Sales Pitch – Top 10 tips

Posted by Kevin Brady on Wed 30th September 2009 at 05:11 PM, Filed in Programme ManagementProject Management

It is more and more common these days for Project Managers and Programme Managers to act as salesmen once the initial cost estimation and statement of work has been produced. Increasingly client partners and sales consultants insist on such professionals getting involved in the sales process. Many of the reasons for this are obvious, but some are less so:-

  • Add credibility to the chosen technical /delivery solution offered to the client.
  • Assist the sales professionals in reshaping the technical and delivery solution to meet the more specific and changing needs of the potential client.
  • To make sure the Project /Programme Managers colours are “nailed to the post”. This means that the costings and the delivery solution are firmly recognised as coming from the Project /Programme Management Professional and not the Sales Consultant. This takes the sales professional off the hook should the project or programme not achieve its deliver objectives. Therefore strongly advise “don’t lie to fit in with demanding sales people”. Remember, they will trade commission for your friendship at the drop of a hat. If they didn’t they would not be doing their job properly. You’re the gate keeper, and as a gate keeper professional ethics are very important if you want to keep your job and reduce your stress levels.

So, when taking part in an important Sales Pitch for an IT Project what are my top ten tips :- excaim

  1. Find out if the sales pitch is real (if you can!). Sometimes companies are invited simply to make up the numbers. Software houses enter a sales pitch for a new prospect who has no intention of accepting or taking up an offer.  The problem here is you’re not going to be told this information by anyone, which is where a little networking can be useful in scoping out the background and motivations behind the sales pitch.
  2. Do your research. You need to have a sound understanding of the client’s business objectives and what problems they’re trying to solve. You need to gather enough information and insight in order to develop a technical solution and a delivery approach which will convince the client that you can be trusted to achieve their objectives. This is an important grounding for uncovering the 4 fundamentals of delivering projects which is covered in tip (3).
  3. Uncover the 4 fundamentals of delivering projects. These are time, cost, scope, and quality, and it’s important once understood that they are ranked in order of importance to the client. If a client’s priority is cost and you’re talking about shortening deadlines by adding more staff and increasing costs this will not help you win the sales pitch. Very rarely have I been able to ascertain all four project drivers from the client (RFP or other client supplied information). It has normally involved alot of non-context sensitive discussions about these drivers and their interrelationships before getting a clear picture of what they are, and their relative importance. This tip is key. Get this wrong during your sales pitch and you will be “talking pears whilst they are talking apples”.
  4. Build up a relationship beforehand. If you can talk to the client before writing your proposal or turning up at the sales pitch. For large deals I always take this to another level. The sales consultants who in my view get the biggest bonuses and last the longest, are those that divide their clients into Diamond, Gold and Silver Prospects. The Diamond prospects are cultivated on a continuous basis without a definite outcome. For example many years ago I was a director of a vertical business unit for a major UK Plc and we spent 18 months entertaining the largest UK Direct Motor Insurer with no definite sales opportunity. However, they knew and we knew that we had services they needed and eventually an opportunity would occur given time. Therefore, it was no surprise after 18 months since making first contact that during a client entertainment day (Cricket Match at the Hove Cricket ground) and whilst I was having a little nap I was nudged by a key board director and was told the following “I like you”, “I like your company” and “I want to buy XYZ”. One of the biggest deals in company’s history was signed 2 months later. Also, remember the words “I like you”. Don’t forget most clients buy you before they buy the product. This is a good intro to the next tip.
  5. Create a rapport with the client. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, a client will not hire you if they don’t think they can work with you, so work the room one by one to get each person on side. Aim to be helpful, listen and ask questions. Be enthusiastic, likeable and interested. It’s all about having empathy with the client’s requirements /problems, wowing them and getting them to trust you. This tip cannot be under estimated in importance, and many books and techniques exist to maximise the possibilities of creating rapport. One technique which is proving practically important in maximising your chances of rapport is Neural Linguistic Programming (NLP). Believe me when I tell you that this stuff works. For example just try one of the many NLP techniques such as mirroring (watch Steve G. Jones My Space Video) and see what happens on your next date let alone business meeting   grin. Very powerful stuff.
  6. Think about what you wear – Clients will expect you to be professional, and show courtesy and respect. As part of doing your research (tip 2 ), make sure you try to understand the culture of the client organisation. Delivering a sales pitch to a charity dressed like a city banker is not going to help you win the sales pitch. Use dress to indicate good cultural match with your potential client. This is very important. For example, I was recently involved in a sales pitch to one of the UKs largest telecoms company’s trying to win a bid for one of the worlds largest system integration programmes. I knew before the sales pitch even started that my employer was not going to close a deal worth 100s of millions due to a number of issues, one of them being a failure to dress for the right occasion. Two board directors from my employer decided to attend the sales pitch in order to indicate our seriousness as bidders and to offer moral support to the sales team. On the day of the sales pitch the two board directors decided to turn-up fit for the dole queue. Both looked a little unwashed and wore clothing and shoes from the local co-op. One even had a cheap bomber jacket which he persisted on wearing throughout the sales pitch. The deal died as soon as they walked in the room. It was as Dead as a Dead Parrot
  7. Go into the Sales Pitch positively, wanting the job and wanting to show you’re the best. It is easier said than done but don’t come across as nervous. It’s an especially bad sign to send,  it indicates that you are either inexperienced, or worse, dishonest. Neither helps close an opportunity.
  8. Bring your Sales Pitch to life. A client may well have sat through four or five sales pitches in one day, so bringing your recommendations to life is key. Encourage questions throughout, and ask if you are making sense. I have found over the years that PowerPoint presentations are more and more sending clients to sleep, so mix up your presentation style between PowerPoint and free style flip chart presentations. Remember, be different and your clients will listen and remember you. For more information on this please read my post the How to deliver great presentations.
  9. Read your audience. If a point you raise causes two people to nod at each other , follow up on that point: don’t just keep grinding through your keynote presentation. I often bring along someone to important sales pitches who makes notes on people behavior. Very important.
  10. Know your Facts & Figures. If you have ever watched Dragons Den on British TV you will discover that most entrepreneurs fail to gain venture capital for their new businesses due to confusion over their financial figures. Sales pitching an IT Project is not much different. Get your facts and figures wrong /confused and the deal is dead. It’s that simple. Make sure that you have listed all the possible questions a client could ask prior to making the sales pitch and practice and practice your answers. Get a colleague to pretend to be the client and ask “curved ball questions”. This is possible one of the most important tips and like most things it’s all about preparation, preparation and more preparation.

If you follow the above tried and tested sales pitch tips you will be successful at selling IT Projects and Programmes. That’s a certainty! 

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