WE ARE WHAT WE REPEATEDLY DO. EXCELLENCE, THEN, IS NOT AN ACT, BUT A HABIT.
Once upon a time, perhaps a simpler time, sales teams would only have to pitch once to win contracts. But in the new world, securing new (and existing) business means having an always-on approach to sales. Pitching has become less of a one-off event and more of a habit, a way of life.
This is especially true for professional services firms for whom pitching is now a regulatory requirement. A new directive from the Competition Commission (CC) requires Britain’s largest companies to put their audit contracts up for tender every ten years, with stricter rules around the competitive tender process.
And so we face the long pitch – something that requires persistence and good communication. Where do you start? What do you need to change about your approach to sales and communication?
Read on to discover 8 techniques that will make working the long pitch easier and more effective.
1 BROADEN YOUR FOCUS
Your final pitch presentation is important but it’s only one of the many presentations you’ll make during the long pitch.
These (often less challenging) presentations are opportunities to build relationships. Get your team members, clients and stakeholders involved and encourage genuine dialogue.
You need the whole team thinking positively and energetically from start to finish, rather slogging towards a final exam. Don’t focus solely on the final pitch presentation at the expense of these opportunities to create the right impression.
2 GET REHEARSALS RIGHT
Creating a show as you rehearse doesn’t work. You wouldn’t rehearse an opera before the score was finished or before each performer knew their lines. The same applies to pitch presentations.
Do things in the right order:
- As a group, agree on a key message.
- Break out and, as an individual, work on your part.
- Once each individual has perfected his or her own message, come back together to rehearse the whole.
And only rehearse once or twice. Contrary to popular belief, there is such a thing as being over-rehearsed. Going over the same message too many times leads to a robotic presentation lacking in the natural flow and warmth that a sales pitch needs to be successful.
3 GET SENIOR INPUT UP FRONT
Don’t wait until the last minute to meet with senior leaders within your own firm.
Too often meetings with senior leaders happen late in the game. The result? The pitch gets torn apart right before it goes live, hundreds of collective working-hours are wasted and the whole team is demoralised.
Senior leaders are there to make decisions and dispense invaluable insight, so make sure you not only get their advice and guidance early on, but also get them involved regularly throughout the process.
4 ACT NATURAL
Pitch presentations are not a type of performance art. A formal presentation with one presenter and a round table of nodding heads is theatrical and difficult to engage with.
Instead of acting, get your team to think about how they best communicate as individuals and help them mirror that in the pitch presentation. Work on improving personal presentation skills (like tackling vocal fry) and focus on appearing trustworthy, warm and natural instead of ‘formal’ and ‘well-rehearsed.’
5 STOP RELYING ON POWERPOINT
Don’t use visual aids and PowerPoint slides as a crutch. They are not a replacement for preparation or conversation.
That said, don’t abandon PowerPoint if you’re still going to try and communicate detailed information that cries for visual support.
Strike a balance and use visual aids in a way that complements your pitch presentation. Limit the number of PowerPoint slides you have and only use them to communicate key messages.
6 CHALLENGE THE RITUAL
Pitch teams have seen it all before. When a new opportunity arises, they’ll often slip straight into autopilot and miss chances to improve the process.
Break out of the box every now and then and take the time to think critically about your pitch. Involve the client, evaluate your USP from their perspective and question how you can communicate using their language (not yours).
7 STOP RELYING ON ‘EXPERTS’
Every bid team purports to have an expert among them; it’s important but it’s not a differentiator or a selling point.
Draw attention instead towards data and well-documented research that supports your claims and augments your USP. This will ground your pitch in fact and make it easier for your client to appreciate.
8 HAVE A CLEAR UNIQUE SALES PROPOSITION
Last but not least, every pitch needs to have a clear USP (unique selling proposition).
During rehearsal you need someone to continually ask ‘so what?’
- Why should a client engage your services?
- What’s the real value in what you’re offering?
You can tell a great story and give a good presentation, but if you can’t answer the ‘so what?’ then you are not articulating your USP.
Working the long pitch may seem challenging at first, and getting into the habit of repeatedly pitching, selling and negotiating can be a steep learning curve.
That’s why using techniques that make the long pitch a more engaging, effective approach – rather than one big, deal-breaking activity – is essential for success. Make the long pitch a habit, rather than an act or a process.
If in doubt, think back to Aristotle: we are what we repeatedly do. And if we’re repeatedly pitching, then pitching is not an act – its just business as usual.