There has been plenty of research undertaken with the aim of discovering what makes a business pitch stand the best chance of success. For female freelancers, a study suggests it’s better to use a business name rather than a personal name. Another states investors are spending 24 per cent less time looking at pitch decks than last year – so first impressions matter more than ever.
In any case, the pitching process can be the difference between winning business or not. Graham Ablett, director at pitching consultancy firm Strategic Proposals, gives Growth Business his proposal and pitching tips to ensure you stand the best chance of success.
Writing a persuasive proposal
A great proposal superbly articulates a compelling story. Even with a great strategy and a competitive price, winning the deal requires us to clearly explain how we will help the customer achieve their goals. Persuasion lies at the core of this process, and there are several techniques we can employ:
Utilise storytelling techniques
Craft your proposal to tell a captivating story. Let the customer envision how your team, methods, and intellectual property will guide them from their current position to where they aspire to be, emphasising why you are the ideal choice for this journey.
Maintain customer focus
Stay disciplined in keeping the customer at the forefront when writing the proposal. Avoid the pitfall of solely highlighting your own capabilities. Instead, emphasise what you will do for the customer and how it will benefit them.
Challenge content with the “so what?” question
Continuously ask yourself, “So what does this mean for the customer?” This exercise will uncover the true value and benefits for the customer. If you can’t establish the customer benefit, reconsider the inclusion of those particular words.
Provide proof and evidence
Support your claims by presenting proof and evidence of your capabilities. Just like a detective builds a case using evidence, you must construct a compelling argument to persuade the customer of your ability to deliver. Incorporate quotes, client references, case studies, anecdotes, third-party accolades, and awards to substantiate your capabilities.
By employing these techniques, you will create a persuasive proposal that combines artful storytelling, customer-centric focus, rigorous content evaluation, and compelling evidence to convince the customer that your solution is the right one for them.
Delivering a compelling pitch
Falling at the final hurdle can be painful, especially when you’ve nailed your proposal and have the advantage. However, this can happen if mistakes are made during the pitch or if your competition outshines you in delivering a compelling presentation. How can we avoid these pitfalls?
Align the proposal with the pitch
First and foremost, it’s crucial to ensure alignment between what you say in the pitch and what was presented in the proposal. The pitch and proposal should flow seamlessly, demonstrating a cohesive sales rhythm. If the story and message deviate between the two, it becomes apparent to the customer that you and your team are not aligned. The good news is that if you’ve written a persuasive proposal, you can leverage its content in your pitch.
While there are numerous best practices to follow, such as rehearsing multiple times, employing storytelling techniques, ensuring smooth handovers, clarifying everyone’s roles, and being prepared to address challenging questions, the following strategic considerations will enhance your pitch:
Energise your structure
Understand the primacy and recency effect, which suggests that the audience is more likely to remember the information presented at the beginning and the end, while losing focus in the middle. To combat this, foster engagement and sustain interest throughout the pitch by incorporating thought-provoking statements, anecdotes, and rhetorical questions.
Avoid death by PowerPoint
Tediously clicking through slide after slide, reading the content verbatim, drains energy and disengages the audience. Our brains are not wired to simultaneously read and listen attentively. By putting words on the screen, listeners tend to read ahead faster than the presenter speaks, leading to decreased attention. Minimise text-heavy slides and instead utilise impactful visuals, emphasising key points that complement your spoken words.
Use animation to captivate the audience
Static slides with no visual movement can become monotonous. Use animation techniques to grab and hold your audience’s attention. Think about how news channels incorporate various visuals, headlines, pictures, charts and other techniques to captivate viewers. A simple improvement could be made by employing the morph transition tool in MS PowerPoint to introduce subtle movement. Additionally, using builds, triggered by clicks, can illustrate the development of your argument or how your solution addresses the customer’s problem. These techniques significantly enhance audience engagement and holds attention.
Winning business is challenging. Reflect on whether you excel in each of these areas and identify steps to improve them, thereby enhancing your likelihood of winning. Best of luck!
Graham Ablett is the director of Strategic Proposals – a consultancy helping businesses with proposals, pitches and sales collateral.
More pitching tips
How to pitch to investors: What fundraising collateral do I need? – What documents do you need when fundraising and which are the most important? Octopus Ventures expert Simon King provides the answers
The world started with a big bang, your pitch should too – The world started with a big bang, your pitch should too, says corporate storyteller and pitch consultant Donna Griffit