Pitch Perfect for Green Growth
Are you ready to pitch your eco-friendly, low carbon goods, services, processes or concepts to buyers from the larger demand side organisations in your area? If you want to secure lucrative new business in the busiest supply chains you need to be pitch perfect. We’ve compiled ten top tips for successful business presentations.
- Build relationships beforehand
Responding to formal tender opportunities is one way of securing new business – but it’s very reactive and relies on you having the time and capacity to respond, often within very tight windows. So being proactive, identifying the organisations you want to do business with, then building relationships with the buyers, ideally before they even think of issuing a tender – helps you understand or even define what’s driving the business opportunity and gives you a tremendous head start. Inviting potential buyers to link through social media, sending them articles or even asking them to speak at an event, helps them to get to know you, your organisation and the value your products or services can add.
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- Know who you are pitching at
Your potential buyers come with different perspectives. So, you need to work out what their position is and address your pitch accordingly.
The Boss – As the most senior decision-maker, they are interested in results.
The Money Person – Typically the finance director, they will assess your bid in terms of value for money and return on investment.
The Expert – A specialist who will scrutinise the detail of your proposal with their deep technical knowledge.
The End-User – This person wants to know how your product or service will affect them and their team or end customers.
The Guide – Often a procurement person, they focus on compliance, cost and rationalising suppliers.
- Focus on the problem your goods or services solve and the value they create
Every buyer needs to understand the need your product or service responds to, what demand exists and the value it creates for end-users. So you need to be upfront about exactly how your product reduces costs, energy, carbon and other greenhouse gases for the customers. What other environmental or social benefits accrue directly from the offer? Be specific. Benefits demonstrated through examples are far more powerful than predicted benefits.
- Make your presentation visual and interactive.
Demonstrating your product or providing physical examples always engages people. For some businesses, showing their product or service is not easy to do, but showing prototypes, mock-ups or visual representations make a real difference to the overall effectiveness of your pitch.
If you need to use PowerPoint, make sure there are many more images than words to illustrate your offer. You can always send your audience a slide deck, word document or web link that provides more detail. Images of happy customers and staff alongside the goods or services also go down well.
- Use real a customer story to illustrate the value proposition
While some business presentations have a pre-determined structure, pitches tend to have more flexibility — and presenting your pitch as a story can be much more compelling than a list of facts.
In these circumstances opening your pitch with a real customer story that addresses the problem your product or service solves in the marketplace is a real winner. Avoid using buzzwords and tech talk when you tell your story. Instead, use real names and real customer challenges. Keep it simple and realistic. In the end, what people will remember after they walk away from you are the stories you tell, so it’s important to have a few compelling customer stories ready to share.
Remember: People tend to react emotionally first, and then rationalize logically. Research shows that even decisions we believe are logical, are arguably always based on emotion.
- Present a clear and simple business model
Your business model tells a buyer or potential partner how your business works and gives them confidence in your business. But you need to describe this succinctly and clearly. The details can come later. For example, the business model for ZipCar, can be described simply as:
- A membership-based car sharing company (they brand their members as “zipsters”)
- Reservations are easily and quickly made online
- Customers pay by the hour or by the day
- Serves the UK, US, and Canadian markets
- Targets college campuses
In just a few short points, you can see how they make money and from whom. Your business model should answer the questions: What do you sell? To whom? How much do they pay? and How do they pay you? Prioritize the most important things you want to share and stick to those pieces.
- Make it about them
To make your pitch compelling, talk more about your audience than you. Every aspect of your pitch – structure, language, focus and content — should have the client or future customers at its heart. Appeal to their business interests and they will be more receptive to your message, so convert all the features of your product or service into benefits for the buyer.
- Talk about your successes
It’s very English to resist ‘blowing your own trumpet’, but buyers want to know about your successes, how you built on the responses from early customers, who has invested in your company, awards, appearances in the media, key appointments, product and customer milestones. Don’t be shy! It all builds a picture of the reliability, credibility and sustainability of your business.
- Prepare, prepare, prepare. Practice your pitch in front of real people first.
We’ve all heard the mantra “practice makes perfect” time and time again. It’s true! How well and how often you practice your business pitch can make a potentially life-changing impact on you and your business.
The more you know your product and the industry, and the more prepared you are for the Q&A that will follow your pitch, the more likely you will be able to draw on what you know to answer questions – ones you might anticipate as well as those you didn’t expect.
- Keep your cool.
Take a nice big breath before you speak. Giving any sort of presentation is nerve-wracking enough. But when you’re pitching your passion to people who are primed to be both sceptical and critical, it can feel like you’re stepping into the hot seat. And when the questions start pouring in, it can sometimes feel like you’re getting “attacked.”
While you may feel nervous, it’s important to keep a cool head during your pitch. If you’re visibly uncomfortable, you’re only going to make the buyers uncomfortable — and they might see that as a lack of confidence.
Be prepared to thank people for a tricky question, acknowledge that you don’t know the answer but that you can get back to them with a response or even ask them if they have any thoughts about the point in question.
Remember that you will make your pitch dozens, if not hundreds, of times in your career and every one of them is an opportunity to learn and improve. Seasoned entrepreneurs often advise ripping up the script and starting anew after eight or ten presentations. Just to stay fresh.
Above all start with a smile and enjoy it.