Thursday, May 25, 2017

How to Pitch a Project

Recently, I personally had to pitch a project to a couple of teachers. Since the entire CTI course is very much project-based, many of us will have also had similar situations. Many of us may have been inexperienced in giving pitches about their projects or ideas and did not know the best way to approach the challenge. Perhaps that fear/nervousness/cluelessness will be gone after your read this post.

Let's begin with the purpose of the pitch. A pitch is when you go talk to a prospective client and persuade them to work with you. Usually, there will be other teams pitching the same project as well. You should not think of it as a competition and that you are pitching against them. You're pitching your own ability to do the project well. This small difference in attitude will result in a big change in the way the client sees you. If you talk about how you will do the job better than the others can, you still might not convince the client that you can do it. Being able to do it better than others is different from being able to do it up to the clients' standards.
Pitches are difficult to nail, and most people will be terrible at it in the beginning. They can be extremely subjective and there are numerous variables which you have no control over, that determine whether you get the project or not. For example, your client may have been in a very bad mood the day of your pitch, and thus is less inclined to give you the job. You cannot have control over these things, and all you can do is deal with their outcomes.

Tip number one: It's not about you.

No one cares who you are as an individual and what type of background you have. No one is going to give you a project just because you mentioned your past achievements. Clients want to known if you can understand and fix their problems. Think of this as going to the doctor during a medical emergency, and the doctor spends precious time talking about all the past surgeries he has performed rather than helping you in that painful situation.
In the pitch, tell them who you are, but spend no more than two minutes talking about yourself. Make the rest of the conversation about your client, the project, the problems at hand, etc. When showing examples of past work, make it relatable to the current project. For example, draw parallels between projects by saying "In this project, the client had an issue that is very similar to the one at hand. Here's how I fixed it for them, and how it can work for you too...".

Tip number two: Confidence is key.

As much as pitching may make you uncomfortable, the image you project will inevitably have an impact on whether or not you land the project. Aim to be the pitch that makes your client think they don't have to go through any more boring pitches because they've found a partner. Your confidence is for their benefit; you will be working together, after-all.
However, a certain type of confidence is potentially harmful. When you are too confident in your abilities and keep saying things like "this will be easily fixed", you are making the client think that your job there isn't so necessary. You are minimizing their problems, which makes them reflect whether they really need to get it fixed or not. This could tarnish your chances of landing the project. No matter how easy you might think it is to fix someone's problem, remember that their pain is real. Acknowledge it, then fix it.

Tip number three: Ask good questions.

The key to every good pitch meeting is to get the client talking, because not only do you absolutely need to hear what they have to tell you in order to move forward with the project, the client will feel great telling you. It's like talking to someone about a problem you have and relieving yourself of that burden. So make sure you walk in with a bunch of good questions to ask.
"What kind of site do you want?" is not a good question
"What impact do you see the new site having on quarterly earnings?" is a better question.

Tip number four: Make it a kickoff.

The best way to show your client what it's like to work with you is to start working. Forget that it's a pitch, and treat it like a kickoff. Let the conversation flow and gently guide it into interviews. Your client wants the pitch process to be over as much as you do. They want to get started, so show them what that looks like, show them that you're able to take the project by the horns.
However, overdoing this technique will appear to your client that you are in over your head and desperately trying to move forward, while disregarding what they may be saying or evaluating at this stage.

So there they are, four tips on how to improve your project pitches. Whenever there is a project and you want to brief your client about how you will tackle it, remember these four key things to help you nail the pitch, project a good impression of yourself as a working partner, and actually land the project.

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