When you think of a pitch, chances are you have a certain image in mind. Clients seated around a large table, gazing up at creative. Clever ideas beautifully displayed. Don Draper lifting covers from an A-Frame.
Whilst formal pitching is a key part of the sales processes, It’s not the only way. In fact, a big presentation can often be the wrong approach for your client. Keeping in mind the alternatives could make life easier for both you and your client.
Here, we cover 6 types of pitch and how to win them. We’ll cover:
- Collaborative workshops.
- Strategic responses.
- Request for proposal.
- A full pitch response.
A simple conversation goes a long way. Take some time to understand what your client does and what they want to achieve. Learn their biggest pain points. By understanding, you can provide more relevant advice and show you solve their problems. Selling from a single conversation is more likely to occur with smaller businesses. That said, if you find yourself without specific direction from the client, it’s worth aiming to have a “conversation” only pitch process. This will reduce the workload for both of you.
How to win.
Research is key. What do they do, who are the competitors, what’s the current approach, and what they could be doing better. Having this information will show expertise and lead to more meaningful discussions. The conversation itself doesn’t need to be complicated, but should cover:
Purpose: Outline business goals.
Goals: Define what success looks like.
Challenges: Understand business challenges and roadblocks.
Insights: Share insights from your research and conversation.
Recommendations: Show your expertise by providing initial recommendations.
Action: Agreement and confirming the next steps.
The above is a common-sense approach to any sales discussion. But agency selling without a powerpoint presentation is rare. Do everyone a favour and kill the powerpoint when you can.
A good creds deck is like a swiss army knife for business’. A tight presentation can help in any number of scenarios. From pitches to onboarding, to seeking investment. Spending time getting it right is an investment worth making.
How to win.
The following steps not only help build slides but should get you thinking about the bigger picture.
Define the problem your product or service solves.
Explain your product or service in the context of these challenges.
Use illustrations & diagrams to make abstract concepts concrete.
Provide evidence and proof points for any claims or key benefits.
Use a clear structure to ensure customers understand what you’re telling them.
Build a strong narrative to tie your ideas together. Check out this handy infographic explaining narrative.
Include audience engagement. Ask questions, take votes, confirm viewpoints.
Keep it short. 20 slides is a good target, though smaller pitches may require less.
Customise it. Customise sections in the deck with performance insights specific to the client to make it feel relevant.
Each of these considerations is worth a chapter in a novel. If you’re interested in learning more, you can contact the Pitch team for support.
In a workshop, you guide a group of client stakeholders through the process of defining the brief. It’s helpful to have a standardised process for this to tease out the details of their challenges. A workshop approach is useful for working clients who: have a good budget, present broad strategic problems, with little idea how to solve them or the process for going about pitching.
How to win.
The right workshop framework is the difference between success and failure. You can find a wide range of workshop frameworks on the Board of Innovation website. The framework used will depend on the nature of the problem. Our preferred approach uses the following topics to guide our approach:
Business goals. Understand what the business is aiming to do. (Revenue targets, reduce costs, increase transactions).
Defining success. Establish what the client is looking for from the relationship with your business.
Past activity. Find out what they are doing at the moment or have done before and why.
Challenges. If the client is engaging you, it’s likely something they’re doing isn’t working. Find out what challenges exist before making recommendations to avoid repeating others’ mistakes.
Brand assets and processes. Review existing brand strategy, style guide, tone of voice, audience research, marketing strategy. Whatever existing information will help you understand the brand. This helps you stay relevant and keeps your recommendations in line with the brand.
Outlining solutions and open discussion. You don’t need to provide a full solution or proposal in an initial workshop. But do provide ideas for discussion that will allow you to check you’re all on the same page. This can save a lot of heartache later.
4. Task response.
One of the most common forms of pitching in mid-sized to larger agencies. A task response can be a time-consuming process requiring several members of the team. Before taking on this form of pitch you should qualify the opportunity. Is the client serious about using your services and do they have the budget? Three minimum requirements for this should include:
- Ensure you have a call or face to face briefing session with the client.
- Confirm the budget for the project.
- Does the client have the size and credibility to excuse the absence of the above?
Without these things, you need to ask whether you’ll see a good return on the time being invested.
How to win.
Three things are key to success here. Answering the brief, showing expertise, and delivering a compelling response. The following steps will help ensure you’ve covered all the basics:
Interrogate the brief. Take the time to read and understand the brief. Write down the key questions to address and points to emphasise. When you’ve finished, check back through the brief to tick everything off.
Workshop solutions. Involving the whole team when thinking about solutions will ensure you have the best ideas and establish buy-in.
Outline response. Outlining the structure early makes it clear what the team need to do and gives clarity to the narrative. Start by adding headings with bullet point notes for the key points.
Divide responsibility and set timelines. Defining expectations early helps the team meet timelines. Ensure everyone knows each person’s responsibilities and set clear deadlines and regular check-ins.
Gather insights. A good response is more than a creds deck. It includes a depth of insight that shows you know more than competitors. A good response will aim to show a significant level of insight.
Format as you go. Keeping the design of the slides in check as you go makes the final day of delivery much less stressful. Having a designer on hand to refine slides before delivery can seem like a positive, but requires you to tighten deadlines by a day or two. This makes a significant difference in the end quality of thinking.
5. Request for proposal (RFP).
The most feared format of all. An RFP tends to be a lengthy written document. It gives details about your business, recommendations for the client, and commercial details of the proposal. Larger businesses with formal procurement processes tend to favour these.
How to win.
The best way to become good at RFPs is to submit lots of RFPs. In time you will find efficiencies and ways of working that speed up the process. Keep the following in mind as you work to make life a little easier.
Use Google Docs. MS Word might let you use the company font, but that’s not worth the pain of merging documents 5 minutes before the deadline. Use Google Docs.
Divide and conquer. More than any other format, hand over sole responsibility for each section to a senior team member.
Keep a library. Whilst every RFP seems to taunt you with its slight deviation from the last, keeping key information in stock can reduce workload. Specifically, keep track of business information, insurance details, team Bio’s, etc…
Use your own template. If you can get away from the client’s poorly formatted template, do. You will find it easier to present everything you need and the design will be much better for it.
Use diagrams and imagery. Break up reams of copy with the occasional image and avoid putting the client into a coma when they come to read it.
Consider typography. Copy design is an important, but oft-overlooked consideration. What’s the line height, is there space after the paragraph, are fonts readable, is the colour high contrast but stylish.
6. Full pitch.
You may be lucky enough to find yourself responding in only one of the formats suggested above. For larger pitches though, some combination of the above is more typical. This is a full pitch.
How to win.
Beyond the tips already mentioned, having the right team in place is the critical factor in any pitch. Key roles to include are:
Pitch owner. Reviews the brief, pulls a together team, and maintains deadlines.
Client contact manager. Manages all requests from the client and ensures the response meets the brief.
Insights. Depending on the scope of the pitch, several people may be responsible for finding insights.
Strategy. The strategy tends to be the product of one person but will take in the recommendations of the rest of the team. This role takes tactical recommendations and applies it to the broader strategic picture.
Document owner. The document own ensures there is a clear structure and good design. Whilst this is something everyone should take responsibility for, having an owner ensures a better result.
Commercials. Where there are complex costings involved, having someone assigned to this task leaves the rest of the team with time to get on with the details. Don’t panic if you don’t have a massive team available to fill each role. Often people play several roles.
Bringing it together.
Pitching is tough. It can often take several of your most experienced people away from their day jobs to find insights, create slides, and sit in meetings. Tight deadlines and a win-lose scenario make it a stressful experience. By planning ahead of your next pitch, you can save your team time and stress without losing the opportunity.
Next time you have a pitch, ask yourself “could this be easier”? Our team has years of experience pitching for marketing businesses. Get fighting fit for your next round of pitching by booking your free consultation today.
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