By Terri Langhans
Congratulations! Your firm made it to the short list, and you've been invited to the new client interview. That's what they call it, anyway. In reality, it's a new business pitch that could be a shoot-out between you and “the other guy” or a lineup of back-to-back, dog-and-pony, show-your-credentials presentations where the client parades you and the competition in and out of a conference room all day.
Regardless of the staging or format, one thing's for sure: It's your make-or-break chance to win the business.
- What will you say in your business presentation that will set you apart?
- What will you show that proves your expertise?
- How do you hit the prospect's hot buttons without stepping on a land mine?
Here are some traps to avoid, and tips and tools you can use to make your new business pitch or interview stand out and win more clients.
Trap #1: Too much stuff. You know your stuff, and you want to share it. We all do. We figure the more stuff we share, the more credible we'll be and the more likely we are to get hired. Wrong. It bores people into a stupor or frustrates them into belligerence.
True story: I recently worked with a client who had more than 100 slides for a 30-minute interview! They whittled it down to 23, and still came off as harried and rushed. The rule of thumb is about two minutes per slide. Whether you have 30 minutes or an hour or more, picture your audience extending you a thimble's worth of interest. Don't fill it with a fire hose.
Trap #2: Failure to get to the point. Instead of thinking about all the stuff you want to say, that you hope you get time to say, think about this: When you leave the room, what is the single most important thing you want remembered and repeated by the client? What do you want them to say when someone asks, “So, what do think about Acme Engineering?”
A: “Well, they talked about this, and they showed us that, and they're located there, and they were pretty easy to talk to…”
B: “They have the experience we need and can hit the ground running.”
Obviously (I hope it's obvious), you want B, or something like it. That's the point of your presentation, and everything you say, or do, or show needs to support, defend, prove, demonstrate, or bring to life that point.
HINT: Your point is NOT “hire us.” That's your call to action. It's what you want them to do as a result of being convinced of your point. Don't confuse the two.
Trap #3: Making the presentation all about you. No one cares about you. Even though they put you on the short list, invited you to present and specifically said they want you to talk about your firm, they don't mean it. Prospects don't care about you. They care about themselves, their work, and what you will do for them.
So here's how to convert your credentials and capabilities to something your new clients will care about:
- 1. Before you create your presentation or pitch, go ahead and describe your firm, the team, your qualifications or experience. This is an exercise; don't do it in front of the prospect. Not yet, anyway.
- Now, isolate at the most three or four key attributes you think are the most important to the specific decision-makers on this project.
- Now that you have the features, look for the benefits—the need or the want that is satisfied by those features.
- Go beyond the benefit and drill down even further. Look at those features and benefits and fill in the blank: “Why is your company's experience important personally to this decision-maker?”
- Look at your answer and ask it again. “Why is that important personally to this decision-maker?” Or, “What is it about your answer that is important, personally, to this decision-maker?”
- Ask it again. “Why is whatever you just answered important personally to the decision-maker?”
- Keep going and you will have a list of want or need words and phrases that are all about the client. Save money, maximize budget, higher trust, no surprises, more flexibility, more confidence, less stress, better communication. These are the words that not only help you connect to what clients care about, they set you apart, increase your credibility, and help convince clients to hire you.
Once you complete this exercise, you'll know your point, as well as what's important to your prospect. From there you'll be able to decide which facts, features, stories, and benefits will prove that point. Which case studies or examples will make it clear? Remember the thimble, and choose you content wisely. Make it more about them, less about you, and you'll have greater success.
Certified speaking professional Terri Langhans is the former CEO of a $30 million national ad agency and marketing firm that she grew from scratch. Check out her free “Help Them Hire You” new business pitch and presentation tip sheet at http://www.BlahBlahBlah.us/presentationtipsheet.html.