July 14, 2015

Three steps to creating a convincing business pitch

A convincing pitch helps to win new clients, secure finance and attract investors. Warren Harmer, Chief Business Planner at The Business Plan Company, outlines the importance of preparation, understanding your target audience and perfecting your spiel.

Many business owners dread promoting themselves to prospective clients, investors and lenders, yet their future could well depend on the quality of their presentations.

“The first thing to understand is that you don’t have to become an aggressive and pushy salesperson,” says Warren Harmer, Chief Business Planner at The Business Plan Company. “You need to find an approach that allows you to be yourself – the more comfortable you feel when you’re making a presentation, the more convincing you’ll sound. For example, I have a client who is very committed to providing quality healthcare. This shines through in his presentation and, when he recently won a pitch for a national tender, he was told his obvious passion had played a big part in the decision.”

Harmer’s top three tips for developing an effective business pitch are being prepared, understanding your target audience and perfecting your spiel.

1. Preparation

Presentations can vary from a quick conversation in a hotel lobby to a half-hour pitch for a major contract – and they should all becarefully prepared.

“I recommend practicing a 30-second ‘elevator pitch’ so you’re always ready with a concise description of what you offer,” says Harmer. “You should also develop a longer presentation that presents basic information about you and your company in a logical sequence. You can then tailor this to each pitch – sometimes it will just need a tweak but, for a big, one-off presentation, you should customise everything from your printed material to your PowerPoint presentation.”

2. Knowing your audience

It’s important to find out as much as possible about the company you’re presenting to.

“The first thing you need to know is how much they’re expecting to pay for your product or service,” says Harmer. “If you’re set on significantly more the pitch would be a waste of time.”

You should be able to demonstrate that you understand what the company needs and how you can help them to solve the problem. As a successful business pitch could be the start of a long relationship, you should also consider cultural fit.

“When my client and I were doing our research for the healthcare presentation and found that no-one in the organisation wore suits or ties he decided to match their dress code,” says Harmer. “Another client dressed casually for a pitch to a major hardware chain and was told it helped him to win the business because he clearly understood his audience. We all prefer to work with people we get on with, and small cues add up when you’re making a decision.”

A pitch for investment or finance will always focus tightly on the company’s financial performance but, even here, a broader picture can be more persuasive.

“I recommend presenting a rounded business case that includes information such as your history, your approach to marketing, your clients and how you fit into the market,” says Harmer.

3. Practice makes perfect

All presentations should be professional and well-rehearsed, but a major pitch deserves particular care.

“Big opportunities are more likely to attract very experienced competitors so your pitch should be highly polished,” says Harmer. “Small business owners don’t always feel comfortable about working with a consultant or coach, but outside help can be very useful, particularly if you’re presenting on this scale for the first time. There’s a lot at stake, and rehearsing with someone who can provide independent feedback and ensure you’ve covered off even the smallest points could make the difference between winning and losing.”

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