Pitching and negotiating big deals

One of my clients came to me in a panic recently. She had the opportunity to pitch her new program to a potential client, the CEO of a large corporation.

She was excited for the opportunity, of course. But then she realized, “I’ve never pitched anything this big before, and I’m not sure what to do!”

I could see the concern in her eyes and hear the self doubt in her voice. I knew exactly how she was feeling.

Over the course of my executive career, I’ve made hundreds of pitches, and have probably witnessed a hundred more. It’s one of my favorite aspects of business, but there’s always a little stress in the process too.

I still remember one of  my mentors (a confident CEO) confiding in me one day. “It happens every time! Anytime I’m giving a pitch that’s worth more than a million dollars, I get a cold sore.” The cold sores were obviously stress related.

It helped me to know that even the most experienced leaders and negotiators still get a little nervous before a business pitch, especially when the stakes are high. Over the years, I’ve learned some effective techniques to handle pitches with ease. I shared them with my panicking client, and I’m about to share them with you today.

5 Secrets to Pitching and Closing Big Deals

1.Make a Personal Connection

People want to do business with people they know, like, and trust. Establishing a personal connection with your business prospect is key. Here are some ways to help form that personal connection:

  • Make good eye contact;
  • Be engaged in the conversation (put your phone away!);
  • Be a good listener;
  • Identify shared areas of interest;
  • Share a little relevant personal information – where did you grow up, go to school, what experience do you have that makes you unique? Opening up about yourself helps your potential customer open up as well;
  • Relax and be authentic, don’t try to be overly formal;
  • Provide good follow up after the meeting. I especially like handwritten notes;
  • Connect with them on LinkedIn;
  • Share “why” you do what you do, preferably in a brief story. Simon Sinek summarizes this point nicely in his book, Start with Why.  “People dont buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.”

People dont buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.” ~Simon Sinek

2. Be Prepared and Do Your Research

Take the time to research your potential customer and their business. At a minimum, I’ll review a potential client’s website and social media prior to meeting with them.

Ideally, I love to have an initial phone conversation as well where I can ask questions about their business and specific needs. My goal when interacting with a client is to listen more than I talk. Asking good questions is key.

If the potential client would be significant to my business, or if I’m in a competitive bidding process, then I also like to do a formal Business Capture Plan to improve my chances of success.

In a Business Capture Plan, you review the potential client’s needs and your company’s strengths to identify areas of alignment. A competitive analysis may also be performed. The end results are clear, specific strategies and themes for use in your discussion with the client and/or in a written proposal, including:

  • Value proposition: what are the specific benefits and results your potential client can expect from working with you.
  • Advantages: what are the advantages in working with you versus your competition. What makes your company uniquely qualified.
  • Scope and budget: At a high level, what will you provide and how much will it cost.
  • Cost of delays: What are potential risks and costs for your potential client if they delay in taking action, or if they don’t take action at all.

3. Understand Their Pain Points

I like to develop a broad understanding of my potential customer’s “pain points,” including those that aren’t related to the services I provide. It allows me to identify all possible solutions for them. Providing appropriate information or referrals is not only helpful but can demonstrate your expertise and trustworthiness as a partner.

Understanding their pain points also allows you to identify specific benefits and results they can expect with your products or services. This helps you craft your message and areas of focus.

4. Share a Brighter Vision of How Things Could Be

What is your potential client’s vision for their business? Help them create a clear picture of what’s possible if they work with you. Show them how you will help them bridge the gap between where they are now and where they want to be. A clear vision helps “pull” your prospect forward in the decision making process.

5. Share Your Passion

Sharing your passion is perhaps the most important secret to a successful pitch.

In his new book, Finding My Virginity, Richard Branson details his experience making a successful $280 million pitch to the Sheikh at Aabar Investments for Virgin Galactic.

He hadn’t met the Sheikh before, but he knew he was interested in space travel. Branson scheduled a meeting with the Mansour family with only a notebook in his back pocket and a few beautiful spaceship photos.

Branson says, “Prepare well, speak with passion and few prompts. When it comes to deals like this, or any negotiations really, the key is to display passion, know how, and determination. Get to the point quickly, be persistent and consistent, and don’t rely too heavily on prompts, statistics, and certainly not PowerPoint slides.”

“Investors buy into people and ideas, not numbers alone.” ~Richard Branson

Finally, be patient. If you are working on a big deal, it will likely take time, multiple meetings, and good follow up.

Now It’s Your Turn

What are your favorite negotiation tips and secrets? What have you done to close a big deal. Share your thoughts below in the comments.