The Minimum Valuable Sales Pitch Conundrum, The Tease and The Work

Selling in the knowledge economy is tricky.

You are not selling a product, a thing you can see, touch, compare features and easily value against other things that are like it.

With a physical product you pick it up of the shelf, you can try it, maybe even test-drive it and if you don’t like it, you give it back.

This is true of traditional products, but it’s also true of the new types of products in a 21st century economy, like software or Cloud based services. Regardless of how cutting edge or cool it is, you have a playbook honed over thousands of years of human commerce and can apply the same techniques in the market that you learnt from watching Glengarry Glenross.

When knowledge (or creativity) is the product, the consumer cannot try it and give it back.

There is a point in every knowledge transaction when the consumer should really be paying for it, but it’s a difficult line to judge, once the consumer has the knowledge or the creative idea they don’t need to pay for it and you hear the following:

Thank you, that’s as advanced as we need for now, we’ll call you when we’ve digested what you just shared.

Thank you, that’s a great idea, we’ll build it from here

And I’ve heard these before.

Plus of course if you’ve ever Googled the answer to something, the knowledge transaction is sorta free – but I digress.

To sell knowledge you need to sell the idea that you have the knowledge and it’s the same knowledge, ideas or art that the consumer wants or needs so that they will give you The Work; without actually showing them all of the knowledge.

This is The Tease, offering them some knowledge, creativity and art and of course you share credibility that you have shared knowledge with people like them before and they found your knowledge and creativity very useful.

However, you don’t know how much knowledge they have.

So, The Tease maybe all the knowledge they need for now. Or The Tease is not enough and they don’t think you know more knowledge than they do and that you can do The Work.

The Tease is the Minimum Valuable Sales Pitch.

And, I’ve noticed that people find this really hard.

When a potential client asks for ideas or to pitch on something, it’s exciting, it’s easy to be swept away in solving the problem that, as a subject matter expert or creative, you are deeply fascinated by, you naturally want to do The Work. Not helping is that this is probably also fuelled by an executive or one of the suits desire to win The Work AT ALL COSTS and do better than everyone else.

Then suddenly you find yourself in a room full of your best and brightest very excitedly doing The Work.

Not The Tease but The Work.

This balance, between The Tease and The Work is the conundrum of the Minimum Valuable Sales Pitch.


I accept this is a bit of a negative word, there should never be any suggestion of a half arsed job for a prospective client. If you are in, you need to be all in.

But the fact is that there is a finite amount of resource that can be expended by an organisation in winning new business while serving existing clients, a line needs to be drawn.

Understanding the minimum is important as the prospective client has only given you barely enough time to develop and share The Tease, there is not the time to do The Work.

Trying to do The Work in a pitch is a commitment to work all night and still not finish and maybe fail to deliver a decently presented tease.

Plus, have you seen how long it takes to think about The Work properly and thoroughly, especially without discovery, you are working on assumptions, everyone has a few of them, they are all different and then the assumptions have to be discussed and then discussed some more – then you realise the deadline is tomorrow.

From a client’s perspective, they also have a tight timeframe, they are not in The Work mode – really, they actually want you to provide their minimum, so that they can make a decision and for someone to get on with The Work as they have deadlines and day jobs to get on with.

Although their minimum is a different set of factors, they want the most amount of reassurance that they are making the right decision, with the minimum amount of evaluation.

It’s a hard line to draw, it could be that the client would really like to work with you and just showing up is the minimum, or maybe the opposite is true. Maybe being from a big established firm means you have a lower minimum because you have that name to drop or maybe if someone is predisposed against the big guys you need to make more of an effort with your minimum.


Of course it needs to be valuable to the client, you need to give up a little of the good stuff – enough of an idea to have the client say “ah hah hadn’t thought of that”, but of course not enough for them to tell exactly which wire to cut to defuse whatever ticking time bomb you are pitching to solve.

While consulting is not the oldest profession (despite what they say!) it has been around a while and I suspect that there are people that have thought about this a bit more deeply. Perhaps there is a process or a formula to perfect The Tease (or MVSP) – but it’s interesting me right now, so I thought I’d write about it here.


If you’re a knowledge worker, or maybe selling consulting or creativity – what do you think?

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