Perfect pitching requires bringing together a lot of elements. It is more than just a presentation – but is never just about the hard sell. We coach people and teams to give great pitches and there are a few things we always look out for.
1. Perfect Pitching Starts with Questions
To do a great pitch you have to squarely meet all the needs and desires of the buyer. What exactly do they need? What are their concerns or reservations? What do they want to hear? You will never do a good job if you just roll out the last pitch you did with a few updates. Carry out a thorough analysis of the potential client first and ask questions of them in whatever way you can.
Keep introductions short and sweet. They can quickly become boring, especially if you have a team of people on the pitch. If you provide written biographies in the handout you can just cherry pick a few key points. If you can make the introduction interesting and fun that is absolutely worth doing – but don’t labour it.
3. The Creds
It is always important to have a short section in a pitch that explains your credentials. However, this is another area that can quickly become very dull. Consider leaving the credentials to the end of the pitch – after you have explained what you can do for this particular client. If you fear they won’t listen until they’ve seen the creds, try again to do it succinctly. Just because it is succinct doesn’t mean you can’t use the odd interesting, unusual or, if appropriate, gossipy bit of information about one of two of your previous projects. You are looking to pique interest. If it prompts a follow-up question, you are doing well.
4. Keep the Slides Clean
Too much information on the slide is a classic problem. We see it all the time. The font gets smaller and the client is faced with prose rather than summary. Clients often say: ‘we have to do it like this because we print out the slides as the handout’. Such an approach will ensure your pitch or presentation is suboptimal. If you put the detail in presenter’s notes, you can print out a version that includes the slide and the presenter notes together. That way, the client is left with all the information but hopefully, during the pitch, they are concentrating on you and not the small print.
5. Don’t Read the Slides
This is related to the point above but is so important it is worth underlining. If you include a lot of text on the slide you will be faced with the dilemma: do I read out the slide or assume they will read it while I am talking. Neither option is good and definitely sitting watching someone read their slides is never going to make a client love you. Instead, think of your pitch as a performance (not a read through) and remember you are required to entertain.
6. Rapport is King
People buy people – or teams. Selling often – even usually – hinges on personal relationships. Whilst you will have important information to deliver, the whole point of inviting people to pitch is so that the buyer can make a personal assessment of the team. Although the presentation is the vehicle, the key focus should be to create rapport or opportunities for rapport. Lindsay Williams (MD of The Media Coach) has urged me to read Chris Voss ‘Never Split the Difference’. She points out that Voss urges negotiators to watch the reactions of the other team. If someone reacts facially or physically to a piece of information find a way to check what the reaction means. Questions should be open – don’t assume you have read it right. But asking ‘have you come across that before?’ or even ‘I am thinking you perhaps disagree with that?’ allows the buyer to connect with you and is likely to give you useful information.
7. Hold Back the Last Slide
In business life, there is nearly always a Q & A after a pitch. That is a good thing and is often when some real work is done. However, it presents a danger. If you have been discussing some relatively minor and perhaps sticky point for a few minutes and then come to the end of your allotted time, the buyers are left with that subject in their minds. I suggest you take a few seconds to say ‘ well we have come to the end of our time but can I just leave you with our key points…’ and put up the last slide, a short succinct summary of what you are offering. That way you leave your message in their minds.
The Media Coach team can help you and your team with their pitch whether that is online or face to face. If you think your pitch performance is not yet perfect, why not give us a call? +44 (0)20 7099 2212 or drop us an email firstname.lastname@example.org.