You might be a great designer or an exemplary coder, but the quality of your end product is no guarantee of getting the job. We’ve all been through the experience of pitching for work, losing out, and then being stunned when you see the finished article online or in print – “I could have done better than that!” you exclaim. It hurts professionally, emotionally, and on the bottom line, financially. And the thing is, the reason you didn’t get the job is not usually about output, it’s with the ability to pitch an idea effectively. Pitching is an art, and not one that everyone gets the hang of, but there are some simple rules you can use to improve your batting average. In this article I’ll take you through some of the key lessons to learn when putting together and delivering the ‘perfect’ pitch.
“Hey!” you might shout, “I’m a freelancer, I don’t pitch, that’s for agencies, not for me; I’m just resource for hire.” Unfortunately you would be wrong in that assumption. Everyone pitches pretty much everyday of their life, whether you’re turning up at a job interview, networking at a social event, or delivering an idea to an existing client. In all these situations we’re trying to get people to see what we want them to see – and that’s the heart of every pitch. So, one man band or small company – even large ones if you’re reading – these are the three things you need to know to create great pitches.
Lesson 1 – Research
Have you understood the brief? It’s a good question to ask yourself, because the client’s requirements aren’t always written in black and white, or in what you’ve been told over the phone. When reading a brief, look behind the actual requirement (”I want a website”) and into what the client is trying to achieve. The client could be looking for a new way to connect with a particular demographic or launch a new product. Make sure you ask the right questions of your client; understanding the issue that lies behind the requirement gives you an opportunity to go beyond and give them something spectacular that they may not have even thought about. It also shows that you have an understanding of their business goals, positioning you as a partner, not just a vendor.
Lesson 2 – Frames of reference
“People buy from people”, that’s the common quote that people draw on. The reason: it’s true. It’s not the whole story, you have to have something to sell, but it goes a long way towards sealing the deal. That’s why it’s important to know who you are pitching to, as well as what you are pitching for. Luckily, this is a lot easier to do than it used to be. Even if you can’t talk to them directly prior to the pitch, you can research them online, using tools like LinkedIn and Twitter, and corporate resources such as the company website. This research will give you an insight into what sort of person they are: are they aspirational, big-picture people, or are they into the details? Understanding distinctions like this can give you a headstart in creating your pitch, and help you to connect to them during a pitch. If you get it right, aligning your world-view with theirs will elicit the response, “Wow! You really get it!”
Why, because we’re telling them what they want to hear.
Lesson 3 – Preparation
You’ve got the what and the who, now you’ve got to deliver. Writing a pitch can be daunting, but it’s really the art of storytelling, and with the information you’ve already gathered you’ve got the right ingredients. A good pitch will consist of three elements, woven together to create a compelling journey for the client. They are:
- An understanding of the situation – both the logical requirements and the emotional ones.
- Your solution to that situation
- How you’re going to deliver it
The language you use will change dependent on the person you are speaking to, details for detail people, aspirational “this is what you could have” messages for big-picture people, but the content remains the same. And once you’ve written your pitch, make sure you run through it. Knowing it off by heart means you can spend more time talking around the solution and making the connection with your audience, and less time reading from slides.
Taking the time to work through these steps each and every time you get the opportunity to present will pay benefits. Yes, pitching is an art, but it is a skill that can be worked on and improved. Over time, you will find yourself better equipped to understand what you are being asked to do, how to articulate it, and ultimately, to deliver it.
If you would like to find out more about pitching, here is some suggested additional reading:
- The Hidden Agenda: a proven way to win business and create a following by Kevin Allen
- The Art of the Pitch: persuasion and presentation skills that win business by Peter Coughter
Have you got any pitching techniques that have worked for you? How do you prepare? Let us know your tips in the comments.