A Very Close Second

The call, when it comes, isn’t a surprise. “Hi. I’m calling about the pitch you made to us last week.  I’d like to say how much we enjoyed your presentation; we thought your ideas were really interesting.  And we thought your people were great too.”

By now you know what’s coming.  The next word the prospective client utters is going to be, “But.”

“But…this time, I’m afraid you came a very close second.”

Four weeks of your life, hundreds of man hours, ten of thousands of pounds of billable time. Angst, heartache, slog. Disrupted work life. Disrupted home life. The cost and consequence of three little words. Very. Close. Second.

These unpalatable words are heard far too often in business.  And what makes them even more unpalatable is that they aren’t even true.  You didn’t come a close second.  You lost.  The prospective client is just being nice.  It’s human nature – she doesn’t want to make you feel even worse than she knows you feel right now.  So she’s kind.  She says you nearly won.  Let’s be honest, nearly winning is called losing.  Do not take succor from the client’s kindness.  Do not scuttle back to your team and tell them you came a close second.  If you delude yourself, your team and your company into feeling OK about coming a close second you’ll always lose.

Losing hurts.  All that effort, all those hours, all that expense.  When you add it all up, it’s like driving a brand new BMW – with all the extras – off the roof of your office building.

And do you know the strangest thing of all? It takes less effort to win than to come a close second.  Less effort but more focus.  Don’t believe me? Think about it. If you keep on doing your pitches in the same old way, getting the same dire results, how hard and debilitating is that?  How much simpler to copy the proven techniques that deliver victory.

Don’t reinvent the wheel every time. Be lazy.  Do what works.

There are only eight ingredients of a successful pitch.  Do them well and you will win a lot more business.

1.      Be organised
2.      Know your audience
3.      Solve the problem
4.      Have the right team
5.      Practice, practice, practice
6.      Deliver a great presentation
7.      Create unstoppable momentum
8.      Demand feedback

You may be doing some of these already.  But unlikely to be doing all of them, consistently, for each pitch.  The trick is to get into the habit of doing them all so your company believes this is the way we run new business pitches round here.

David Kean
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