Business Development Series Posted by David McDermott

perfect pitch


This  article answers a frequently asked question by those involved in pitching for business:

Is content or delivery more important?

To answer this question it is important to understand how audiences select at beauty parades. During our research we asked about their selection criteria i.e. “What do the winners do to merit selection?” Decision makers often stated that they find it is easier to, “Eliminate the losers”.

The top 5 reasons given for losing a pitch are as follows:

  1. Talking too much about yourself and failing to demonstrate an understanding of the audience issues and objectives
  2. Poor question and answer session. This is particularly the case when teams present.
  3. No clear messages i.e. reasons for selection
  4. A failure to demonstrate relevant capabilities
  5. Too long and technical i.e. more informative than persuasive

It is rare that presenters lose a pitch due to their delivery. In fact in over 25 years working on competitive pitches I know of only one occasion where this was the case (head down, talking into their pitch books with no eye contact). Having said that, the content was also poor as it was focused on the organisation’s credentials. So, it wasn’t just poor delivery.

It is worth noting that when pitching for business your credentials are not open to question. You wouldn’t be there if they were. At this point it is other issues that are going through the audience’s mind. Things like:

  • Can we work with these people?
  • Why are they the right people for this mandate?
  • Do we trust them?
  • How are they adding value?
  • What makes them different from their competitors?

Therefore, to answer the question with clarity, due to the fact that audiences place much more importance on “what” is said rather than “how” it is said, it is content that is more important. Research clearly demonstrates this. However, in order to avoid being “eliminated” at a beauty parade you have to get everything right. So, in order to deliver the perfect pitch you need to pay attention to:

  • Content – this needs to be credible, relevant and engaging. It should address the audience’s issues, concerns and objectives.
  • Strategy – this should be persuasive and focus on your key reasons for selection. You should avoid introducing anything here that can be attacked easily in the question and answer session and/or dilute your case.
  • Structure – a clear structure with a strong hook at the start and clear messages throughout. It should make the presentation concise and compelling,
  • Visuals – your visuals or pitch book should be easy to follow and a good take away document. Avoid busy, cluttered visuals with no messages.
  • Teamwork – plan who will deliver each message and answer questions on these messages. Avoid coming in on top of colleagues with supplementary answers and turning the process into a free for all.
  • Delivery – this should be natural and conversational. At the same time you should demonstrate enthusiasm in what you say and your desire to work with the client.

So, when selecting an advisor to help with your pitches, make sure they can give sound advice on all of the above and back up their approach with research.

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