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Chapter 1

Five Fundamentals That Distinguish Your Firm From the Competition “How can we distinguish ourselves from the competition when what we are offering is so similar?” That’s the most common question my clients ask as they prepare to deliver a competitive sales pitch. If you are on the “short-list” of firms pitching for a major piece of business, then you have established your firm as a qualified entrant. Distinguishing your firm from the other highly qualified firms is hard—especially in a short presentation. Setting yourself apart from the competition crosses all industries. For example, let’s say you’re one of three construction firms selected for the final round of pitches to build a new campus for a large insurance company. All of you have oodles of experience constructing similar buildings and could certainly do a great job with this latest opportunity. So how can you—in a forty-five-

How to Win a Pitch minute presentation—convince the owner to choose your firm? Perhaps you’re an architect. How do you distinguish yourself from the other short-listed designers when they’ve done just as many great designs as you and maybe even won more awards? During a one-hour presentation, you will all present photographs of beautifully designed buildings and discuss the efficiencies of each. How can you make your firm stand out? Or say you developed a software solution to reduce costs associated with a client’s accounting system. The competition, of course, claims similar capabilities. How can you make the prospect see that your solution is the best choice when you only have an hour to explain the complexities of your solution? And how can you even explain such complexities in that time frame? Insurance agents, accountants, consultants, and every other industry have the same problem. All want to know how to make their firms stand out from the competition. With this book, you will learn how to make your firm stand out from the competition and garner new business. * * * Over the past two decades, my company has helped clients win billions of dollars in new business contracts. We’ve worked with clients from a wide variety of industries such as construction, law, accounting, high-tech, insurance, financial services, and architecture. We have learned that the best new business presentations don’t focus on credentials. You simply can’t “out-credential” your competition. The other guys are highly qualified too. They also have plenty of awards and great reputations, just as you do. Customers simply have no way of truly deciding who is most qualified. Winning business in a competitive pitch scenario comes down to something simple: you must execute five sales presentation fundamentals better than your competition. These fun2

Five Fundamentals that Distinguish Your Firm from the Competition damentals, when done well, make your firm stand out in the eyes of the customer. They don’t make your firm appear “the most qualified.” Rather, these fundamentals make your firm stand out as the “best partner” for the job. That’s essential. You must connect with the buyer. These fundamentals will help the buyer think, “We like these people. They understand our problem. They seem like they’re going to be a great partner on this project.” Here are the five fundamentals of a great sales pitch. The more effectively you execute these elements, the more you’ll differentiate yourself from your competition.

Fundamental #1: Focus the Message on the Business Problem Many sales presentations begin with the firm’s history or the speaker’s experience. This approach is wrong. Your listeners are not interested in your firm’s history. And although your experience is important, it is not of primary importance. Your prospects are primarily interested in what you can do to help them solve their business problems. With that in mind, the best presentations propose a solution. Presenters can then weave in their relevant experience and credentials. Proposing a solution usually takes a lot of legwork, research, and relationship building before the presentation. Although this can be very difficult, in the end it will pay off, as the best pitches propose solutions. • L ess than a quarter of sales pitches propose serious solutions to the prospects’ problems. • T his element alone will set you apart from three-quarters of your competitors.


How to Win a Pitch In coming pages, you will learn how to show up at the presentation with a winning solution that will excite your listeners.

Fundamental #2: Organize the Message around Three Memorable Points Most presentations are eminently forgettable. Literally. Usually, listeners can rarely repeat the core messages five minutes after the presentation. That’s because the presentations are usually a jumbled mess with no clearly identifiable points. Ask yourself this: What are the three things I want my listeners to remember at the end of this presentation?” Make those points the focus of the presentation, using stories and other illustrations to bring them to life. The goal is to create a simple, memorable message that will stick in the mind of the listeners. • E xecuting this element will separate you from 90% of your competition. This book will show you a simple, proven formula for organizing and focusing your message, a formula that has helped clients win millions of dollars worth of business.

Fundamental #3: Show Passion I frequently see people pitch for huge projects while showing very little enthusiasm. Too many businesspeople speak with all the excitement of a houseplant. Consider this. A vice president of construction for a large food company, whose job it was to sit in judgment of “bake off ” presentations, says, “It’s funny, but the final choice usually comes down to personal chemistry. We’re looking for someone we like who seems enthusiastic about the work.” 4

Five Fundamentals to Distinguish Your Firm from the Competition If you’re hired, the prospect is going to have to spend a lot of time with you. With that in mind, they want to hire someone they like. Showing passion for their project is the first step toward building that relationship. •

ew presenters speak with any real passion. This element F will distinguish you from three-quarters or more of your competition.

How you look and sound matters enormously. In all of these pitches, you are selling yourself. This book will show you how to present yourself in a way that is real and connected.

Fundamental #4: Involve Your Audience in the Presentation One of the best ways to ensure that you connect and bond with your prospect is to make your presentation interactive. So, turn your pitch into a conversation. If you’re having a conversation, you’re responding to your prospect’s concerns. Hidden objections come out. You differentiate yourself by letting your prospect see how you solve problems and how well you understand their business. In short, you give your prospect insight into your intellect and empathy. •

his single element will separate you from everyone else. T By turning your presentation into a conversation, you are presenting yourself in a unique way. Whether that uniqueness is a good thing depends on your true qualifications and your skills as a presenter.

This book will show you a series of innovative, interesting ways to engage your audience in a manner that makes them see you as a unique resource. 5

How to Win a Pitch

Fundamental #5: Rehearse…Rehearse… and Rehearse Again Most presenters rehearse very little. Yet the people who listen to lots of business pitches tell me that in virtually every presentation they watch, they can tell who has practiced and who hasn’t. Usually one firm comes across as substantially smoother than the rest. If you want to appear smooth and serious about getting the business, you’ll rehearse. •

xecuting this element will separate you from two-thirds of E your competition.

Upcoming chapters will teach you the best way to prepare so that when the curtain goes up, you’re ready to shine.

Executing These Fundamentals Will Win You Business At the beginning of every football season, the great Green Bay Packers football coach, Vince Lombardi, would gather his players into a conference room. Walking into the room, he would hold up a ball and say, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” He would begin that way because he believed that to be great, you had to be great at fundamentals, and football fundamentals—like blocking and tackling—were the primary focus of the Packers’ practices. The same principle applies to every business pitch. If you execute the fundamentals well, you’ll put yourself in the best position to win business. Throughout this book, we will discuss the simple things that, if done well, will consistently make you stand out as clearly superior to your competition. Many of the examples focus on competitive


Five Fundamentals to Distinguish Your Firm from the Competition presentation situations, the so-called “bake off ” or “beauty contest.” But these principles apply to all sales presentations. Simply put, this book is for anyone who wants to stand out from the competition and deliver business pitches that make money.


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