After losing a pitch for business that seemed in the bag or winning one that seemed like a long shot, my clients often wonder what they did or said that made the difference. I encourage them to follow up and ask for feedback, and sometimes they get the answer. Why leave it to guesswork, though? Preparing for conversations – a business pitch should be a conversation – will help eliminate some of the guesswork and create a higher win rate.
“I wish you could be a fly on my shoulder during this pitch so you can tell me what to say and help me read the room,” MBT Client.
One of the ways I work with clients to prepare them for a business pitch or a meeting with a prospect is through role playing. No need to dress up in costume, but we do try out the voice of the prospect in order to best understand how they will respond. In order to be most productive, my client must spend some time getting to know the prospect and understanding what they need and how to deliver the service and the communication in the right way for the prospect.
I learned from my training as a Conversational Intelligence (CIQ) Coach that Words Create Worlds. Each individual you meet brings with them their personal experience, cultural experience, work experience, and internal conversation to the conversation they are having with you. A simple word like “success” means different things to different people and to different organizations.
A leader within my client’s top management once said to me, “Why do you have to spend time discussing success with the people you coach? Don’t all of them just want to make more money?” The answer was no. Each person I coached to increase their business had their own picture of success. Money was a factor, if it had not been, they would have looked for a different kind of coach. However, it was seldom the only factor.
Likewise, a prospect for your business may have multiple reasons for contacting you and a plethora of unknown criteria for choosing to work or not work with you. That is why it is so important to learn about your prospect, their business, and their picture of success. Learn their language. In order to do that, you have to ask questions and listen.
Here are some tips:
- Ask open-ended questions. Instead of, “Does your business need my services?” Ask, “What experiences have you had with this area?”
- Listen. Are you listening to what someone said or thinking about what you will say next?
- Ask them what they mean by a word they use. Maybe it is as simple as, “I really need to achieve my goal.” Ask, “Tell me more about your goal.” Or “How are goals set in your organization?”
- Look for other signs of your prospect’s personality. Do they like to talk about their family? Are they always in a hurry? Do they need time to process information?
- Work with a coach to discuss your approach with the client before making a business pitch.
- Spend some time role playing the conversation.
Preparing for the conversation or meeting is more important than creating a powerpoint.
Contact Mary Balistreri at MBT to work on having better conversations by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org