These days, we’re always selling something to somebody. Meaning: No matter who you are or what you do, you could always improve your pitching skills.

Think about it: If you’re a freelancer, you’re pitching your talents. If you’re in PR, you’re pitching an idea. If you’re networking, you’re pitching yourself. And if you’re a proactive employee, you’re pitching your boss on a promotion, a raise, or an idea for a new way to do things.

On that note, here’s my guide for pitching anything to anyone—and getting a yes.

Prepare Your Message

Be ready to answer the all-important question “What’s in it for me?” Even if it’s not directly asked. As you’re preparing your pitch, make sure you’re doing the research that’ll allow you to get inside the person’s head. Good things to answer during your prep work include: “Why would this person say yes? Why would he say no? Or even hesitate? How can I address that off the bat?”

Choose Your Venue

This sounds obvious—yet so often people pitch an idea en route to a meeting. Or at the tail-end of a lunch. Or any place where the person you’re going after is not in the right mindset. By choosing the appropriate venue, you’re telling the person that this is an important meeting, and you’re taking it seriously.

Time it Wisely

This goes hand in hand with picking the right location. Be sure to take into account the natural ebbs and flows of your industry or your office, and the impact that can have on your colleagues’ moods. Are people crazed around the time the markets open? Then schedule your meeting later in the day. Does your field tend to take it easy in August? Avoid that month if you’re making a big ask.

Along those same lines, if your request involves spending money—find out when budgets are typically approved, as well when your clients (or managers) tend to have extra money.

Be Clear About What You’re Asking for and How This Person Can Facilitate It

Make it obvious what you are asking for within the first minute of your pitch. Seriously, don’t even think about pitching it if you can’t sum it up within 60 seconds. After that, you should jump right into why this person’s the right guy to hear you out. Is he your boss? Does she control the budget? Is he known for supporting innovative ideas? Is this the same person who greenlit your idea last year and was pleased with the results? Figure out the answer, and make sure it’s clearly addressed.

Stand Behind Your Idea

Your words matter here, just as much, if not more, than your actual idea. If it’s free, if it’s new, if it’s going to make their people’s lives easier or help them do something effortlessly, this is what your audience needs to know. When you talk about the benefits of implementing your idea, avoid wishy-washy language like “This might...” or “This could...” and opt for phrases like “This will...” or “There’s no doubt…”

Make it Easier to Say Yes Than No

This goes back to removing hesitations. Make the next step clear. Then go beyond that and lay out what that will be. Will you follow up in a day? Over email? Will you provide answers to questions asked? Anticipate anything that would make the person waver, and make sure it’s easier to say yes than no.

Be Genuine

Pitching, sales, public relations—all these words have negative connotations because they conjure up images of people being taken advantage of. Debunk that myth off the bat by being sincere and genuine. Avoid fake smiles, forced laughter, and hyperbole. Make bold claims—but only if you can stand behind them. If you truly believe in what you’re saying, the other person likely will, too.

Yes, pitching a new idea can be scary. Pitching yourself is even scarier. But by taking these basic steps, you’re setting yourself up for success—and if not this time, next!

Tell us how it goes when you employ these pitching principles. Which one is most meaningful to you? Tweet me and let me know @AmandaBerlin.

Photo of meeting courtesy of Shutterstock.

Updated 6/19/2020