[Sid Peimer is author of The Clear Win: pitching for new business – the strategies that work; the myths that don’t available on Amazon here]

When pitching for new business, for some reason we act differently. We often should change our usual behaviour, because starting a new relationship requires some restraint and a degree of bravado, but that does not cross the line to absurdity. Here are 5 common errors when pitching for new business.

1. Making it all about you. No one is really interested in your vision, mission and values, at least not in the way they are usually described on the inside front page of annual reports. Although people like to know where they stand with you going forward, these sterile strategic statements push people away as opposed to drawing them in. I have sat through so many presentations where the list of values borders on the ridiculous – after course you are an inclusive company with honesty and integrity with the client’s interest paramount. What drivel.

 2. Thinking they’ll remember you for more than one thing when you walk out the room. When Bill Clinton ran for president he realised you always have to bring your message back to the one thing. In his case it was the economy, with the result that pasted in his campaign office was the message “It’s the economy stupid”. So, if healthcare was the issue being discussed, he brought it back to the economy. If security was discussed, he brought it back to the economy. And when the economy was discussed it hit his sweet spot.

 3. Not going all the way. This is somewhat paradoxical to the way you should behave when starting a new relationship. However, the prospective client does not want to hear what you are going to do – they want to see it. So here’s the thing: this is one situation where you don’t have to be right to win. Taking concepts (right or wrong) all the way to execution gives the client insight into how you think, because you don’t get hired for getting it right; you get hired baecause the client fells you could get it right.

4. Having no coherent structure. Not everyone is a great presenter, but you need to tell a story where your strategy emerges naturally. Showing how much homework you’ve done (and supporting the Death by Powerpoint lobby), and then jumping across the chasm to a solution means you have taken the client across a tightrope with no safety net. The most important thing is clarity; a child should be able to follow your logic. Sir Gerry Robinson, the ninth of 10 children who from a modest background and rose to be a captain of industry drives the point home: “There is no such thing as a great presenter; just a clear thinker”.

5. There is no such thing as ‘conditional enthusiasm’. You either want the account or you don’t.

 Sid Peimer is author of The Clear Win: pitching for new business the strategies that work; the myths that don’t available on Amazon available here 

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