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Whatever type of creative business you run, you’ll be involved in a pitch at some point. Whether it’s pitching for a new client or pitching to an existing account you want to grow, I guarantee you’ll be on your feet selling your ideas.
The good news is, you’ll win some of those pitches. The bad news, you’ll lose some too. The key is to win more than you lose.
Sounds simple, but I’d bet for many agencies it’s the other way around. It’s not that you’re bad at PR, or design, branding, or whatever flavour of agency you run. You might even be good at presenting. It’s that you haven’t thought about your pitching skills. And they are skills.
Just like writing excellent copy, or designing beautiful brand identities, pitching is a skill that you can learn. But if you’re working in a small independent agency, where do you go to get these skills? Especially if you’re the owner.
Read on my friend. Here are some top tips from our Art of the Pitch training course. You can have these for nothing. Nadda. Free. Yep, just keep reading.
You’ll learn a lot more by attending the course, but I appreciate not everyone has the budget to invest in themselves. If you do, you’ll find a link at the end to our next course, taking place in London on 31st March.
Top tip 1: Find out if you should pitch in the first place?
It’s all too easy to get carried away when a new opportunity comes your way. So what if Nike’s brand manager is on the phone, or IBM wants help with its media relations. Don’t get distracted by the brand. Are the client and opportunity the right fit for you and your agency?
How do you find out? Ask a lot of questions.
You know, things like what are your business objectives, what are you looking for in the perfect agency and do you have an approved budget?
Why spend the time working up a pitch if the client or project is not the right fit for you and vice versa? Some good questioning at the very start of the process will help you to qualify in or qualify out a prospect.
Top tip 2: Understand the client’s business problem
It was Einstein that once said, “a problem well stated is a problem half solved”. Often clients are looking for agencies, but they haven’t adequately defined the problem yet.
More sales might be the catalyst but, is their lack of sales down to not having clearly defined audience segments and well-positioned messaging, or is it that their website simply doesn’t covert the audience they’re already engaging?
There’s a big difference in the deliverables and the type of agency suited to deliver them too.
Get to the bottom of the business problem at the outset before going in to pitch. It might not be what the client thinks.
Top tip 3: Authenticity is key
The adage people buy from people is a bit trite. OK, more than a bit.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not true. Are you on the same wavelength as the client-side marketer? Can you build rapport and provide strategic counsel they will heed before you pitch? Is the client receptive to early conversations and straight-talking ideas or advice upfront?
You need to be authentic and be able to demonstrate from the outset of the pitch process that you’re on the same wavelength. Can you build a relationship with this prospective client?
Top tip 4: Avoid a timing violation
When you’re pitching, it’s easy to get carried away, particularly on the day of the pitch. Your nerves are jangling, the adrenalin’s flowing, you swapped the golden thread (more on this later) the day before and, let’s face it, you haven’t practised your presentation yet. All these factors frequently add up to pitch presentations that overrun.
But it’s crucial not to overrun in your pitch delivery. In fact, not only should you not go over, you should plan to leave a third of your allocated time for questions and discussion. This time allows more opportunity for rapport building. Failure to do so will show poor judgement, average planning and a lack of preparation.
Don’t feel as though you need to fill every minute with words – there’s value in time for thought and reflection.
Top tip 5: Don’t tell them what they told you
In a pitch, you often have a set time limit to deliver your presentation (See Top tip 4). Let’s say 60 minutes. In that time, you have to achieve a lot – build rapport, demonstrate your team’s ability to work together a.k.a. your chemistry, sell a big idea and convince the client your team has the skills to deliver it.
Don’t, therefore, spend the first 15 minutes telling the client what they’ve already told you. I know you think it shows you listened and understand the client’s business, but you can demonstrate that better through the quality of your big idea. Focus on that.
Top tip 6: Be the opposite of condescending
This one’s a belter, and it’s a common complaint among in-house marketers – agencies think they know the client’s business better than they do. Seriously, you don’t, and, in all likelihood, you probably never will.
Restrain yourselves from any arrogant declarations, consider the fact your audience is probably smart. Get some insight from the client before the pitch meeting. Use this to check your ideas haven’t been tried before and failed.
It’s always better to imply you have come at it from a fresh point of view, than arrogantly assuming your idea is the silver bullet they need.
Top tip 7: Have you got a Golden Thread?
The golden thread is the backbone of your pitch. It’s the core story that all ideas build on, and you should reference throughout the pitch. It’s the bit of narrative that ties everything together and makes sure what you say is congruent with your big idea.
When you’re practising your pitch, check to make sure everything ties into the golden thread and if it doesn’t take it out. It’s as simple as that.
There you have it—7 top tips for how to improve your pitch win rates.
Now, I promised you details of a one-day training course called the Art of the Pitch. We’re running this course on 31st March in London to help creative businesses to win more pitches.
We cover everything from behavioural economics, to storytelling, insights and pitch doctoring. It’s all tied together with a presentation practice session to make sure you start using the lessons straight away.
You can find out more details and book your place here, where you can also hear feedback from our past attendees, like this from Zoe:
“I thought it was a great day with lots of actionable tips and tricks and a great networking opportunity.”
And this from Dave:
“The day was really good, loved the insights from the more experienced pitchers – worth the investment in itself.”