Before you attend that pitch

Welcome to the third article in our ‘before you’ series. 

So you’ve made that call, submitted the tender and secured an interview. Well done! Now what’s your starting point? We’ll I’ve come across many who couldn’t resist launching PowerPoint and reverting to the standard template, starting to write bullet points of what they think they want to say. This typically includes a bit of ‘intellectual showing off’ followed by a run through in their head and they’re done. What’s not to like?

Well quite a lot. And chances are you won’t win. Sure you might get encouraging feedback (“we liked what you had to say but we’ve chosen someone else because they clicked better..”). I may be stating the obvious but you get nothing for finishing second.

When preparing your sales pitch the difference between winning and losing will typically be down to:

• The ability of your audience to recall your key points afterwards at the point when they make the comparison between you and the other parties – this can often be sometime afterwards so the aim here is to make sure you are different and they remember you (for the right reasons..)

• Your key points being relevant to them and their issues.

• The benefits (costs, extra revenue, time saved, reduced risk) to them of working with you are crystal clear.

• Evidence that you can deliver.

• So rather than launch PowerPoint start planning. Go analogue before you go digital and go back to the three Rs..

Research

What is the client expecting? What do they mean by pitch/presentation or is it just an informal meeting to understand your style and whether they could work with you?

Storyboarding – It’s important to understand what the client wants and what will win the opportunity, NOT what you are comfortable in delivering. This means going back to your prospecting and your understanding of their world. How can you improve their situation so that your sales pitch becomes a business case that is self-evident? Just as important, how will they make their decision, who are the key influencers and what do they want, on a professional or personal level?

Thinking about your pitch in this way means you will start to see it as more of an interactive performance than a presentation. So you need to prepare by preparing a storyboard in the same way script writers do. This is a huge leap for many and you may need our help for the first few times..

Visuals – by all means use slides as an aide memoir as long as they ADD to what you’re saying and don’t become a distraction. Whilst PowerPoint’s standard template reverts to bullet points this is because Microsoft wants everyone to believe they can be a world class presenter by using their software. Falling into this trap is no different to believing you can be a world class author because you have Word on your PC.

Visuals only work if they ADD to what you are saying. They must never be a substitute otherwise you could just email them and stay at home! If you get it right they will actually compel your audience to listen to you making sure you maximise the chances of your point(s) being understood and remembered afterwards.

Rehearse

This is where we will add value. Your prepared storyboard will never feel the same written down as it will when it’s spoken out loud for the first time. A first run through, even if it’s very clumsy and has bits missing is invaluable. There are rules of thumb for presenting that have stood the test of time and which are still relevant today – you may know some of them. But there are new ones which reflect the way decisions are made in 2017. If you’re not aware of these you’re at a disadvantage.

The buying process – A recent study estimated that there are on average 6.8 people involved in B2B buying decisions. If your pitch is only aimed at one or two you’re ignoring the fact that wider buy in is almost necessary to get appointed, even if your audience haven’t realised it yet. There are ways and means to help you navigate your prospect through their own buying process which will help strengthen your position.

Q&A – you must rehearse your ability to answer questions. This may have a greater impact on the ultimate decision than your actual pitch. There are techniques that work to help you achieve this.

Re-rehearse

Once you’ve got it sorted re-rehearse one last time. This time without any script other than written prompts. This allows you to practice thinking on your feet, linking in with colleagues and using words that are appropriate for the environment (as opposed to in a written document) And the main reason for the final rehearsal is to check whether your audience got your message, can remember it afterwards and feels compelled to appoint you. It’s hard to do all this on your own and you may need assistance..

You’re ready, get an early night and good luck..

The next ‘before you’ article assumes you’ve won the business. Now the real work begins… 

For more information on the next steps please contact Darren Jefferson on info@alius-services.com or call 020 3637 6325.