If you're in marketing you probably remember "The Pitch", a short-lived, reality-style TV show that pitted two advertising agencies against each other to win a real campaign from a major brand. It lasted 2 seasons on AMC and I always found it interesting to go behind the scenes to see how other marketing teams prepare for pitches.
Whether you live the agency life or sit in the corporate world, pitches are the foundation of marketing efforts. It seems we are all regularly in a position where we are standing in front of our bosses proposing new ideas or outlining our go to market strategy and what it will take to make it happen. Because of that, it's imperative that our pitching skills are on point so here are a few tips to make sure you're hitting the strike zone:
- Know your audience - you have to go beyond your agenda and make sure you know what they are looking for and what they need. Far too often I've seen pitches focus on the solution someone has proposed without understanding or more importantly validating the problem or issue that is cause for the meeting in the first place. If you don't have that in the center of what you're discussing the loss of signal with the people you're pitching to will hurt your chances.
- Control the room - even though the focus is on making the audience happy, you need to make sure that you are driving the process and getting through your entire agenda. It's easy to get off track with questions and sidebars, but the last thing you want is to be out of time and you have to rush your close. To that...
- Always be closing - a slight nod to Glengarry Glen Ross but you need to remember that you go into pitches with an objective - to sell something. It may be an idea, a plan, a budget or a product but you need to come out of the pitch with an action. The buying decision may not come to you in the room that day, but you have to set the stage in the minds of the audience that they need to buy. Never leave your pitch meetings open-ended or vague on next steps or you are leaving the power of the pitch in someone else's hands.
- Provide value...even if you don't sell something - not everyone wins every pitch unfortunately so how do you get value out of your time and effort regardless of the outcome? By providing value to your audience that carries beyond the pitch. If you can give them business or marketing insights or some idea that that's new to them they will still hold you in high regard even if you don't win the business. This gives you a great platform from which you can pitch to them in the future as well as possibly get referrals for future work. It may not be the result you wanted but it lays the groundwork for future opportunities as well as learning.
At the end of the day make sure your pitches are worth catching. You have to find ways to build rapport, show depth, expertise and understanding and ultimately (if all goes well) growth your own business and influence. Focusing on these core attributes will improve your pitches and get you to the playoffs and beyond.