If You Don’t Have “The Goods”, then Don’t Pitch

If you want to deliver a winning pitch, you have to have “the goods.” By that, I mean you have to have a strong sense of the client’s “hot buttons.” You need to know the big problems that the prospect is trying to solve in hiring you.


For example, if you’re pitching to win a chance to design a building, you need to know the business reason for the building. Are they trying to increase productivity? Are they trying to consolidate operations?  Are they trying to cut costs?


If you don’t know the “hot buttons”, it severely restricts your ability to deliver a pitch that will win the job.


So what do you do if you don’t have “the goods?”


One option is simply not to pitch.


Indeed, why even bother pitching if you’re not going to put yourself in the best possible position to win? It’s a waste of time and money. With architecture firms, pitching for new business or responding to an RFP includes preparing drawings and charts. That is a lot of man hours and expenses. The total cost of a pitch can reach in excess of $50,000.


Many construction firms refuse to pitch when they’re going in “cold,” with no chance to visit the site or interview the key players. I once invited ten senior officers from commercial construction firms to a dinner to discuss their marketing practices. At one point during the event, I asked for a show of hands. “How many of you have been invited to pitch for opportunities based solely on your reputation or brand name?” 


These were very well-respected firms, so all hands went up. 


Here was my next question. “How many of you have actually won business in these ‘cold pitch’ situations?” 


Not one of them had ever won in that situation. As a result, many stated that they had stopped responding to “cold RFPs.”


I think you send a strong message to your prospect when you refuse to pitch without some opportunity to do some discovery. It says, “Hey, we’re very serious about helping our clients. And we’re not going to be able to truly help you if we don’t get a chance to spend some time diagnosing your key challenges. We’re not interested in working with anyone that is not interested in a true partnership.”


That’s exactly how an accounting software salesman I know feels. He told me his firm is often invited to give competitive presentations. Whenever they are asked to pitch, he says, they ask the opportunity to meet with the key stakeholders and analyze their needs. Sometimes they are asked to just come and give a presentation about their software’s features, benefits, and price. “We say, ‘no thanks,’” he told me. “We want to build a relationship. We don’t sell software. We sell a solution.”

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