Having already won one new piece of business for my new company in my first few weeks, I’m now pitching for an old client. This is a large, long term account and I know that my contact is keen to move, but switching remains a risk for him.
I need to follow a process that paints us in the best possible light, reassuring him that we can deliver what he wants, showing we understand his business and the needs of his customers, and ultimately convincing him that he has made the right decision to entrust his marketing activity with us.
People write 250 page books on this stuff that go into the nth degree. I thought I’d share a ten point plan developed over time, as lots of companies slip up when they prepare for a pitch and end up way off message.
Why? They stray off brief and try and position as more strategic or take a kitchen sink approach and deliver a 140 slide PowerPoint that talks mostly about themselves and not about how they add value or how they make a difference for customers.
1. Do your homework. Understand the customer, the market and the competition. But don’t regurgitate it back to the prospect – they know more about their business than you ever will. That isn’t the reason you’re pitching.
2. Answer the brief. Structure your response to answer their questions, minimize their concerns and in a way so they can tick every box. Makes it harder for you to be discounted.
3. Link everything you present intrinsically back to marketing objectives. Plain and simple.
4. Engage with the client, develop a relationship pre-pitch, share your work with them, share a project plan. Give them the sense you are taking it seriously and that you are working to secure their business.
5. Don’t develop your campaign in isolation. How often do you see pitch creative that isn’t fit for purpose or fit for market. I’m thinking of suppliers to the oil and gas sector using oil rigs in their ads – flick through Offshore Engineer – every ad looks the same.
6. Don’t use a template. Tailor your response to the needs of your prospect.
7. Bring it to life. Theme it. Have a powerful, engaging introduction that demands attention. The first few minutes are crucial. Keep PowerPoint/Keynote to a minimum. Use short, relevant video and animation but make sure it has a point or presenters following it just end up sounding flat.
8. Ensure the delivery team are involved – not just company directors. Building chemistry is a big part of winning the pitch. If you don’t have people who can present with passion and professionalism, train them (and see point 9). Charisma can be coached – it is a breed of confidence. Assign roles to everyone in the room, don’t have team members sat listening for the duration of the presentation.
9. Practice, practice, practice. And think about difficult questions and objection handling. Assume the worst – prepare answers for questions about costs, timelines, project management, distance, and anything else that could be considered an issue.
10. Have a close. Tell him how excited you are and how you want to work with them. A well known sales ploy is to simply ask ‘Can we work with you on this project?’
Hope this plan is of use to you in your business pitching.