9 ingredients for a successful business pitch

Here are nine ingredients to help you plan and nail a successful business pitch.

There’s a pitch for nearly every occasion, from the elevator pitch to the concept pitch. And not all pitches are created equally. The way you pitch investors, clients or other business partners depends on the specific situation and what you’re looking for. Entrepreneurs who are prepared to pitch their ideas at any time or place are the ones who can jump on opportunities as and when they emerge.

During the pitching process, 78 per cent of clients say they’re most influenced by the business that proves how knowledgeable it is, however, research suggests that many businesses aren’t managing to get this across in their pitch and there’s currently a gap in what is being delivered versus what is wanted. According to Park Communications, for businesses lucky enough to make it to pitching stage, it’s crucial to be credible, attention-worthy and trustworthy.

Successfully leverage a pitch opportunity

A report by marketing and sales skills training company Corporate Visions reveals that while many businesses understand the importance of a pitch, many don’t leverage the golden opportunity as well as they could. 42 per cent of businesses believe that starting a pitch by introducing an ‘unconsidered need’ is the best way to go but surprisingly, less than 14 per cent actually pitch this way. That means 86 per cent of businesses create pitches that are different to what the largest percentage believe are most effective.

Give clients what they want

When it comes to agencies and brands the disconnect is similar, a survey on pitches by Kiwi Gray reveals what agencies think brands want versus what they actually want. 96 per cent of agencies believe a good presentation influences a brands decision.

For brands, it’s not that simple. 29 per cent of brands are looking for content, and the same proportion want to see an understanding of the questions posed in the brief. One in four want to see commercial numbers, and 11 per cent care about how the presentation is delivered.

“There has been one consistent element to every winning pitch that I have taken part in – present a big idea and bring it alive. It sounds simple but it always works,” says John Williams, head of marketing at Instant Group.

“Experience, process, even fees are all part of the mix, but a successful pitch always hinges on that one concept, the key moment of creativity that shows a client that you get it. You understand their challenge. And you can solve it. This is obviously re-enforced by the medium of presentation. Anything you can do to really bring that idea to life, from web design to print, will highlight your winning moment of strategic clarity.”

As someone who has successfully moved from agency to client-side, Williams transitioned from pitcher to recipient. “I can safely say that the one thing the client always talks about is that flash of creativity that renders every other facet of the pitch redundant.”

Related: How to pitch to potential business investors – Mark Pearson of Fuel Ventures offers some key tips when pitching for investment

Ginny Bown from Amplify, a UK-based pitch and presentation coaching company believes that when it comes to pitching, it is all about defining, rather than defending, what you do. “A zebra doesn’t need to convince somebody that he isn’t a horse, we can see from his stripes that he is what he says he is. Likewise, when you pitch, it is all about explaining adequately who you are, what you do and most importantly, why someone should care,” she says.

One of the most powerful tools you can use when you are pitching is storytelling, she adds, explaining that stories help you do everything you need to do as a communicator.

A recent study from Stanford University Press concluded that stories are 22 times more powerful than a fact because it allows you to draw the audience into your world. “Yes, you need both facts and stories, but you cannot neglect that really at our core we are all human and want to be connected with; stories allow you to do exactly that,” Brown says.

Louis Venter, CEO of award-winning UK digital agency MediaVision adds that authenticity is the best quality in a pitch. “Speak openly and honestly about what you feel the opportunities are and how to unlock them, rather than come across as too rehearsed. Invite them to interrupt whenever they want to ask questions. This proves you know your subject and are willing to discuss whatever comes up rather than having to stick to a script.”

The space between what clients want to see and what businesses deliver can sometimes be vast, and to pull off a successful pitch it’s crucial to close that gap. Here’s how.

Understand the needs of your audience

Keep audience attention by doing your research. Start the pitch with a quick summary of their needs then use the meeting to explain how you plan to meet them.

Go above and beyond to add value

Can you offer new services or technologies as they come to the market? Does your company culture differentiate you from the competition? Focus on what you can deliver that goes above and beyond the brief.

Differentiate yourself with credible evidence

Clients believe that 53 per cent of those pitching over-promise most of the time. Your audience needs to know what you say during your pitch is credible, so be prepared to talk case studies, results, testimonials or award wins.

Build a personal relationship

Remember that people buy from people. So, while it’s important to engage with your audience in an authoritative and knowledgeable way, it’s even more important to be natural, relaxed and warm.

Prepare, prepare, prepare

Some of the greatest pitches of all time have been a last-minute rush, but that doesn’t mean the speakers weren’t prepared. If you don’t have the answer for something, ‘I’ll find out’ is better than ‘I’m not sure’.

Polish your presentation skills

People only remember 10 per cent of what they hear and 20 per cent of what they read, but about 80 per cent of what they see and do. Keep this in mind while presenting. Talk and show visuals to keep your audience engaged.

Make a killer pitch deck

For printed decks, have your pages professionally printed on high quality, weighty paper, and bound to keep them neat. For digital decks, ensure your files work across all operating systems, and that images, videos, and text render properly on-screen.

Remember the power of storytelling

Research suggests that 79 per cent of people want brands to tell a story, and your audience is no different. Use your pitch deck to convey facts but don’t be afraid to offer up a story or a glimpse into your company by revealing some of the history, challenges, and victories you’ve faced.

Assemble a team

A survey revealed 42 per cent of agencies appoint a Pitch Leader to own the entire process, while 17 per cent always appoint a Pitch Administrator. Crush a difficult pitch by assigning a pitch team to the task – build on each other’s strengths and cover for each other in areas you may not be as strong in.

For smaller pitches, it is good to be accompanied by at least one other member of the team. This will help convey to the audience that there is depth to the pitch and that it does not stop with the person delivering the message.

One of the last and most important things to remember is that if you don’t feel like you can make a genuine difference to a company through your work, insights, or products, why pitch in the first place?

This infographic from Park Communications outlines what to look out for.

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2016 to 2018.

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