Recently I was speaking at a large conference of service providers. I was second up and the speaker before me was a head of department for a very, very large company (a household name no less).
Her talk was a reflection of how she was pitched to by suppliers and blew me away; here’s why.
Not only did she expose many of the myths so dearly held by suppliers when it comes to pitching but also my talk was echoing 3 of her main points. So much so, in fact, that it looked like we’d designed our talks together (we hadn’t BTW).
So let me share the 3 crucial points she made. I think they could have a MASSIVE impact on how you pitch in future.
1 “Give me something more”
The days when you could just deliver your product or service are long gone. These days clients want more.
We’re not talking about being showered in gifts, taken to expensive restaurants or treated to a prestigious sporting event here. What I mean is adding real value to them in their world and showing this in your pitch.
Bear-trap Alert: there’s an old Yiddish saying “to a worm in a horseradish the whole world is horseradish”. You are naturally keen on whatever it is you sell but its probably only a small part of your clients world.
You need to change your position. Really understand what’s happening to your clients; their problems and pain, the threats they’re facing and their objectives and goals.
Then you need to figure out a way to add value to them.
It’s not all about what you sell – you need to add real value to your clients.
2 “Reputation alone does not win business”
She told a lovely story about how she sat on a panel of buyers trusted with selecting some new suppliers.
After what seemed like a million presentations that were all the same (1 senior guy who was the MC; 2 other male/pale/stale presenters; a token woman and a junior who was often ethnic) and lots of PowerPoint somebody turned up and was different.
It looked like most people had pressed the “autopilot pitch” button and were sleep-walking their way through their presentation because “Hey we’re from a well know brand – you’re lucky to have us”. Really guys?
No originality, no innovation and no real thought. It was soooooo 2010 and it was also a massive turn-off for her and the rest of the panel.
The no-brainer supplier that everybody on the panel liked was completely different. They had obviously thought about who they were pitching to; what was important to the panel and how they could be different – then they delivered it. Boom!
You won’t be surprised to learn that they were unanimously appointed as a preferred supplier.
When it comes to pitches different wins deals!
3 “You need to share the risk with your clients”
This is a personal favourite of mine because it’s how I like to do business myself.
The days of “paid by the hour” are beginning to fade away now being replaced by fixed-price work.
But she told us about one of her favourite suppliers who will come up with a budget for a piece of work which they treat as an “up to” figure. When the work is completed she would sit with them and decide how much of it to pay.
That’s exactly how I like to engage with my clients too and when you say it in your pitch it really gets their attention.
It’s like saying “I know I can do a great job for you and I’m putting my entire fee on the table to prove it”. How compelling is that?
Sure, it takes some courage and a big dollop of trust but speaking personally those are the clients I want anyway – the ones I can trust.
Of course it only takes one deal where the client stiches up the supplier for the whole thing to collapse but in all the years I’ve been doing it that has never happened to me *looks for some wood to touch*. And even if it does I’ll get over it.
Take more risks on cost with clients you trust – get paid on value!
I thought her talk was brilliant and I could see that the audience was really engaged (and a little scared) by what she said. It was as if they’d got a sneak preview of what a client really wants.
You might think that she is a one-off but what if she’s the vanguard instead?
What if eventually all clients want to work that way?
What if you embraced what she said and changed right now, ahead of the curve?
Personally, I don’t think you can gamble on the “let’s leave things as they are” option. That’s far too risky.