The Perfect Pitch


In an ever more sophisticated and competitive world, increasingly businesses (even small ones) are being asked to tender for work, either through a formal process of submitting a tender document followed by a presentation, or by presenting their proposals in competition with others. This way in which business is won can create real problems unless the sales team learns to adapt their approach.

In business-to-business selling a transaction is often conducted technician to technician or specialist to specialist. As a result there is usually a common understanding about what the solution to be purchased needs to achieve and so the discussion can focus on the technical elements of the proposition.  However, if the buying decision is to be made by panel, it introduces a whole new dynamic.

Pitching to a panel?

Suppose you have been asked to tender for the supply of a new software solution for a large company; it is vital to recognise that you cannot simply submit a technical specification and expect to win the business. Your tender document and your presentation will be scrutinised by a group of people – all with very different agendas.  You may well find yourself having to satisfy the needs of the IT Director, the Sales Director, the Finance Director, the end user and the HR Director. What is more, it may be the absent Managing Director, based upon recommendations from the panel, who takes the ultimate decision.

We recently tendered to support a large organisation, who were in turn tendering for a major contract. As we were pitching for the business, our research quickly confirmed that their requirements went far beyond the initial request for help with just the delivery of the presentation, which is where they assumed they had been losing out.  In fact, they had been making the mistake of sending out the technical champion of the product who could (and did) talk about the technical features for hours, supported by his PowerPoint Presentation with 142 very wordy slides !

An “aha” moment for them came when one of the team used the analogy of selling a car: “You wouldn’t send out a mechanic to sell it, would you?”

They asked for one day of ‘Presentations Skills Training’ evolved into three days where the first two were used to analyse and understand the needs and aspirations of the individuals on the purchasing panel, before honing the message to satisfy them all.  By the end of our third day we had worked together, yes, on the skills to deliver a great pitch presentation but more importantly on its structure, the words to be used and the supporting visual aids. They are now winning the pitches they were losing before.

The moral of the story is this; tendering and competitive pitches are much more than just another sale and there is a path to follow that will give the best chance of success. Whatever you do: put yourself into the shoes of the individuals on the panel consider their concerns and then address them!


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