Think hard. Pitch hard. From time to time even the best of us feel a little under the weather. That run of winning pitches seems to have, inexplicably, dried up. God forbid, you might find yourself in the midst of a barren spell. Your team has changed and the new guys just aren’t getting it. (Obviously it couldn’t possibly be down to the way you’re telling them about it; could it?) Perhaps you’re simply bored with the sound of your own voice; those same old slides; even the look of your partners (if he tells that gag again you’ll go mad). You need reinvigorated. An outside view. A fresh perspective.
Cruel to be kind (kind of). Get the pitch doctor in and I’ll help you pitch hard(er). I’ll honestly appraise your pitches. The one you’re working on that you need to deliver tomorrow, or even three hours from now. Or maybe you’d like me to look at a number of your old ones, winning and losing, and help you (and your team) compile a ‘best of’. All of this might be more painful than you’d think because it involves me telling you bad things about your pitch, and you need to be able to take that. If you’re pain threshold is low you might like to try this website (http://www.stubbornasamule.com) But actually I’ll also focus on what’s good about your pitch. I’ll look for ways to simplify it. In short, I’ll objectivise. (Yes, it is a horrendous Americanism – without the ‘z’ – but it’s kind of cute don’t you think?) I might even rip it up and start again (if necessary).
Keep it simple stupid How can I help you? You know yourself better than anyone else after all. By listening! By applying my 20+ years of experience pitching winning (and losing) ideas in the corporate world. (Actually, the losing bit is pretty important because losing teaches you humility. I’m veeery humble after 20 years.) By suggesting new approaches. By coaching and training. If necessary.
My tools of the trade. It might seem old-fashioned but experience, an open mind, an ability to listen (actively), a liberal dash of creativity and a fixation on keeping things simple goes a long way to identifying the strengths and weaknesses of any pitch to anyone. Being in one’s prime therefore has its advantages. Same as losing the odd pitch does.
Life’s a pitch. Then you lose. Pitching is a fact of life. You’re always doing it, and at any time you’ll find yourself at any of the stages of the pitching continuum where I believe I make a valuable input;
Downtime. A time to train – you’ve nothing specific on the cards, you’re under no pressure. This would be a good time to bring in the more experienced members of your team and ask them to review some of your recent winning and losing pitches as part of a training exercise. You could also use my experience to bring on some of the young Turks.
Outset. There’s a new brief in. Everyone’s excited about the possibilities – I can help you at the outset to help you manage the process – I can bring a fresh perspective to planning your pitch, to building a structure for the presentation or to help you manage the whole shooting match if that’s what you require.
Time out. The first stage of thinking has been done. The presentation structure is in place. There’s time to take stock, to check out what’s working, and what’s not. Then go into the last lap with the sound of the bell ringing in your ears and confidence high because you now know you’re in good shape.
Home Straight. The pitch is tomorrow. Today even. You want a second opinion. An honest one! But not so late that you can’t do anything about it. It’s a good discipline to tidy up the loose ends, those bits you knew weren’t right. A late consultation will settle the nerves and set you on your way with a valuable dose of confidence.
What I’ll be looking for – Good (and bad) team chemistry – Clear presentation signposting and structure – Effective communication of your ideas – A balanced presentation – is everyone fully and appropriately engaged? – Great (even pitch winning) soundbites – Clean and interesting use of presentation aids – Waffle – Jargon – Bullshit
And how exactly am I qualified? Over 20 years in the hottest of pitching hothouses – the advertising, PR and communications industry – with a wide range of private and plc companies gives me a frontline perspective on what makes good and bad pitches. There is no sector, private or public, in which the I haven’t won (and lost) pitches.
The importance of losing. If you won every pitch you ever did you wouldn’t need my services so I can take it as a given that you are as fallible as I am. Once the (losing) post-pitch ritual of accusing the prospect of fixing it, shoeing-in their best mate, creating an un-level playing field, and you not really wanting the business anyway, and so on, have been completed the smart option is to use the cold light of day to work out why you REALLY lost. Chances are it will be something you did, somewhere in the process (that might include not blowing the prospect out of the water, like the winner did). If you’re big enough to accept that – like I have over the years – you’ve got a chance to learn and move on. You’re the kind of company that could get something out of talking to me.