A business pitch to new clients and investors can be a daunting task even for the most experienced public speaker. In this article, Pip Jarvis discusses best practice approaches with the experts.
Sweaty palms, blank stares, technology fails – there’s no denying pitching for new business is stressful.
Speaking from experience, it’s also a little soul crushing when your (objectively brilliant) proposal gets the thumbs down.
Thankfully, pitching is a skill that can be learnt. And with practice, planning and a little insider know-how, your presentations will soon be pitch perfect.
To help get you started, we’ve brought together four agency bigwigs to share their foolproof methods. Here’s how to win a pitch – according to the people that (almost) always do.
Pitching is time and labour intensive, so it’s not worth throwing your hat in the ring for every job.
Instead, Engine managing director, Tim Weger recommended “investing in a distinctive brand position for your business and actively marketing the brand”.
Differentiating and marketing your brand helps generate inbound leads, which are far easier to convert into paying clients than outbound leads.
While a brief is great, it pays to dig deeper.
According to Whispr Communications director, Selena O’Hare, you should ask questions about a prospect’s current situation, weaknesses and vision for the future.
The more information you glean, the more tailored your presentation will be – and the more impressive to decision makers.
According to Weger, it’s not just what you ask that matters, but how you ask it. This means listening “with the intent to understand, not the intent to reply”.
By ditching preconceived ideas and listening with open ears, you’ll gain a true understanding of what the prospect is looking for.
Remember that companies go to pitch for different reasons. Make it your business to uncover why.
“Knowing the reasons why a client is going to pitch should dictate how you prepare your response,” said Hotglue digital director, Nick Smith.
“Are they looking to rate-check their current agency? Are they looking to change because of something the current agency doesn’t do? Are they happy with the current agency and simply required to review every X years?
“Know this, and you won’t waste any time crafting your response.”
Simply Social MGT director, Indianna Roehrich agrees that a stellar pitch requires intimate knowledge of the business you’re wooing. And this means acting as guinea pig.
“If you don’t do your research and know the ins and outs, how a product tastes, how a product performs or the results their customers receive, how can you give this business your best efforts?” she asked.
According to Weger, authenticity wins pitches.
“Most people don’t enjoy being sold to… they see right through the show,” he said.
Smith believes in gratitude and good manners.
“Being invited to pitch is a privilege, not a right,” he said.
“If you’ve been considered good enough to get onto a pitch list, opening your pitch with a ‘from the heart’ message of thanks is not only good manners, it shows that you are genuinely grateful for the opportunity… this simple act can set the tone of the room and disarm even the most staunch non-believers.”
Smith also recommended setting a vision for the client that can be summarised in one sentence.
“Paint a picture of what success looks like for your client early in the presentation, then spend the rest of the pitch detailing how you’re going to achieve that goal,” he said.
Set this goal early in the pitch development process, then make sure “every idea, tactic and KPI” answers that goal.
O’Hare agreed that “a winning pitch is solutions focussed… with a clear plan of how you will deliver outcomes.”
She stressed the importance of getting right to the point: “There’s a good chance your client will lose interest if your pitch is too long. Ensure that every slide and every point has a purpose; if a piece of information isn’t going to help win you the pitch, leave it off”.
“Steer clear from using clever jargon and complex terminology and remember that people only remember 10 percent of what they hear but 80 percent of what they see and do.
“So, when presenting ensure you show visuals to keep your audience engaged,” she added.
These days, being on top of current trends alone won’t cut it.
According to Roehrich, you need to be well versed in what’s rolling out in 6-12 months’ time and beyond.
“Start future proofing early and this will show you will be committed to the project at hand for the long run,” she advised.