By David Kean.
Riding by the seat of your pants to win new business is not the safest way to guarantee new clients. Pitch expert David Kean suggests a slightly more thoughtful approach.
Persuading people of your own point of view and getting them to back your judgement with their own money is what makes the business world go round —
and the sharpest end of the persuasion business is the pitch. That intense and brief period when you get to make your case. If you’re good at this, you’ve got it made.
Tell me if this sounds familiar: “Hi, I’m calling about the pitch you made last week. I’d like to say how much we enjoyed your presentation. We thought your strategy was very insightful and your ideas were really interesting. And we thought your people were great too. Unfortunately this time you came a very close second.”
Weeks of your life, hundreds of man-hours, all up in smoke with three little words: Very. Close. Second.
Too many businesses get this call too many times. And let’s be honest, coming second (nearly winning) is called losing. It happens because too many companies don’t treat the art of pitching professionally.
There are three key things to focus on if you want to be a professional pitcher and
transform your client rate — people, product and preparation.
Pitching isn’t about you, it’s about the client. The company that best understands the client, his agenda, his likes and dislikes, and what his organisation needs, will win. Focus religiously on spending the time to get under the clients’ skin and find out what makes him tick. If you just focus on answering his brief, you’ll crash and burn, because there is so much more to pitching than that.
Of course, answering the brief is fairly key. It is, after all, the technical competence you promise by setting up in business in the first place. The job in the pitch is to make that product — the fruits of your labours — gleam. But that will only happen if you use the time available to maximum effect. Brainstorm possible answers with your top talent within 24 hours of getting the brief. Front-load your intellectual effort to free up time for the all-important rehearsal.
Ever wondered why your company, which is so palpably superior, often loses to inferior competitors? They win more pitches simply because they compensate for an inferior product with superior pitch craft. They focus on dazzling the client. Their thinking may not be the sharpest, but they will be well rehearsed, and look and feel like a dynamic team. On the day, they will be spellbinding as a result.
Their presentation will be polished, slick and simple, making a few points in a very compelling way. And the client will fall in love with them.
If you want to start persuading more people more of the time, focus on these three things and you will weep, like Alexander the Great — for there are no more worlds to conquer.