Recently, I had the pleasure of taking part in a pitch to a potential new client. Most of the time this is done in person, but we were pitching to a European company, so in this case our conversation took place over a Skype call…as if trying to convince a group of strangers they needed to hire us wasn’t nerve-wracking enough. However, it was a fascinating experience, and all firms value employees who can contribute to business development. So, here’s what you need to know if you find yourself in the same boat:
- Be thorough. There’s no “winging it” in pitching. Between the initial outreach, the proposal itself, the pitch, and the follow-ups, everything should be thought through and scripted in advance. Preparing ahead of time decreases the chances of something going catastrophically wrong. But it also allows you to present a more compelling pitch. Taking the time to research what your potential client has done in the past can be impressive to the other side. If your research allows you to present a data point or insight they weren’t previously aware of, even better! That extra hour’s worth of research could result in hundreds of thousands of dollars for the firm if you win the business.
- What you say matters, but so does how you say it. Pitching is about a lot of things, such as creativity, panache, preparation, and quickness. But it’s also about fit. It isn’t enough to blow away the other side with your insights and strategies; after all, if you win the business, you’re going to have to work with them day in and day out for the life of the contract. This means you have to show them you’ll be a good partner too. Stay professional, but also be likeable, accessible, and even funny.
- First impressions aren’t everything. In pitching, they’re the only thing. We all know that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. But what if that’s all the information you have to go by…isn’t a glance at the cover better than nothing at all? It’s the same principle here. Pitches are a snapshot of your future work relationship with the client. The process may not be perfect, but done right it can reveal plenty of valuable information for both sides. And until someone figures out a better way to do it, it helps to realize that you only get one shot, so plan accordingly.
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