Coming up with creative ideas is easy; a business pitch proposal to a potential client is hard. And while the pitch is not traditional marketing, it is definitely NOT selling, is it?
All too often, most business people go to great lengths to show how their new creative ideas are practical. They are often rejected by corporate decision makers who don’t seem to understand the real value of the concepts. Why does this happen?
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It turns out that the problem has as much to do with the seller’s traits as with an idea’s inherent quality. The person on the receiving end tends to gauge the pitcher’s creativity as well as the proposal itself. And judgments about the pitcher’s ability to come up with workable ideas can quickly and permanently overshadow perceptions of the idea’s worth.
Before we continue, let me ask you a question.
What works best for proposal pitch designs in your business? We would love to hear what it was. Would you do us a favor and post it in the comments section below? It would be greatly appreciated by us and our readers.
The ultimate goal of all the points I list below is this: eliminate the fluff from your marketing strategy, and focus only on the things that work.
We all like to think that people judge us carefully and objectively on our merits. But the fact is, they rush to place us into neat little categories—they stereotype us. So the first thing to realize when you’re preparing to make a pitch to strangers is that your audience is going to put you into a box. And they’re going to do it really fast. Research suggests that humans can categorize others in less than 150 milliseconds. Within 30 minutes, they’ve made lasting judgments about your character.
One thing I have learned over the last few decades of listening to businesses pitch their ideas is this: it takes me less than three minutes to either tune out or want to know much more. In general, if you can’t win over a potential client in those critical three minutes, you will need to keep trying with someone else.
The hypothetical pitch proposal is a three-minute; three-slide presentation that focuses the team on its main opportunity and helps convey what makes the business idea better than the other ones competing for the same potential clients.
You have no way of knowing what other ideas the client is considering, but this pitch proposal should do the best possible job of covering three topics:
Business pitch … the opportunity
The pitch should explain the opportunity you have identified, why you care about it and how you will overcome a customer’s reluctance to buy from you. To achieve these goals, the first slide of your pitch should answer these questions:
What problem or opportunity have you identified?
What is your solution to this problem or how do you plan to capture the opportunity?
Which customer pain will you alleviate?
What is your vision of the business and why do you care?
If you can persuade the potential client that you have a real opportunity, the next challenge is to make a compelling case that the opportunity is worth their support. To that end, your second slide should answer these questions:
Which group of customers will you target?
How big is the potential market and how fast is it growing?
Who is your competition and why will your start-up prevail?
The business model
Finally, your pitch needs to explain how you can achieve success. The pitch will probably not answer all the potential client questions about you proposal but if you do it right, the client will want to spend much more time with you to get those answers.
To be sure, there are many factors that determine the success or failure of your pitch with specific clients. Among those are the fit between your industry expertise and that of the client as well as whether the client has confidence in you.
Here are the factors you should use to prepare your pitch. Let’s discuss each in some detail:
Prepare yourself, not just your idea
Clients consider first in the business they are dealing with and not in the business plan. It’s important that the chemistry between you and the client will be solid. The client will want to see that you are fast, thoughtful and efficient, and can sustain the idea through its conception and growth.
Business pitch example … capture the essentials
Clients care more about the presentation than the business plan. Can you, in less than five minutes, explain the ideas, the payoffs, and the strategy?
Business pitch presentation … do your client research
You should find out as much as you can about your client. Who have they used in the past? Have they been successful? How well do they know your industry? How much time can they devote to you and your idea?
Pitch a proposal … short and direct
You need to capture clients as quickly as possible. How about the first 7 sentences? Don’t beat around the bush – introduce yourself, show the client what you can offer, and ask if them if you are on the right track. Be like a breath of fresh air among the other pitches they could have received.
Being direct saves everyone time. You don’t have to spend hours and hours and hours writing a pitch and clients don’t have to spend the same amount of time reading it. That is a clear win-win.
Know proper tone
Because the client usually has done his homework, he knew a lot about us and our business. We’re conversational. We’re casual. We try to be fun (or at least funny). We’re definitely not a buttoned-up jargon factory.
So learn the same about your client and mirror their tone. There’s no fluff. No pitch red flags like “original content.” Nada. Just a normal, conversational tone that makes us know that there’s a real human behind the other end of the screen — not some robot.
Know client peers
I’m a big fan of many of my competitors. Many of them teach me much more than I ever teach them. So don’t be timid about mentioning their work. It will always catch the eye of the best clients.
Employ an elevator pitch
This is the 30-60 second business description of what you do and why someone should work with you.
It’s called an “Elevator Pitch” because it describes the challenge: “How would you explain your business and make a sale if fate placed you in an elevator with your dream prospect and you only had the time it takes to get from the top of the building to the bottom?”
Don’t be a stranger
Sure, we had never met the client before, but he wasn’t a stranger. We know clients in lots of ways without ever meeting them. So do your homework and learn about them from wherever you can. And by the way many clients will be doing the same research on you.
Pitch a proposal … Know client needs
If you poke around the internet, you’ll notice many things about the client. You’ll learn their strengths and weaknesses. Find out as much as you can about their needs before your pitch and make use of the most strategic facts.
Focus on one point at a time
There is rationale behind every step of a review process, and more importantly, there are specific goals to reach for each step. When you start thinking too far ahead and try to win the business in the first meeting, you lose focus and often fail to move forward. Don’t lose your way mentally. The No. 1 goal of any pitch meeting is to get invited to return.
Go the extra mile
It’s most often evident to clients how much work you put into the pitch. Let me give you an example: Create a custom, minute-long sample for us of the type of video you would create. That’s not easy — it’s not like whipping up 500 words on a topic. You’ve got to write the script, shoot the video, edit it, and upload it. That’s a lot of effort for potentially zero payoffs.
But because the topic was spot on and video was very, very well put together, the client was sold. You want to go beyond an extra mile — maybe as far as an extra 5K – but it can pay off big time.
Courage to risk failure
In terms of new business, you must have innovative thinking, and you need to be willing to take intelligent risks to demonstrate creative ideas that are more than just messages. Ensure you realize that not all clients may agree with your perspective, but there may be a compromise position that will lead to the best solution. You need to know exactly what makes for a successful relationship, because the best clients certainly do.
Timing can be everything
Being in the right place at the right time isn’t something that you can control — sometimes it’s just luck. Luck more often than not favors those who have gone overboard in preparation.
Sometimes when pitching others, you won’t be quite as lucky. So if it’s not a great time at the exact moment you connect with the client, but you have the rest of these elements down-pat, chances are the person you’re pitching will ask you to follow up with them in the future.
Total approach to performance
In pitching, you need a total approach to your brand issues. Think in terms of a holistic business solution, taking into account how the creative idea will work across disciplines including direct, digital, content marketing, public relations, and more.
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Practice and more practice
A final piece of advice is to practice your pitch at least five times in front of different friends or acquaintances that have experience receiving business proposals. Each time, you practice make sure you make revisions to respond to their questions and concerns.
The bottom line
It takes lots of practice to deliver a successful pitch. But, if you know how to avoid the pitfalls, and what leads to success, your presentations will be great.
Time spent on careful planning always pays dividends. Check the venue out, and familiarize yourself with equipment in advance to avoid possible problems.
Remember, a well-crafted pitch is a performance. Practice speaking clearly with a slower pace than your normal speech to avoid “rapid-fire” delivery.
Need some help in finding ways to grow your customers? Such as creative ideas to help the differentiation with potential customers? Or perhaps finding ways to work with other businesses?
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Mike Schoultz is the founder of Digital Spark Marketing, a digital marketing and customer service agency. With 40 years of business experience, he blogs on topics that relate to improving the performance of your business. Find them on G+, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
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