The current economic climate has created a renter’s market. And I’m not just talking about real estate – any small business owner that subsists on client work is essentially renting his or her services. As clients seek more bang for their buck, they’re spending more and more time shopping around – which means we’re all doing a lot more pitching.
So what can we do to pitch better? An interesting solution emerged a few weeks ago at Behance’s 99% conference. One of the more unexpected speakers on the docket was Jason Randal, a magician and memory expert, who asserted that we’re all being judged constantly on three factors – trustworthiness, expertness, and dynamism. While taking client advice from a magician might seem odd, when you really think about it, all the best pitches do have a bit of smoke and mirrors.
1. Trustworthiness. In pitch meetings, we often skip right over “trustworthiness” proceeding directly to expertness (who doesn’t like to talk about their expertise?). However, trust is a huge factor for the client. They want to know that they can rely on you to deliver what you say you will, and in a timely fashion. To emphasize that you’re capable of doing just this, point to successful ongoing client relationships, projects delivered on budget and on time, and even instances where you’ve gone above and beyond. Also, show up for the meeting on time.
2. Expertness. Talking about our expertise is usually what most of us do best in pitches. However, if there is a common place to fall down on the job, it’s usually when it comes to specificity. Due to time constraints, it’s easy to put oneself on autopilot and give “the pitch.” Though it’s a lot of work to custom-tailor each presentation or proposal, it’s the best way to make the client feel special and distinguish yourself from the pack. The key is creating the appropriate resources (e.g. case studies, visuals, etc.) in advance, so you can flexibly assemble them on the fly, customizing your “expertise showcase” to the client’s specific problem.
3. Dynamism. As any accomplished salesman can tell you, dynamism – or, the energy with which you present yourself and your product – is more important than you might think. If a client is asking you for a pitch, they’ve already admitted that they want to be sold. Preparing the right pitch materials is only half the battle – what remains is presenting it with the kind of enthusiasm that is catching. After all, if you are not enthusiastic about your offering, why would you expect anyone else to be?
4. Likeability. An addition to Randall’s list of three, likeability is the final X factor in the pitch equation. In short, don’t become overly enchanted by the pitch you’ve worked so hard to prepare. Make time for the small talk before the talking points. And most importantly, give the client a chance to speak before you begin, then listen.
Nail these four things, and you’ve nailed the pitch.
*** This article is based on the research and writing of J.K. Glei. She regularly collaborates with Scott Belsky and the Behance Team, which runs the Behance Creative Network, the 99% productivity think thank, the Action Method project management application, and the Creative Jobs List.