Pitching for new business can be tough, especially if you are up against direct competition. How do you persuade your target that using your products or services will substantially benefit them and/or their business?

Research is the key. Understanding the potential client's market and working out how your business can help them to achieve their objectives will enable you create the perfect pitch.

Preparation

Use your research to develop ideas and make them relevant to your target's objectives. Consider their likely arguments and potential objections and be prepared to deal with them before the questions are posed.

It might be useful to remember the key elements of a sales letter: attention, interest, desire, action and use these as the basis to developing your proposal.

  • Highlight the benefits of using your product or service
  • Show how the benefits are achieved
  • Create a need by showing them how others have benefited. Facts and figures as well as customer testimonials should all be used
  • Let them know how much easier/more profitable their life will become

Whether your pitch is a written proposal or a face-to-face presentation, it is essential that it is visually exciting and easy to understand.

Written proposals

This may well be the first formal document your target will receive from you. Use professional illustrations and diagrams within the document and make it easy to read. Clear headings, short paragraphs, numbered pages and an index at the front are essential.

Check and re-check the documents for mistakes, looking for both content and typographical errors.

Always accompany the proposal with a short covering letter – the rest of the information should be contained within the proposal itself – making it clear how you will follow up your submission. For example, say that you will telephone in the next few days to confirm delivery and to find out if they have any further questions relating to your proposal.

Finally, make sure that you send the proposal well before the deadline, preferably by recorded delivery.

Face-to-face presentations

Treat the presentation as a production in its own right. Find out exactly who will be at the presentation and where it will be held.

Make notes of what you want to say and rehearse in front of a mirror, using your intended props and illustrations. Time yourself and make sure that you go over the points clearly and succinctly, without waffling. A normal attention span only lasts 20 minutes, so get your persuasive arguments in early.

Decide in advance what you will be wearing, and try and match your target's dress code. If in doubt, it is better to overdress than underdress.

Keep a few minutes at the end for questions and have a final short speech ready to bring the presentation to a close.

At the end of your presentation, hand out a written proposal which should illustrate the main points of your talk and focus on your company's suitability.