When it comes to successful sales pitches, there are some components that should show up every time.
You need confidence and enthusiasm. You need to know what your message is and who your audience is. And you need to look the part and have the right tools or materials to convince the listener.
For this article we’re focusing on big sales pitches with important outcomes. You might be in a room presenting to a group of people, hoping for a life-changing Yes.
But even if you’ve got 60 seconds in a lift with a potential client these principles should help you polish your pitch.
1. Know your decision makers
There are two levels to this in successful sales pitches: Knowing who the decision makers are, and knowing more about them.
Too often you find you’re pitching to someone who isn’t the ultimate decision maker. Then you’re left wondering how your proposal will be presented onwards.
Your product or service likely has Users and Specifiers. The former just want a great user experience, but Specifiers might be thinking about security and systems integration.
If you can figure out in advance who’s playing these key roles then you have far greater chance of success.
Then spend a few moments before your meeting understanding a little bit more about them: What jobs have they held and what interests do they have? How might that affect their preferred communication style?
2. Who are you competing with?
Let’s say you’re a heat pump supplier down to a shortlist of three for a new client. If you’re up against two other heat pump suppliers your story will be about who’s the best supplier of heat pumps.
But imagine if your competition for this pitch is a solar panel company and a company making window blinds.
All three of you will help reduce utility consumption but you’ll be doing it in very different ways.
Your pitch in each of these scenarios will need to be quite different.
It might feel like a cheeky question to ask who else is pitching but it’s clear from this example it can be really helpful to the client if you understand what problem they are trying to resolve.
3. What are the implications of success of failure?
This is a very powerful thing to explore in pitching. You’ll most likely have been given some sort of supplier brief to pitch against, which will probably include the solution the client expects.
But often this won’t include any guidance on implications. What will their customers do if this problem isn’t fixed? What are the expectations of their board or shareholders?
If you can understand not just what the client expects a solution looks like but why they need one – then you can amplify the power of your proposal.
4. What’s working for you now?
If you’ve spent a long time creating a client proposal it’s human nature to focus your pitch on the reasons why working with you will be great.
In most cases, though, this won’t be the first time the client has bought a service or product of this type. You can spend a valuable few minutes finding out what it is they value about their current supplier or solution. What’s working well? What do they most want to change?
This insight can be key in creating successful sales pitches and can give you a head start on not fixing what’s not broken. That can make your pitch more succinct and can help you focus valuable resources if (and when!) you start the work.
5. Engage the audience
Some people find this really uncomfortable but it’s a very effective way of being remembered.
If a senior team sit through five PowerPoint presentations they’re likely to connect emotionally with the team who had them chatting, moving around and creating their own solutions.
This takes practice and confidence, but it’s a guaranteed way of creating more successful sales pitches. However brilliant your “sell”, people still buy people and will want to select a supplier they can work with going forward.
6. Be authentic
This is perhaps a question of strategy as much as it is about pitching. But it’s a simple truth that playing to your strengths will win you more of the business you deserve. And yes, it might mean missing out on some other things too.
We occasionally come up against this, knowing that some other training organisations deliver training modules day after day after day. We don’t, so there’s little point in pretending we have ready-made slide decks and a long list of client logos.
Better to focus on our unique strengths, like having all work delivered by the company founders and every project built bespoke so it meets your company goals.
Most clients will have a preference for one of these approaches and that’s OK. The sooner you can identify those who are best fit for you, then you’ll be able to create more successful sales pitches.
7. Pitching is not about you
This is a theme you might have picked up as you’ve read through this post, but it’s worth stating it really explicitly.
Successful sales pitches can result in game-changing victories for you, your team and the future growth of your business. Of course it’s important.
But winning pitches is actually about how you can help the customer. If you can hold this thought you’ll find you’re being more targeted in who you try to work with and more successful in winning those pitches. And you’ll enjoy the process more.
You’ll gradually realise you’re working more with clients where you feel like there’s a real connection between you, and that can be truly inspiring.