You can’t win them all, but can improve the odds by using some simple guidelines
We were recently told that we had not produced a winning business pitch for a potential new client. And it’s one we could have won, which makes it all the more frustrating. It’s the sort of event from which the only consolation to be drawn is to extract some value from the experience, and work out;
- What did we do wrong?
- What should we do differently and better in future?
- Can we develop a process to improve our chances of winning future pitches?
What we did wrong
The feedback was clear; we came across as ‘flat’ and didn’t get going. By contrast, the team that won were ‘challenging’ and ‘engaged the audience’. However, we were following what the client had told us to do in the agenda they had developed; to spend the first 20 minutes on our background and credentials! We did this, and lost the audience, never to recover them.
We know our credentials backwards, so this part of any presentation can be flat because we’ve done it many times. Telling people about what a good job you’ve done for organisations they don’t know is of limited interest to them.
What should we do differently and better in future
To develop a winning pitch, our first lesson from this; whatever they say, try and get talking about them and their business as soon as possible. That’s what they are really interested in, and the only territory where you can gain real engagement.
Second, understand the key points in their brief, and focus on responding to these. Clients want to hear what you think about their situation and issues, the challenges they face and how you can help them. If the brief is verbal – and we all still experience these – put together a series of prompt questions so you can push them to say what is really important to them, and their selection criteria.
Finally, develop your own point of view, and express it. Be challenging, in a constructive and positive way. You may not get it entirely right, but a good client will respect the work you’ve put in and the understanding you’ve shown.
How to develop a better process for winning business pitches
- Design a process which will raise challenges for you and the client.
- Don’t produce a pitch document which you find dull; the client is likely to agree with you.
- Get your credentials out of the way quickly and early – 2 slides, under 5 minutes.
- Focus on ideas, stimulus, challenges.
- Show how you’ll run the project quickly and efficiently, in a chart. They are not that interested in this, it just needs to confirm that you know what you’re doing and have done it before.
- Above all, when you are working on your pitch, challenge each other to generate real insights.
Sounds easy, doesn’t it? It always is in retrospect. It’s not, however, a case of one size fits all, so the process will need to be considered and adapted for each occasion.