Preparing a proposal/pitch is a costly exercise in terms of manpower and disruption to the business. Preparing well and in a timely fashion will help you stand out from the crowd.
This article is based on a recent case study, telling you how I help pitch teams to prepare well and significantly increase their success rate.
Meet the Pitch Team
We sit down and have a conversation about the company, its history and values. This conversation identifies the added value teams can offer to their prospect. Identifying value proposition for a particular pitch can often be the most challenging part, so once this is done we can start preparing the pitch.
We identify the situation that is the best example of how the team can solve the client’s problem(s). Focus on one/two key problems, not a list. Create a story that explains and demonstrates how your team solves the problem and the value added.
(Note: Preparing slides is the last thing we do, and never start with a previous slide deck)
It’s time to start capturing – on paper – ideas, stories, statistics etc. which will support the pitch. Usually we work over 1 to 2 weeks allowing time to gather the supporting stories, examples, statistics, evidence etc. from team members and colleagues.
Now that we have gathered all the information and a structure is emerging, it’s time to start working on who will be doing the pitch and how they will deliver it.
We need to establish what the time is allowed for the pitch, and will you be stopped if you run over time?
Also, will it be it an uninterrupted presentation plus question-and-answer session, or will you have to answer questions during the pitch? Often the client will say the former but you’ll end up with the latter, so we usually prepare for both.
I prefer the latter as you end up in a much more conversational type presentation. This situation gives you ongoing opportunity to demonstrate the expertise of you and your team. The questions from your client are then prompted by your pitch, as opposed to a formal Q&A session where you may end up answering questions from someone looking to demonstrate how much they know about their favourite topic or hobbyhorse.
At this stage our creative space is full of post-its with scribbled notes, rough drawings, pictures, graphs, maps in no particular order. Nothing should be ruled out at this point, everything should be considered. During this process a structure for the pitch will start to emerge. Explore the following:
The problem you will solve?
The value you will add?
Who you are as an individual, team or company?
What do you do?
This is where we learn to focus on the benefits you offer to the potential client. The pitch must emphasise situations where you have done what you suggest in the past and, what you have you learned from these situations that will be beneficial to the client.
Now we can start to tidy up your notes and sketches, but do not disregard anything as it may be useful in the future.
Stand and Deliver (Rehearsal)
Having spent time in preparation, we are now in a position where the presenter can stand and deliver the pitch using only the notes on A4 pages with limited text. We regularly rehearse the delivery of the pitch while the slide presentation is being prepared. This helps greatly to reduce the presenter’s reliance on the slide deck.
The Slide Deck
I have no hard and fast rules about number of slides for a presentation. The presenter must ask themselves when they look at the slides, “Is this slide here to prompt me or to add understanding and value for the client?”
At this point we can now start to consider the slide deck – this does not mean that you need to spend hours in front of the computer. Collect your notes, drawings, pictures etc; you do not have to be an artist, some line drawings are enough – simply pass them on to the computer whiz kid in the office or give them to a company who specialise in creating presentations. I recently used Ed Figeon Kavanagh who did a great job for my most recent client.
Your notes and sketches will give the graphic designer a clear understanding of what you need, ensuring that you get the presentation that you require as opposed to what they believe you want. This will also greatly reduce your preparation time.
“I want people to engage, to hash things out at a table, rather than show a bunch of slides. People who know what they’re about don’t need Power Point”
Advice from Steve Jobs
How to Finish
Now that the body of the pitch is in place, we have to identify how to finish the pitch. What I see most times with bad pitches is a list; the presenter is not sure as to what the client needs, so they say “Pick something from our list!”
The companies I work with finish pitches by saying specifically how partnering with them will improve the clients business and then ask! “Isn’t that what you want?”
They say yes and you’re on the way to getting the business
(In short: here is our added value – take it!)
The pitch should never be about what you do, it must always be about the value you add. Be sure you know what that is and can you articulate it?
Associates of mine ask “Why tell the world how you do what you do, are you not fearful that people may copy your ideas?” No, is my answer. As a coach the ability I have is to achieve these steps in a relaxed, enjoyable and fun environment that brings out the most creative and best ideas from my clients.
This is my skill developed over more than 20 years of coaching individuals and companies to pitch successfully. The mechanics anyone can copy, the skill is in the implementing them to achieve a successful outcome.