I’ve been invited to pitch for hundreds of pieces of business over the course of my career, and I’ve been fortunate to win a significant percentage of them. Our clients know that we don’t go into meetings with PowerPoint presentations or slick handouts – we’ve all suffered enough with death by PowerPoint.* According to Jon Steel, author of The Perfect Pitch: The Art of Selling Ideas and Winning New Business, we’re doing something right, but I know we can always get better. That’s why I picked up this book and discovered more than a few new insights to boost our new business efforts.
Although written from the perspective of a strategic planner pitching new business in the advertising industry, the content is relevant for anyone charged with selling ideas and landing new clients. In the professional services realm, one can imagine what new business pitches look like – the parade of suits promising a commitment to client service, full-service capabilities, unmatched experience… all hiding behind a projector, screen and a stack of “leave behinds.” Sound familiar?
Perfect Pitch is not a call to end PowerPoint presentations, but a manual on how to understand your audience and present ideas in a compelling, persuasive fashion. There are dozens of useful nuggets and commentary throughout the book – things to do as well as what not to do.
One of the resounding themes throughout the book rang familiar. My very first pitch for Pinstripe was a soon-to-be-fast-growing software company and I was fortunate to end up on the short list against one of the largest and well-known agencies in Tampa Bay. After a few meetings and submitting a proposal, I won the account which helped get the agency off the ground and was the beginning of a long, rewarding relationship. In that meeting where the CEO officially hired us, she asked if I wanted to know why they picked us. I was so stunned that I didn’t know what to say, but she responded, “you were the only one who behaved as if our business was important to you.”
It was then and it is now.
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* In 2006, Wall Street Journal estimated 30 million PowerPoint presentations are given every day around the world. We’ve seen the backlash over the last nine years, so we can hope it has gone down since then. Unfortunately, it has probably become worse.