We all engage in “pitching” – all the time. Even negotiating with your child to finish her cereal and get off to school, is “pitching“ your point of view to persuade her to do something.
In business, it is inevitable that you will need to pitch yourself: for a new job, promotion, or to secure a contract or sale of a product, or pitch your service or case for a contribution.
Love it or hate it, pitching is part of life. But there also are myriad ways to totally mess it up. Here are five (and what to do to fix them):
- Bad manners: Too much talking about how wonderful you or how great your product or service is, and not enough listening to the needs of the person(s) you are pitching to. It’s a classic but we get caught up – even nervous – about getting our point of view across and forget the fundamentals of selling: i.e., it’s not about us. IT’S ABOUT THEM! If you have ever suffered through an endless litany of credentials by an agency that you are already familiar with, you know what I mean.
Avoid this by sending your credentials in advance or directing prospects to your website. And when you are in the room, LISTEN. It’s a good meeting if you do less talking and they do more.
- Bad team work: Ever watched a business team pitch and it is painfully obvious that they don’t really like or respect each other? The other frequent mistake: taking too many people to the meeting. If the client has two people and you show up with six, it screams “THESE GUYS ARE EXPENSIVE!” and they won’t hear anything else you’re saying.
The answer: Only take people to the pitch who are absolutely necessary, have a clear and articulated role to play, and like and respect each other – or can at least look like they do for the duration of the meeting!
- Boring: Hands up! Who else has experienced “Death by PowerPoint”? Do you really need all those slides? Do you need a PowerPoint at all or would it be better to simply go in and get a dialogue going? Again, don’t tell prospects what they already know or what could easily be communicated in advance.
- Baffling: There is nothing worse than telling a person or company all about how you solved the problems of another client when it has absolutely nothing to do with them. The flip side of that is plunging right into the solution for the client, when you haven’t even heard yet what they think the problem is. Remember that they run their lives and businesses all day every day.
How to avoid bafflement? Again, LISTEN first. Keep it simple and relevant to them – stay on their WIIFMchannel (What’s In It For Me).
- Beat at your own game: Give too much away in the pitch and the client will be wondering why they should engage you, or worse, think that you are desperate and lack self respect. You are looking to add value to the client but the goal of a pitch is to get the business!
Avoid this one by being crystal clear on these four questions – before you step foot in the pitch. What are my key messages? What do I need to learn? How do I want the client to feel/react? And, what are the next steps?
- And finally, don’t forget the ask! Whatever it is you want, ask for it! The worst way to mess up a pitch is to have a wonderful meeting where everyone feels good and then walk out without what you came for. Make sure you walk out of the room with what you went in to get: the order, the invitation to submit a proposal, or the offer to go to the next level.