“It’s not a pitch… we’re just going for a chat!”
How many times have you targeted a potential client, been successful in securing a meeting with them, and then turned up at their offices totally underprepared? But it’s not a formal pitch, right? It’s just a chat!
You tell yourself that you want to keep it informal, find out a bit more about them, maybe take the same PowerPoint presentation you gave to another client the week before and just change the logo.
You go with the best of intentions, but what you think is going to happen rarely ever does. You have no idea what issues they are having in their business/on their contracts, you don’t know anything about the other colleagues they brought along, you don’t know which of your competitors they are already working with, and so you spend the whole meeting telling them all about your company, what services you have, and what other clients you work with.
You leave the meeting thinking it went pretty well. They understand what you do now, so they’ll get in touch when they are ready. The glaringly obvious problem is that none of what you said in that meeting was about them.
Just because you or the potential client called it a ‘chat’ and there was no formal invitation for you to competitively pitch for a specific piece of work, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be treated in the same way. It’s always a pitch!
What does the client really want to hear?
Whilst it’s in your comfort zone to talk about yourself and your business for 45 minutes, you are purely being informative. It therefore stands to reason that you have only informed. If you want the potential client to take action, make a decision, hire you to provide a service, what you really need to do is persuade.
“Do you think we should add another slide…?”
Gripped by the fear of leaving something ‘important’ out, you pack your presentation full of generic company information (that only you care about). Before you know it, you’re adding slide 56 to your PowerPoint ready to fry their brains with information overload, or invite them to catch up on their sleep! Either one of these will quite obviously have a fatal impact on their decision-making.
How do you get back to being persuasive?
Understanding the process by which individuals make decisions is key to persuading your potential client to take action. The brain is hard-wired to receive and digest information in a pre-determined pattern in order to be persuaded into making a decision. This must be short, simple, punchy, and in the following order:
Ask them what their business/contract problems are (if you can’t get this information from them beforehand, ask them in the meeting) and then identify why it needs addressing.
Demonstrate you understand what they want to achieve if they address these challenges/issues (their goals, the end result, what good looks like). Read their annual report from the previous 2 years to see what targets they have set and what progress has been made so far.
This is the main part that most of us forget to include, despite it being the part that is most valuable. If you’re not giving them any advice, they will not see you as an expert in your area of business, and therefore won’t be able to make the connection that they need you to help them get to where they want to be. Make a recommendation or go through a number of potential options that solve the challenges/issues, and meet the objectives.
Prove that your recommendations and advice really works. Finish up by talking through some real examples of other clients you helped with similar challenges, and most importantly, tell them what the results were that you achieved for them (i.e. reduced costs by 15% in the first 6 months).
From this day onwards…
…look at every opportunity as a pitch. It is never just a meeting, or a chat. Everything’s a pitch. Make it relevant to the client and follow the persuasive pattern to increase your probability of winning business.