Getting an opportunity to pitch for new business is extremely difficult and it takes an immense amount of work behind the scenes to open the door to the boardroom, so when you eventually get the details about the brief it’s vital that you get the content of your pitch right - and not just because you want the business.
Whether your new business team consists of your Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, and perhaps a department head, or you have your own internal new business team tasked with lead generation, getting to a point where you can even start putting together a pitch involves a lot of blood, sweat and tears that many don’t see, so that pitch needs to justify the time and effort already invested in building a relationship and acquiring a brief.
Don’t give away your prized assets in the pitch
The thing is, you don’t want to go all-in on a prospect and show them everything that they’re doing wrong (and how you’re going to put it right) for a number of reasons, but mostly because they are likely to be very precious and passionate about their business - and they don’t want you scrutinising it! Instead, you need to be willing to provide just the right amount of constructive feedback that identifies areas for improvement and strength, and then you need to hit the brief on the head.
Another issue is that when you provide examples of so many areas for improvement (and how you propose to resolve them), you’re actually giving away your tactics - or your crown jewels - and you need to guard these with your life for the time being.
The key is being able to identify a number of key issues that are affecting their performance, and then provide a snippet of information relating to your proposed resolution and the impact that it could have, so that your prospect thinks “yeah, these are the people for us. They’ll take us to the next level.”
All-too-often companies will get around the boardroom table and pitch to a prospect, only to find that their incredible content is lapped up, noted down and then implemented internally in the coming months by a company who either cherry-pick key elements from each pitch with no intention of awarding a contract, or by a business who think they could do the work internally rather than paying an external agency to do it for them.
If this is something you’ve often struggled with, then you’re in the right place. Here we’re going to explain just how to go about structuring your pitch so that you get the content just right, and don’t give away every single detail in the process.
How to approach a prospect initially
There are a number of different ways that you can source new business opportunities and each has different degrees of success. A lot of people believe that you need to be in the right place at the right time to find new business opportunities, and in a time where socialising and physically meeting people hasn’t been possible it’s been incredibly difficult for a lot of companies to grow their pipelines let alone their client base or revenue.
Depending on whether you have a new business team or you go out and find opportunities as a management team often affects the methods you actually use, but there tends to be 5 key methods to identifying new business opportunities and then reaching out to your prospects:
- Networking and events. Conferences have long been a great way of mixing with other professionals and promoting your brand and range of services. Whether speaking, having a stall or handing out business cards in the bar, you have a great opportunity to promote your business and your individual ‘brand’ too.
- Social media. Platforms like LinkedIn are great for brand promotion and reaching out to other professionals. You have the opportunity to forge relationships with key personnel within brands and to reach out to them to start a conversation about working together or simply talking from a professional perspective that could eventually lead to a pitching opportunity.
- Cold-calling. Now, there’s nothing quite like picking up the phone and simply selling yourself and your brand. Internal sales teams are often tasked with reaching out to key personnel and trying to arrange free demonstrations or further conversations about how you could work together and it’s a highly effective approach for us here at Meet Hugo.
- Contacts. Having a bank of contacts is always useful, especially when it comes to finding new business opportunities. Making connections online or through networking events can give you contact details for decision makers at other companies and that has the potential to give you a foot in the door, or a heads up, when it comes to companies putting out tenders or looking for agencies to replace their current partners.
- Sales intelligence platforms. Last, but by no means least, you have sales intelligence platforms like Meet Hugo. Our priority is providing businesses with information relating to new business opportunities, and intelligence such as new appointments and buying signals that may mean there’s an opportunity for you to grow your own business in the near future. By signing up to a sales intelligence platform you have access to all the key details you need like the type of new business opportunity, the location of the work and its potential value so you can decide whether it’s worth pursuing or avoiding.
Once you’ve gone down your chosen route you need to decide whether or not the opportunity is right for you, and how you’re going to approach it. Opening a conversation, whether virtually or in person, is always the best way to kick things off and will enable you to build a relationship with relevant people at your potential prospect.
When you have that contact, and relationship, you have the opportunity to start talking about ways in which you could work together, but it’s imperative that you don’t come across as overly ‘pushy.’ Nobody wants to spend time getting to know someone only to find that they’re approaching it from a selfish business perspective, so be sure to form a friendship and connection with your prospect and then you have the chance to discuss professional opinions on posts online, or industry-related talking points, perhaps even blog posts, and then you may just find that an opportunity falls into your lap in the future because of your shared passions, interests and skill sets. You never know, it may be that they’ve been looking for a partner all along and just haven’t found a way of getting a foot in the door with your business!
Then, when that opportunity comes up in conversation, you have the chance to start thinking about ways in which you could work together. It may be that your contact is putting work out to public tender and that you’ll be offered an opportunity to pitch and a brief, or it may be that you’re asked to provide an overview of how you might be able to take their business forward.
Why you should never give away all the key details
So you’ve built a relationship with a prospect and even had conversations with the right person in the business, and now you’ve even got your hands on a brief - what next? Well, the most important thing is that you don’t go and decimate the existing setup and recommend a complete overhaul along with the ways in which you would go about it.
As we’ve already mentioned, companies have been known to put out false tenders with the sole aim of acquiring new tactics that they could implement themselves without employing an agency to deliver the services, and that means that the vendor spends time and money putting together not only a pitch, but potentially months of background work with no reward whatsoever.
You should always treat a new business opportunity as a way of showing what you can do for a prospect, and how you’d go about it, but with a somewhat tentative approach so that you’ve always got something held back in case they don’t choose to employ your services. No business should perform audits or put together quarterly or even annual strategies at pitch stage, even if the prospect wants to see examples of what you could do for them, so be sure that you provide a top-line overview at best along with the potential results so that they can see examples of your approach and where they could be in a few months or years time, only without the crown jewels or key findings that will help them get there themselves.
Of course, this is a slightly cynical approach to pitching, but why should your hard work count for nothing?
A pitch deck should always be filled with vital information that the business doesn’t already know about itself, along with innovative, exciting campaigns that will take them to where they want to be, but no vendor should ever give away every single piece of information at this stage. By teasing them with engaging campaigns and the prospect of an almost immediate return on their investment and upturn in performance, you have the opportunity to excite your prospect and earn yourself - at the very least - a second pitch opportunity or chemistry meeting that will ultimately result in a beautiful contract laid out before you.
Then, and only then, should you elaborate on your proposal and give them a glimpse of those safe, secure jewels.
How to put your pitch together
So now you know how to reach out to prospects and what you should and should not be including in your pitch, how do you actually put it together?
Here we’re going to look at a potential structure for your pitch, enabling you to go through each element and deliver exactly what your prospect is looking for based on their brief and requirements.
- Executive Summary / Overview
This is a short, concise insight into what is to come in your pitch to get those in the boardroom excited about what is to come. It’s best practice to include an executive summary at the beginning of your pitch as this outlines what is to come in your presentation, and enables those with a printed version to skim through to sections that are most relevant - or interesting - to them and their area of expertise.
In your executive summary you have the chance to make a real impression in the boardroom by engaging your audience with your key findings and objectives, outlining how you’re going to meet their needs and deliver your services along with the potential benefits, without giving away all of the detail on the first slide. This is where you hook them for the rest of your time in the boardroom and keep them hanging on your every word.
- Key findings and opportunities
By doing your research into current performance and competitor analysis, you can paint a picture of where the prospect currently stands in their sector. You also have the opportunity to show where they could be if they capitalise on key opportunities that you have identified in your research, complete with a clear roadmap on how to get there.
You never want to go tearing a prospect apart, especially in a pitch, but this is an opportunity to identify shortcomings that they may not be aware of. A lot of business owners understand that there may be issues relating to current performance or engagement, and they might even understand why that is, so you don’t want to preach things they already know. Instead, you should take the angle that there is an opportunity to improve the current situation by doing X, Y and Z.
If you can wow them with these opportunities and show them a different perspective to those shown by other companies pitching, or that they may not have tried themselves already, you can gain a competitive advantage as you’ve already done a lot of the initial work in identifying avenues to explore and the potential effects these opportunities might have if they were to employ you.
- Working examples
Once you’ve engaged them and discussed the opportunities available, you can then start to get them excited by working with you through some visual examples. A mock-up campaign can show them what is possible, and what you’re capable of delivering, so that key decision makers are aware of what they could be providing their customers if they employ you and take you up on your services.
What are you going to do, how are you going to do it and what will be the impact? These three questions are paramount, and you need to hit the nail on the head with each so a working example of how you’ll take the prospect to the next level by not just meeting their brief, but delivering an incredible campaign - or series of campaigns - will show that you’ve not just done your research into the opportunities but thought long and hard about ways in which you can overcome current challenges and take your prospect to where they want to be.
Take the prospect’s key objectives in mind and what they asked for in their RFP or brief. If they’re looking to grow their organic traffic, ensure that you focus on methods of doing this and how you expect to meet their needs. If they’re looking to increase subscribers then you need to provide them with ways of getting more people signed up and the potential impact this might have on the business.
- Estimated time frames
Nobody would expect you to provide concrete delivery dates in a pitch situation, but being able to give rough timeframes for how quickly you can turn around a project might just work in your favour in the boardroom. Having engaged and excited those around the table, explaining that it would take you three to four weeks to deliver the first piece of work might just whet their appetite and encourage them to take you up on your proposal and get cracking.
By showing a calendar of events and a timeline documenting each task and how long it is expected to take will give them a realistic view, rather than promising the world in the first two weeks only to push back and push back again having tried to wow the prospect and win the work. Being realistic, but positive in your approach, can be just as effective as it will show that you have the confidence to deliver and the resources available.
Your pitch is designed to be the visual element that supports the work of your team in the boardroom and your delivery will ultimately prove to be the difference between you and the other businesses pitching for the work. However, if you can get the content of your pitch right by delivering exactly what the prospect is looking for then you’re on the right track.
We’ll be providing a lot more information about pitching and how to sell your business in the boardroom in our new Meet Hugo Sales Academy which is available to all Meet Hugo subscribers, so be sure to register with us to take advantage of this exclusive content.