The Art of the Virtual Pitch Part 4: Sealing the Deal With Post-Pitch Engagement

Pitches aren’t usually won or lost in the room, even though that feels like the main event. Here’s what I’ve learned about making the most of the time following your pitch, which can be applied to the virtual pitch, as well.

Note: This is the last in a four-part series about navigating the unique challenges of pitching without any in-person meetings.

Pitches aren’t usually won or lost in the room, even though that feels like the main event. Here’s what I’ve learned about making the most of the time following your pitch, which can be applied to the virtual pitch, as well.

If you’ve been reading this whole series, you won’t be surprised to hear that the most important part of post-pitch engagement goes back to nurturing the relationship with the clients. Revisit Part 1 of this series, because you just can’t put too much effort into romancing the client. Being creative and thoughtful will take you far.

Work your relationships: If you got the lead or the opportunity through someone you know, keep close to them. They can give you the inside scoop as to who’s in the running, who’s doing well, and what turned the team off during the pitch process — that allows you to tailor your pitch and the way you follow up.

Go big or go home (when appropriate): For example, years ago we were pitching Cadillac just after their move to NYC. They were looking to update their image, and we came up with a great street art program to show off new Cadillac models. As part of our pitch we created a roadmap for our program in the same street art style and had handouts at the pitch. We built on that after the pitch by having street artists paint a 10’x10’ canvas of the roadmap for the Cadillac office.

Don’t Dwell on Mistakes — Fix Them

We’ve all had an “oops!” moment during a pitch, or got grilled by the client and don’t feel great about how we handled it. While it’s important to analyze these moments and improve for next time, a few goof-ups don’t spell failure for your pitch.

The post-pitch follow-up should never just be a thank you note anyway, so take it as an opportunity to round out your pitch in whatever way you want to. Address your mistakes, offer clarity on elements there were a lot of questions about, etc.

Act Like You Already Have the Business

Don’t waste any time showing the clients that you’re excited and ready to dig into the work.

For example, if the clients were super responsive to certain elements of your pitch, create an action plan to show them how that program would get off the ground. Or, say you’re doing a PR pitch and the clients mentioned targeting publication in a specific journal. Show them you’re the one to make that connection. Imagine how the client feels when you’re following up and say you talked to Tom Smith at Dream Journal and he’d be happy for you to broker an introduction.

Do what you’d do if you got the job, like setting up relevant media alerts so you don’t miss the opportunity to congratulate the clients or point out an opportunity. When clients feel confident that you are on top of the job before you even have a scope of work, it answers a lot of questions for them. You’ll have an advantage over the competition when you show that your team needs less guidance, less onboarding.

Do you feel ready to conquer the virtual pitch now? Tweet me @rumekhtiar with any questions about handling pitches in the era of all-remote work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Art of the Virtual Pitch, Part 3: 4 Steps for a Successful Client Presentation

If you studied up on Part 1 and Part 2 of my series on the virtual pitch, you’re ready to handle the actual client presentation. Here are the top four things to consider when you’re getting ready to put your virtual pitch in front of clients.

If you studied up on Part 1 and Part 2 of my series on the virtual pitch, you’re ready to handle the actual client presentation. Here are the top four things to consider when you’re getting ready to put your virtual pitch in front of clients.

Assume Your Technology Will Fail

Even if your wifi is blazing fast, even if you’re an expert with your presentation platform, you have to assume that some element of your tech will fail. If you just accept it as a given and plan out workarounds in advance, you’ll be able to keep your cool in the moment. At the very least, make sure you send the presentation out to everyone in advance as a PDF under 10 mb, so it makes it through everyone’s email provider without issue.

Mix Up Your Usual Presentation Order

You’re probably used to the in-person presentation standard of one person presenting 5-10 sides on their own. When you’re all in the room together, that works great. But with a virtual presentation, you’re in a constant battle to keep people engaged. Moreso when everyone is working from home amid the COVID-19 chaos.

So mix it up and have a few different people present a section together. That way you break up any possible monotony and keep listeners on their toes as presentation speakers keep changing. It also helps to showcase the various members of your team, lets their personalities shine, and really shows the client what you bring to the table beyond the ideas.

Pro tip: Incorporate this technique into your deck by including the name and photo of the presenter on each slide.

Schedule Pauses to Take the Audience’s Pulse

Losing the nonverbal cues of an in-person meeting can be tough, so you have to plan for a manual way to assess whether people are with you, or if they’re getting bored and frustrated. It’s an adjustment, but the fix is easy. Ask questions and address your audience by name.

Plan to mention specific people when it’s relevant. For example, if you know Scott handles digital campaigns, give him a shout out as you’re getting into discussing digital. A simple, “Scott, I know you’ll be interested in this …” goes a long way to make sure Scott and his colleagues are listening up.

It’s subtle, but making everyone feel that they could be mentioned or questioned helps you engage and makes sure everyone is paying attention.

Rehearse and Review, Even If It’s Painful

We’ve come full circle. You have to rehearse, rehearse, rehearse, so that when your technology fails, your presentation doesn’t. Over the course of multiple rehearsals, you’ll be able to feel out and address any pain points. There’s no substitute for doing a full rehearsal.

Pro tip: Up your game by recording the presentation. No one is excited about doing that, but it is one of the very best ways to see how your team can improve, and how you as an individual can grow. It’s okay to wait to review until after the pitch isn’t so fresh, so you can try to be more objective, but make time to watch the recording. If you just said to yourself, “I don’t need to go that far,” then you absolutely have to.

The Art of the Virtual Pitch, Part 2: Prepping the Creative Brief and Getting to Work

This is Part 2 of a 4-part series on The Art of the Virtual Pitch. Let’s cover what happens after you’ve accepted the RFP, and now need to develop your pitch without the benefit of in-person meetings. There are two guiding principles to live by when drafting a creative brief to get all members of your team ready.

This is Part 2 of a four-part series on The Art of the Virtual Pitch. In Part 1, I laid out some strategies to help you cut through all the virtual noise and stand out to potential clients. Now let’s cover what happens after you’ve accepted the RFP, and need to develop your pitch without the benefit of in-person meetings. There are two guiding principles to live by when drafting a creative brief to get all members of your team ready to brainstorm:

Principle No. 1: Invest Your Time in Organizing

Now that you don’t have the luxury to kick things off in person, it’s critical to have documents to keep people aligned. You need to spell out roles and responsibilities, and create a work plan with clear owners and assignments for each deliverable. You’ll also need a new way to handle onboarding a bunch of different folks.

Instead of picking up the phone again and again to launch into your onboarding spiel, devote your time to developing a robust creative brief. In one document, you lay out:

  • all the relevant research,
  • the problems you’re trying to solve,
  • the details of the RFP, and
  • anything else you don’t want to find yourself repeating ad nauseam.

This briefing document becomes the foundation for briefing people moving forward and gives you the landscape analysis you need to craft the insight that will be the jumping-off point for your strategy.

A thorough creative brief gets everyone marching in the right direction, but the toughest element of pitch development to pull off in an all-remote setting is brainstorming, which brings me to my second principle.

Principle No. 2: Don’t Treat Virtual Meetings Like In-Person Meetings

We’ve all been at brainstorming sessions when many or all attendees are calling in to a conference line. The remote brainstorm is nothing new. It’s just that actually doing them effectively and ensuring participation is still really difficult.

Leverage that creative brief you already worked on! Everyone should have it well in advance, and they need to be held accountable for really knowing it. This isn’t just another email attachment in a meeting invite. It’s what everyone will be working from, and it’s absolutely required reading for every meeting.

In fact, successful virtual brainstorming generally requires the team to put more time than usual into meeting prep. Exercises that you’d normally depend on teams to do together in meetings, you might now have to have people do in advance. To help quickly ideate on a bunch of different things, give people two to three action items to brainstorm against on their own. They can present those ideas in a conference call, and the team can build from there instead of starting the call from the ground up.

Also consider assigning more structured brainstorming exercises in advance. One of my personal favorites is called “Pass It Along.” Here’s how it works: When I’m working on those big multi-million dollar pitches, I set up four to five teams consisting of four to five people each, and they have their own mini brainstorm.

First, one person writes down the germ of an idea. Then the second person builds on it, making it even bigger. The third person goes wild, making it so big they could get fired. Then, the last person brings the idea back down to being realistic. This approach forces the big, bold thinking you need. Later, the groups can present their hero idea to the larger group, which jumpstarts your process.

Adjust your brainstorming process to follow my two principles for virtual pitch development and you’ll have a winning deck in no time.

Next time, I want to discuss the finer points of presenting online and helping your team’s chemistry shine through. If you have questions about the art of the virtual pitch, tweet me @RumEkhtiar.

 

 

The Art of the Virtual Pitch, Part 1: Perfecting Pre-Pitch Engagement

Pitches aren’t always won in the room. That’s great news right now because it might be a while before we’re even in a room together again. Pitches are won by what you do before, during, and after the pitch. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing my best insights on the art of the virtual pitch.

Pitches aren’t always won in the room. That’s great news right now because it might be a while before we’re even in a room together again. The flip side is that every other element of winning business has become a little more challenging. Pitches are won by what you do before, during, and after the pitch. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing my best insights on the art of the virtual pitch.

First, let’s talk about wowing potential clients before the pitch even happens. Without the benefit of face-to-face meetings, you’ll need new ways to engage with the client and show that you’re hungry for business.

It’s Business, and It’s Personal

Now is the time to get super creative about showing off your personality. Clients aren’t just buying capability; they’re also looking for chemistry. You’ve already put some thought into the team pitching this client, so dig into your thought process there. What are the skills each person has? What makes them indispensable to your team? When clients feel like they already know you before your pitch meeting, your proposal will go that much smoother.

A technique I love (and that you can tweak and reuse often!) is compiling something engaging to show off your team. Think of it like a totally juiced up business card. You could frame it as a yearbook, a set of baseball cards, the cast of a TV show — anything you think will get a second look. Including names, photos, and specialties is a given, but this should be fun, too. Consider including information like favorite quarantine activity, preferred pitching soundtrack, or last book read. Or lean into the yearbook concept and give everyone a superlative. Emphasizing personality is going to be crucial in the era of virtual pitches.

Make a Grand Gesture

When I was assisting Paypal’s push to expand into working with small businesses, we set up interviews with small businesses and profiled how PayPal could help. One of those small businesses was a great little chocolate maker, so we had them design special PayPal logo chocolates that we delivered on Valentine’s Day.

I also fondly remember a campaign we orchestrated for Discover. We wanted to upend the old notion that Discover cards aren’t widely accepted. It was at the height of the Cronut craze in NYC. So, a box of the city’s most sought after treats with a receipt showing we paid with a Discover credit card said it all.

Okay, so both of those involved snacks, and we know food can be a positive motivator and fan favorite to receive. But right now, something that supports your clients’ community could be a great move as everyone is looking to support one another through a public health crisis.

Whatever You Do, Don’t Be Afraid to Be Different

The virtual pitch isn’t new, but conducting remote business on this level is uncharted territory for many, so feel free to break out of your usual approach. Ultimately, this all comes down to romancing potential clients, so if you missed my post about “dating” clients, check it out now.

Remember, clients are not just buying capabilities from you, they’re also buying chemistry with you. Help them get a sense of who your team is and why they’d be awesome to collaborate with.

I’ll be back soon with tips on collaborating on a winning deck … remotely.