Often, companies make the mistake of thinking that as long as they present a great product, the client is bound to immediately say ‘yes’. But it’s not as simple as that- far from it! Pitching for business is not just about putting a client or internal stakeholder in a room and telling them about your product or idea (even if it is a brilliant one.) Getting to ‘yes’ is a complicated business- one with lots of subliminal factors at play that aren’t necessarily clear to you as the provider, such as pre-existing loyalties to your competition.
Pitching for business often fails… for reasons that have little to do with the actual merit of the product or service. It’s a problem of delivery.
We’ve put together a list of some of the biggest mistakes to avoid when pitching for business.
1. The presentation is all substance, no style. But isn’t that the wrong way round? Shouldn’t it be about the product’s merits, not the presentation itself? Perhaps in an ideal world people would be able to sit in a darkened room and judge a product or service purely on its merits. However, it’s far more likely that the client will be distracted (and deterred) by a presenter that looks nervous, doesn’t know the material well enough to look up from the PowerPoint slides, or isn’t able to confidently deviate from the slides to answer questions. Remember that according to research by Mehrabian, people’s words only account for 7% of confidence, while body language accounts for 55%, and the voice 38%. You can have the best information in the world, but if it’s not delivered right, no-one will be convinced to emotionally buy into it.
How to avoid it: Simple solution: practice. And then find a willing audience and practice some more. Record yourself. Get feedback from your colleagues on things such as your stance, how you are using gestures, and are you giving your audience good eye contact. Use a structure that answers the following four questions:
– Why would I want to do what you are proposing?
– What are the key facts I need to know?
– How will what you are proposing work?
– What will happen moving forward if we do or don’t buy?
When you have a confident, clear, easy-going yet authoritative presentation, it’s time to get the client in for the pitch- and quickly-before you lose momentum. Did you know that big firms like KPMG often give their pitching team a solid week to prepare before presentation? They understand how important delivery is- do you?
2. You don’t know your audience. But surely the product speaks for itself? Surely the client or stakeholder will see how it applies to them? Now that’s the type of pitching attitude that is almost certain to fail. Your job in pitching new business is to structure your pitch in a way that is directly targeted at the client’s individual situation. A generic pitch won’t make them feel like the product is uniquely suited to them.
How to avoid it: Research your client thoroughly, and put the information to good use. A winning pitch addresses what you understand is important to them. It could be market share, specific changes in employee’s behaviour or a variety of other metrics.
3. You didn’t prepare for tough questions. You just delivered the pitch of your life. The audience is in the palm of your hand….and then, someone throws you the very question you really didn’t want them to think of- or even worse, the one you never thought of yourself. You’re not prepared, you flounder, you look like you’re trying to evade the question. You lose the room, the pitch fails, and you manage to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
How to avoid it: Get your colleagues to throw you some curly questions beforehand. Ask yourself- what do you know to be the flaws of this product or service? Prepare answers- winning answers. Assuming you’ve got a great answer to any potential pitfalls, it might be a good idea to pre-empt these curly questions by working them into the presentation, rather than allowing them to be thrown at you in question time. Honestly acknowledging issues and addressing them cleverly works to build trust in the client’s mind and also punctures their objections to buying the product.
It’s not enough to have a good product or service. You have to sell it, using every bit of influence, intelligence and charm that you possess. And remember, practice makes a killer pitch.
If successful pitching for business is key to your organisation we can help. We have a specific programme designed to help your team. To find out more about the programme click here. Alternatively call us on +44 (0) 1628 488 854