1: Define the pitch
Pitches come in two flavours: a credentials pitch and a project pitch. The former is a chance for you to run through your portfolio, and explain what you do and why your services are required. The latter is where you present your idea(s) for a specific creative brief. Never muddle the two.
2: Identify the need
You have to know what your client needs and make it obvious to everyone in the room that you can deliver exactly what they’ve asked for. Repeat the main goal of the project in your pitch, whether it’s ‘sell more baked beans’ or ‘rebrand Dom Prignon’ together with your idea. Link their problem to your solution.
3: Keep it simple
A study by UCLA in 2004 found that individual points are ‘accepted’ at an optimum conversation time of just nine minutes. Remember this if you’re pitching in person or over the phone. For email, you should always try to work to the rule that anything that takes over 15 seconds to read deserves to be an attachment.
4: Focus on the job
Take control and keep focused. Don’t run through your portfolio unless asked to and never trot out anecdotes of past projects or clients. Clients want to know what you can do for them, how you are going to do it, how long it will take and how much it will cost. In that order.
5: Ditch the details
Deadlines and budgets might be key to negotiations, but they don’t have to be agreed on at the pitch. As long as you communicate what you can offer your client to service the need they have, leave the details until they naturally arise – it leaves the client thinking about your approach to the job, not your price.
6: Make it personal
As creepy as it might seem, human interaction is based on responsiveness – you’re more likely to react positively to your name being called than someone yelling ‘hey you’. The same works in a pitch. Look at who you’re pitching to and address each person by name. Always introduce the other members of your team and explain what they’ll be working on.
7: Listen up
When questions are asked, listen carefully, acknowledge them, and then answer as concisely and as completely as possible. Humans naturally place trust in those who appear to listen and answer. Use this to your advantage and avoid answering a question with a question – it’s an innate and recognisable avoidance technique.
8: Introduce urgency
If you feel, at the close of your pitch, that your ideas have been well received, then push for a decision. Mentioning that your services are in demand by other clients can help speed things along, as can pointing out that you have existing deadlines to meet. This serves the dual purpose of encouraging a deal and also highlighting your demand.
9: Don’t fear competition
When negotiating at a pitch, ask what the competition has offered. The client might not tell you, but they might hint at some deal-making areas such as turnaround time or fees. Listen for keywords such as ‘urgency’ or ‘economical’ and exploit them by saying how much resource you’ll throw at the job. Above all, offer solutions.
If you think the work will lead to repeat business, or just really want to work on the project, then make this clear without sounding desperate. It can be tricky, but it’s achievable: explain how you can prioritise the project over other work, offer to cut the deadline time, or as a final option lower your prices. Don’t undersell yourself, but don’t ever confuse a short-term gain with a long-term win.