The sales pitch - what NOT to do!

It’s been a heck of a ride, running a business for the past 19 years. So many mistakes, so many lessons, but what a joy it is to see it take shape, evolve, respond to today’s needs…but also to remind ourselves that the one constant is people. They are humans too, and when you need to win a piece of business, inevitably you will need to pitch to win that business, and if you are to win that business, you need to win the hearts and minds of those humans...

I thought it would be interesting to look through the other end of the telescope for once and share with you what I have learnt about how NOT to win business. All you need to do is the opposite, to unlock what have become our recipes for success!

So…here are my top tips of what NOT to do
– a humorous look at the reality….all grounded in real experience. Fortunately,
it doesn’t all happen all of the time….just some of it, some of the time. It’s
up to us to make sure that we plan for it, to manage it when it does!


Do not...

  1. ...assume that the meeting will run to plan: Deep breath - it will be a different room than you expected, the technology won’t work as planned, the delivery of equipment, samples and other ‘kit’ you had asked to be available is nowhere to be seen, there will be different people in the room than you expected, your sponsor couldn’t make the kick off and so you have no introduction, the previous meeting has overrun and they cannot extend your slot, your competitor has left their material lying around, there is no room in the room, there are three people on a conference line, and two on webinars and they have not got their cameras on (and cannot see the room) (and are probably catching up on their emails anyway), not all the people in the room will have read your proposal or even have a clue about why you are there, you cannot connect to the ‘guest Wi-Fi’, you have to use one of ‘their’ laptops, and the software is not compatible with yours...always have a Plan B, C and possibly D.

    …talk about you: That’s the easy bit. Your potential client is not interested…they want to know what you can do for them…how you are going to address their needs, and why you are different from all the other (what they truly believe are) remarkably similar solutions they have been exposed to.

    …use (only) PowerPoint: That’s what everybody else does…’s flat, un-engaging and probably what they have been staring at all day. You will not stand out if you do that.

    . …use the wrong pitch team for that client: You must have the right people in the room…consider carefully who ‘right’ would be.

    …not have a backup: It will go wrong. Your laptop will freeze...your clicker won’t operate, you won’t be able to connect to their system, their firewall will keep you out.

    …be on time: That’s too late. If you are later than 30 minutes early…you are way too late to be ready.

    …tell them everything: You don’t have time...keep it to what they need to know.

    …overdress: just shows you don’t ‘get’ who they need to ‘fit’ their business – check first.

    …run out of time: You will miss out the important bits if you do...plan carefully and know that it ‘always’ takes longer than you plan.

    …think they ‘get’ you already: They won’t...only your sponsor will (possibly) and the rest of the team won’t. They won’t have heard of you, probably haven’t read the proposal you sent…and if they did, have probably already made up their mind. Even if they don’t know it.

    Finally…do not ’high five’ in the car park: At least leave it until you have left the venue way behind…it is amazing who could be looking…

I am sure you can add to this list…but all of this has happened….and it is all avoidable with thought, engagement and careful planning.

If you have found this useful, stimulating, interesting, or
even vaguely amusing, please share, comment or add your own experiences.

Alex Selwood

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