Pitching to win: How not to come second

Pitching to win: How not to come second

Imagine you’re the client. You’re a fast growing tech company looking to sell. You require a law firm to handle all the details of the sale on your behalf. You are meeting one of the firms on the final short list. After a few pleasantries, the presentations begin. First the obligatory “We started in 1978”, followed by 50 PowerPoint slides highlighting their global presence. Are you bored yet? The answer is probably ‘yes’.

Pitching for business, no matter the industry, isn’t just about putting a client in a room and telling them about your offering (even if it is brilliant.)  In fact, a pitch often fails for reasons that have little to do with the actual merit of the product or service.

So, how do you craft a winning pitch and avoid making these common mistakes? Adrian Howland, ex Head of Proposals for KPMG Europe and associate at The Influence Business shares his top tips to help you win more business, whether you’re in the boardroom targeting investors or simply networking at a business event.

1. “Why should I choose you?”
“We have offices all over the world”, “We have over 50 years’ experience” – these are not differentiators.  Experience, no matter how extensive it may be, will not necessarily help you stand out from the competition. Yes, it builds credibility, as it shows that you are qualified, but chances are, so are your competitors. Even if you’re selling a service in a highly competitive space, there is always something that should differentiate your business. Once you state your differentiator to the client, follow with the benefits. You must be able to answer the “What’s in it for me?” or “So what?” question.  You may find your differentiators vary depending on who your client is and what they need.

2. “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Whether you’re developing a relationship over 18 months, or during a one-off opportunity, don’t forget, buying is emotional. Clients are overwhelmed with choices and decisions they have to make, so knowing, trusting and connecting with a potential supplier is often a deciding factor on where, when and from whom to buy a product or service. Enthusiasm goes a long way. Clients want to know you care about their business, and the work you do. As Theodore Roosevelt once said “No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

3. The first 30 seconds count
You’re at a networking event or you’re pursuing new clients. In either case, it won’t be long before someone asks, “So, what do you do”? In the seconds that follow this inevitable question, you need to be able to deliver your unique value proposition, without tripping over “umm’s” and “uhh’s” whilst you scramble for the answer. This is what we refer to as an ‘elevator pitch’ – a concise and compelling introduction designed to grab your audience’s attention, no matter how short the conversation. Start your pitch by describing what your company does for the client. Focus on the problems you can solve and how you can help. Use the phrase “Our clients tell us…”.

4. Clients are human too!
Don’t forget clients face the same problems you do. Aside from the multiple projects on their plates, tight deadlines and budgets to monitor, they have friends, family, colleagues and yes – even feelings. This makes the human element in ‘selling’ more important than we often think. We like people who are interested in us and find common ground beyond the day job. Yes, you’ll have objectives of what you need to get out of the conversation, but never let those stop you from listening to what the client has to say. The idea of a dialogue between you and your client is much more appealing than a monologue. Remember, you don’t learn when you’re talking, you learn when you’re listening!

If you think that your pitches are not doing you or your firm justice, why not email The Influence Business at info@theinfluencebusiness.co.uk. We’ve helped hundreds of professionals like you win more pitches by helping them gain not only the skills to help differentiate themselves in a very tight marketplace but also the confidence to put them into practice.