In times like these, when the credit crunch is having such a serious adverse effect on the lives of us all, it is even more important for people in business or who are self employed and working for themselves, to do all that they can to win new business. This is not an easy thing to do because there will always be competition from your business rivals who will be pitching for the same business, and so it is critical that the skills and competencies required for making successful presentations and pitches are learnt, and indeed mastered.

I have seen many presentations that were very slick and polished but having won the contract, the successful company was unable to deliver to the quality standards that they said that they could. In the end, they lost those contracts as the client became increasingly dis-satisfied.

Having a silver tongue and the gift of the gab is not enough. You must also have substance. You must be able to back up your claims and deliver on your promise, otherwise you will be quite rightly seen as just another smooth-talking salesman but not much more, and this is a reputation that you don’t want. It is damaging for you personally and damaging for your business.

Equally, it is not good enough to be able to perform well on the job if you are not equipped with the skills to pitch for business and to win contracts in the first place. If the client knew how good you were, you may stand a chance, but if he is consider a number of proposals, and your presentation is weak, lacking structure, or sounds confused, then you don’t stand a chance.

In this article, I am going to show you how you can increase your chances of winning new business by making high quality pitches. The first thing to say is that when you are preparing your proposal, whether it is a stand and deliver type presentation, or whether it is a written proposal, what you should be doing is not just trying to inform the client about what you can offer, but what you are doing is trying to persuade.

The idea is to persuade the client to choose your proposal over the other ones, or if you are the only one pitching, then you are trying to persuade the client to hire you. If you do this successfully, you will get the business. If you don’t, then the client won’t make a decision there and then but will look around to see if he can get other quotes and a better deal.

A simple structure for making pitches might look like this:

  • Get a clear brief of what the client is looking for with his goals, expectations, timescales and budget.
  • Write down all the things that you can and will do to meet every single criteria that he wants addressed and fulfilled. Concentrate on results rather than creating a to do list.
  • Analyse the client, the task at hand, determine its needs, and come up with other ideas or goals that you can add to the list. This is to create added value for the client and give them more than they have asked for. In doing so, you will be exceeding their expectations whilst at the same time establishing a difference between you and your rivals.
  • Develop your main message, the one that addresses their main wants and needs, and then draft your supporting statements showing the benefits to the client.
  • Agree who will draft the proposal or deliver the presentation. Choose the best person for the job. However, in many cases, the senior figure ie the Managing Director, would be expected to do this.
  • Encourage the client to take action ie make a decision. Your whole pitch should be one of trying to persuade so when you get to the end, simply ask confidently for the business. If there are other companies pitching also, then confidently say that you really want the business and that you believe that you can deliver outstanding results to the client.

If you are going to use visual aids then practice it over and over again as you practice the presentation. The effective use of visual aids can bring your presentation to life by illustrating and clarifying your main verbal messages, but get it wrong and you can seriously damage your proposal and create a negative impression with the client. Keep your visual aids clearly visible to each person in the audience and make sure each page or slide illustrates a single point. Having too much text is clutter and making the slide too “busy” is a definite put off.

You should aim to complete your presentation on time or in the time that you have been allotted. This discipline is an indicator of your level of professionalism and so it is important. Before your time expires, you should be summarising briefly, and by doing so, you will be in control of how the presentation ends. Naturally you will want to finish with a bang and with an upbeat tone that leaves a positive impression on your audience.

At the end of the presentation, you will probably face a Question and Answer session. Some people get nervous and tense over this because this is the unknown part of the process where they don’t know what the client is going to ask them and they might look bad if they don’t know the answer. Don’t be nervous by this. See it as an opportunity to re-inforce your main messages and to add something new that you may have forgotten to mention.

In the Q&A Session you will hear any points of concern that the client has and you can address them specifically and clarify ideas and the information given. You will also get a good indication of whether or not your presentation is persuading them and winning them over, or if they look uncertain and unconvinced.

One way of reducing the anxiety over questions is to plan for them and to try and anticipate what questions the client will ask. You can do this by rehearsing your presentation before some friends or colleagues and see what questions they ask. Not only are you practicing to make perfect and fine-tuning your delivery, but the process will show up any elements that you have neglected to include in your proposal.

When you are before your client, don’t appear defensive, but look as if you welcome questions (even if you are really nervous about them) because a positive attitude and self confidence can be seen and it goes a long way. If you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t lie or bluff your way through hoping to get away with it. Just be honest and say that you don’t know but that you will look into it and get back to them with the answer.

If you plan for your sales pitches, prepare properly and deliver them well, you will significantly increase your chances of winning new contracts, and at this difficult time in the economy, your business survival may depend on it.