Winning the pitch

winning pitch marketing assassin blogHaving 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.


7 responses to “Winning the pitch

  1. Hi, I really liked the simplicity of this 10 point approach, it reminded me of a piece of training I did years ago with what was Thomson Local Directories. This worked on the Steps of the Sales, linked to the Customer Transistion; in other words tailor a sales pitch to match the mentals stages every buyer must go through in order to make a purchasing decision. Its amazing that over the years this small part of the training has remained relevant and I have used it for training for years!

    The bottom line is that you must give the buyer a reason to make the decision to use you. It must be compelling and become the key solution to the buyers needs.


  2. This is good but does not go deep enough. Any good Agency will be doing all this so you are at a same level in the race by doing ALL this.

    Ultimately its all down to the chemistry. Sure, the client wants a team that really wants it; who inspires and fills them with a sense of trust. Just as we do when looking to recruit a new face in our team, Clients make emotional choices based on people – people who they believe they can work well with, will listen to them, and who they can trust to come up with a solution to their business problem.

    But the key issue is this: its the team who can deliver this most AUTHENTICALLY will win.

    And please do not think that its easily ‘done’ with a warm handshake,a sense of bon ami, and a good line of patter – clients are much too clever to be hoodwinked by the usual fake agency smooze. Being real. Really real is critical these days. And that is the truly difficult bit. So get away from behind the powerpoint, sit down and be ‘seen’ for who you really are.

    • I think points 7-8-9 cover this off, but appreciate your comments. I’m surprised just how many agencies dont in fact do these ten things or do them well.

  3. Hi,

    I really like your post. And especially in our current economic climate any advice that allows a company to stand out in a pitch is absolutely invaluable. I have a couple of points I would like to add.

    Firstly and this is hardest one to do, but one that produces amazing results. Find an ex-senior member of the company you’re pitching to and hire them for the duration of the pitch. They will give you insights into the company, the company values, the direction they want to go in, who’s going up and who’s moving out, etc etc. Plus, rehearsing the pitch in front of this ex-employee is critical in terms of getting things right and making sure you’re on message, on brief, talking to their values and more.

    Secondly, belief. You have to believe you have the best offer and you can win. There is so much communicated that is not said and that we pick up on. Believe you have the best solution and believe you can build a strong, lasting relationship with the client. If you can’t do this yourselves, you might need to find someone who can help you. This second point is particularly important if you have been losing a number pitches.

    Thirdly, you need to ask questions in the pre pitch meetings that allows you to tailor your communication in the pitch. There are a number of simple questions that elicit powerful value statements from the clients. During the pitch, you feed back these answers, demonstrating you can address them, deal with them and fulfil the clients needs. This will really help your company stand out during the pitch.

    Happy pitching.

  4. Pingback: Business pitch learnings (from Eurovision) | The Marketing Assassin

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