When your company is pitching for a really big piece of new business, the stakes are as high as they get for your sales team. Yet many organizations squander those opportunities by failing to properly prepare for the pitch “team” presentation.
Each speaker tends to develop his or her own part in a silo. Members of the sales team might not even have the chance to hear one another before the big day. As a result, you lack a cohesive message, you repeat yourselves, and you might even contradict one another. The prospect can’t help but think you don’t have your act together.
Sound familiar? Is it any wonder your prospect chooses someone else?
Here’s how you should be getting ready for a team sales pitch to give your company the best chance for success.
Develop your core message
When I coach clients through this process, I begin by speaking with the team leader and every member of the pitch team individually. We talk through their messaging strategies and make sure everyone is tied to the vision. Whether it’s an external consultant or a member of your own business-development leadership, it’s essential that someone act as point person on alignment.
Before your team members go off to develop their own piece of the sales pitch, they need to understand what you’re collectively trying to achieve (and no, it’s not just winning the business). Ask yourself:
What differentiates us from our competition? This should be the basis for the core message you communicate in your sales pitch. It needs to be the common thread running through every aspect of the presentation. As I work with each member of the sales team, I make sure every segment of the pitch addresses this essential message.
Are we speaking the prospect’s language? Even if you’re selling a technical product or service, always communicate what you do in terms the prospect understands, because people tend to agree with what’s familiar to them. I’m a big fan of keeping it human. One of my clients did this in a creative way when pitching a major airline. When their team flew in for the meeting on that airline, they made a point of meeting the flight crew.
In their presentation, they began by introducing their flight crew, complete with photos and a quick story. They followed that with an introduction to their own crew (the sales team). The whole thing took just a couple of minutes, but it served as a warm handshake that established rapport and ultimately helped them make a multi-million-dollar deal.
What do we want the prospect to know about our organization’s culture or values? You’ll need to find a way to get that across in the presentation. One of my clients wanted to communicate their strong ability to work like a team. To present as anything less than a strong, cohesive team would have completely undermined their stated strength.
Here’s how you must prepare to become a cohesive team and boost your chances for winning the business.
You won’t often have much lead time before a big presentation, so plan for your team to meet in the prospect’s city for one or two days prior to the big day.
I begin by working with each team member individually to refine their message, polish their delivery, and refine their slides. This is referred to as a “table read” and is typically the first time they are practicing out loud, so there’s always work to be done.
Following this first round of rehearsals, each speaker uses feedback to rework and refine their presentation. That is followed by a second table read before coming together as a group.
Rehearse as a team
Once your team members feel more prepared individually, it’s time to make sure you’re presenting as a united front. Now everyone gathers to hear one another’s presentations. It quickly becomes obvious where you’re being repetitive, not supporting each other or lacking continuity of message. Your leadership can also step in and make positioning corrections at this point in the development process.
Tips for getting prepared
I always ask sales teams who go through this process to report their key takeaways. Here are some additional tips my clients have shared:
Keep visuals relevant and succinct. One common mistake is using a canned slide deck. Always develop your visuals with the prospect in mind. And keep them pithy! Learn more from this article: “Using Glance & Grab to Perk Up Your PowerPoint.”
Have critical resources on hand. You know you’ll need to work on your slides, so it can be a big time-saver to have a graphic artist or PowerPoint developer available during your rehearsals.
Don’t forget essential equipment! You’d be amazed at how many times I’ve had clients borrow my speakers or clicker because they forgot to bring them. Use our Speaker Preparation Checklist.
How to know when you’re ready
My clients say they know they’re ready for the meeting when their story just rolls off their tongue and they know everyone has each other’s back. When you reach that point, you’re not so nervous about making a misstep or getting an unexpected question, because as a group you’re prepared to handle whatever happens.
When you have a contiguous storyline that resonates across the team, each person will feel confident and able to connect with the audience. This connection, reinforced from presenter to presenter, is ultimately what will win the client. Make it the goal for your next big sales pitch and chances are you’ll come away a winner!
Stephanie Scotti is a strategic communication advisor specializing in high-stake presentations. She has 25-plus years experience of coaching experience and eight years teaching presentation skills for Duke University. She has provided presentation coaching to over 3,000 individuals in professional practices, Fortune 500 companies, high-level government officials and international business executives. Learn more at ProfessionallySpeaking.net and ProfessionallySpeakingBlog.com.
If you enjoyed this article, join SmartBrief’s e-mail list for our daily newsletter for sales management and strategy.