If working smarter is one of your New Year’s resolutions, pitching new business is where your resolution can begin. Whether you are looking for new clients or new investors, here are a few tips to keep your efforts effective and on track.
- It costs real money to go after new business – staff time and out-of-pocket costs. The only reasons to participate in a competitive pitch are if there’s a logical fit between their needs and your firm’s expertise, and if a business relationship would be profitable. It sounds obvious, but business executives can get caught up in the excitement of the chase. Don’t get so caught up in the adrenaline rush that you pursue every new business lead regardless of the cost of the pitch or suitability of the business partnership.
- Understand why and what you’re pitching. Make sure you get a thorough briefing on what the client’s situation is. If the client is not prepared to give you enough information to develop a realistic proposal, be prepared to politely decline. There’s no point. You are aiming blind.
- Your new business team should be the one that best fits the client’s needs. If there isn’t a fit, see point #1. Take your senior people if you’re pitching to a large organization, but always take the people who will be hands-on if you win the business.
- Someone on your team should be designated to observe the client’s team, noting body language and reading client reactions to ideas and responses. This information should be used in the post-presentation meeting and as a tool to help refine future new business pitches.
- Who are you competing against? It’s okay to ask. You might get an answer, or find out through the industry grapevine. If you find out that there’s a long list of contenders and you are a long shot, you might want to reconsider investing your time and money.
- You can ask who will be on the client’s team. It will give you some idea of how to build your presentation and your team. If their financial executives are heavily represented, make sure yours are, too. If you can get some idea for preferences on how material is presented, pay attention. If your company has preferred formats for presentations, jettison them if your client indicates your favorite fancy graphics are going to be a turn-off. If you don’t listen to a prospective client during the all-critical pitching stage, you don’t stand a chance of converting him into a new client.
- First impressions count. Allow a few minutes for small talk and then open with impact. Don’t be boring; start with something that gets everyone’s attention. It’s particularly important to distinguish yourself from the pack if you are in the middle of their schedule. If you have the misfortune to be last on the roster, be prepared to condense your one-hour presentation into 45 or 30 minutes if needed. You’ll need to be able to energize the room and also to be flexible enough to shorten the presentation if needed.
- Q&A and handouts are all very good tools. Both are best distributed at the end. If someone on the client side cannot be politely silenced during the presentation, respond quickly and avoid getting side-tracked.
- Use the Q&A period at the end to ask the client team a question or two. Find out if you covered what was needed. Here’s where you might get a little feedback on your chances of moving ahead.
- Finally, thank the client team for their time and attention and ask what the next steps are, when a decision will be made and when you might expect to be contacted?
New business presentations are like good performances. The best ones have impact and are memorable. They appear effortless because careful rehearsal and preparation has preceded the actual event.