorgasbord of supporting detail.

    Okay, let's take a look at what some of those extra useful proof points might be, in no special order.  Straight out of the gate, you've got... 

    Tests, Stats, and Studies - This is the raw academic stuff, the kind that usually comes with "As Dr. So and So said"... "At Harvard, they found"... and the like. Raw, convincing, and powerful if used sparingly. Too much and a reader's eyes will glaze like a hungover sophomore's in a lecture hall.

    Charts and Infographics - Nothing says "show not tell" like a visual illustration of your point. Here's the thing, though. Make sure your charts and the like only prove ONE point, not dozens. Make them simple, label well, and then spell out what they say.

    Before and Afters, and other pictures - Before and after shots are a sales letter staple for a reason. They're a fast way to show results. And, if they involve a person or even a customer, to put a human face on it. Other pictures can "prove" too, like pictures of a product guru, a kind customer service rep, or proof of product success. Just make sure you avoid that generic "stock photo" look. 

    Testimonials and Other Social Proof - What other better way to show progress in action than to hear from a customer who loves the stuff that's up for sale? These days, this is the Amazon Principle. Or the Yelp Principle. Quotes, thumbs up, star ratings. Again, though, resist the urge to polish submitted testimonials until they sound like poetry. Authenticity is key. 

    Quotes & Third-Party Validation - If you can get high-profile press, celebrity experts, or any other kind of mention for your product, that's pure gold. Make sure to feature these in the copy with callouts, ripped-paper graphics, or similar. Independent review letters also work. Hire an auditing service for your results, for instance. 

    The Good Ol' Bank Statement - For anything about making money, a picture of your growing bank statement, canceled checks, or even stacks of cash can give a credibility boost. For other products, think similar metaphors. Say, a doctor's report for a health product, a picture of your old pants in the trash for a weight lost product, and so on. Track record is really its own category, but I'm going to toss that in here too. When you've got results, show 'em as many ways as you can.

    Demos and Case Studies - Really want to show an audience that a product can work? Then drag it out on stage and show 'em. Do a video demo of the product in action. Tell a customer story. Or heck, tell your own rags-to-riches story of transition if it fits. Origin stories are a kind of case study, after all. 

    Awards & Other Seals of Approval - Those little blue ribbons from some board of standards, the secure-order stickers, the mention of quality or customer service awards that you've one... these all help prove your trustworthy, even at a glance. 

    Money-where-your-mouth-is Guarantees - Guarantees aren't just for removing the fear of risk. They also prove you're an upstanding organization, with principle enough to stand behind what you sell. Graphically, you can also represent that with fancy guarantee borders. But it's the content of the guarantee that matters most.

    Jargon, Clipboards, and White Coats - Sometimes, as we said, proof isn't purely logical. It's almost subconscious. This is true when you drop vocabulary that proves you know your stuff. Or when you look the part, like a doctor in a white coat. 

    A Peek Under The Hood - Of course, in lots of pitches, too much technical stuff could bore a reader. But sometimes showing just a little bit -- say, a formula, the factory where something is made, a glimpse through a microscope -- will prove that there's something substantial going on. The prospect doesn't have to understand it, and you shouldn't waste too much time explaining it. But let them know it's there.

    Actualities & Metaphors - These are as much about wordsmithing as they are about proof, but good writing gets specific enough to paint a picture. Actualities are what we call those details. Good writing also uses comparison to make new ideas feel comfortable, clear, and familiar. It is, in fact, the soul of creativity itself, finding connections to rooted ideas.

    That's a nice full list.

    Oh, and one more... 

    Admitting a Weakness - Where hype can be poison to a pitch, showing a slight chink in your armor can be its own kind of subtle proof. We also call this the "Achilles Heel Effect." What does it prove? That you're real, that you're human, that you've made mistakes so I won't have to. 

    No doubt you'll think of lots of other clever ways to make your case. Come at it like a clever defense lawyer. And, to be sure, you can't go wrong by starting with this list.


    Prove your point:
    Proof of concept:
    Oh, and...
    No need to prove this: All the above is © 2019 by John Forde.

    BY THE WAY, if you ever want to share one of these CR articles in a blog, in an email, in a book, on a milk carton... or one of those banners they hang on the back of airplanes at the beach... GO AHEAD! You've got my blessing.
    Just promise you'll include a link back to my website. And don't forget to encourage your readers to sign up for the $78 worth of gifts we give away to new subscribers!

    This post was edited by Rebecca Hunt at June 26, 2019 4:25 PM PDT