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  • Writer's pictureDr. Babette Sonntag

NABC: Build a convincing pitch with only 4 elements - and optimize your communication

Updated: Aug 17, 2023



People are enthusiastic about a pitch and applaud
Inspire others with an NABC

What actually is a pitch? What makes a convincing pitch? Pitching in every situation - what do I mean by that?


What is a pitch?

Based on the the success of some TV shows in Germany "pitches" are now much better known here than before. A pitch is the short presentation of a business idea or concept to convince investors and potential customers or users. The term originally comes from advertising/marketing agencies, where customers are persuaded to place an order as result of a succesful "pitch".

In innovation management, pitching plays a decisive role in sharpening ideas, creating sponsorship and raising money, knowledge and resources.

A pitch can be one page long or several PowerPoint charts, a few minutes or even 30 minutes. That depends on the goal, the target group and the degree of maturity of the idea.


4 building blocks that make up a convincing pitch - NABC

"Hooray! Here we have a great product with the following technical specifications (...now there are details about server architecture, data management, on a lot of closely described ppt charts, etc.). Now we just have to Find customers for it!!"


Do you know that? Would that excite you?

Here someone completely forgot the customer and stakeholder perspective - which happens quite often. The person addressed, the potential customer, probably doesn't care at all what the IT architecture behind the solution looks like. He/she most likely just wants to know which of his/her important problems is being solved here and what that means (effort, cost, reputation, etc.)



My preferred structure for pitches - NABC - is one of the tools for the 5 Disciplines of Innovation© (5DOI©) by SRI International. In my opinion, the NABC with its 4 main elements is the clearest and focuses on the most important points. Therefore: my tool of choice.

In this video, Dennis Tsu, former Executive Director at SRI, explains the most important points of the 5DOI© very concisely: https://youtu.be/gnhlZeEdv2c

(I will go into more detail about the 5DOI© in another blog post)


The NABC is used in innovation management to structure the pitch and thus to describe the most important customer needs (important customer needs) and the generation of benefits (value creation) for an innovation. It consists of 4 building blocks plus a hook. I will explain this in my own words and my own interpretation, specifically in relation to communication improvements:



N - NEED

  • What are the really important (!) problems of my target group/audience right now? Which pain points exist? You can find this out, for example, with the 5 Whys (see my other blog entry about this method)

  • What negative consequences do these problems have, how do they hinder my counterpart?

  • What is so important to my counterpart that he/she would spend money or time on solving it and why?

It is important to work out the really important problems and needs. "Interesting" alone is not enough.


A - APPROACH

  • What is my suggested solution?

  • How can I implement it?

  • What do I expect from my counterpart?

For successful communication, it is also important to say what your counterpart should contribute (e.g. "In order for our approach to work, it is very important that you speak to xy, because you are an expert on the subject!"). If you manage to involve him or her in a meaningful way, then the commitment is much greater.


B - BENEFITS

  • What exactly does my counterpart get from my suggestion?

  • Do we both benefit (win-win)?

  • What are the opportunities?

  • How will we both know that we've been successful?


C - COMPETITION

  • What alternatives do exist (competitor proposals?,...)

  • Why is my suggestion better?

  • Are there any risks? Which?

By the way, there is always an alternative: doing nothing. What would it mean to do nothing? This consideration is often overlooked.


One reason why value propositions are so difficult to develop is that we all love to talk about our approach, because it's usually pretty clear. In doing so, we forget about the other elements, see the example at the beginning of this section above. According to Curtis Carlson and William Wilmot, it goes something like this:

What the world needs is a little red wagon.

Our approach is to build a little red wagon.

The benefits are that we will have a little red wagon.

There is no competition, since our wagon is a nice shade of red." *

This NABC looks like this: nAbc.

In any case, better is: NaBc.


The most important point in my opinion: pitch logic as a basis for better communication

In a pitch, the motivation and benefit of an idea for my counterpart plays a central role. So I use NABC's 4 perspectives to prepare for difficult conversations. This can be in any situation: in a team meeting, in a conversation with a sponsor, at a job interview...

It's not like there should only be one pitch for every problem. Depending on who I'm talking to, I need a slightly different benefit argument. For example, I talk about a new product idea not only with the project team, but also with the management decision makers in my company, with potential financiers, resource managers, etc. Each of them has different pain points, needs that I should address. Therefore, I usually prepare several NABCs for different situations. What sounds complex can be done very quickly with a little practice. A few bullet points are enough to be better prepared from now on.


The HOOK - Finally, an advice from me...

Before I start my presentation, I throw out a "fishing hook", the HOOK. I can only prepare this afterI have completed the NABC. The hook can be a provocative question: "Do you also know this: ...?", "Don't you agree that ...?" or an assumed wishful thinking of the other person: "Imagine, you...!" This is how I grab attention right from the start. The hook can be brought up with a wink and thus loosen up the situation immediately. This always works very well.


Conclusion

By identifying the pain points of whoever I'm talking to, I can anticipate questions and reactions in my mind. This is how I achieve convincing and confident communication. Then there is finally an end to the uncertainty caused by unexpected counter-questions, to digressions, to the feeling that the message has not been conveyed clearly enough!


In a slimmed-down version, I use the logic of pitching for many situations in life in which I want to get my point of view clear. If you're curious, then I'd like to introduce you to my other blog post Life is a pitch".



*Carlson, Curtis R.; Wilmot, William: Innovation: the five disciplines for creating what customers want, Crown Business, 2006, p. 90


Please note: This text is translated into English by using Google Translate - I apologize for any mistakes in this text I may have overlooked.


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