Practice Management

Pre-Pitch Checklist: Setting the Stage for Your Best Pitch Ever

By MassMutual@Work

What do a sales pitch and a stage performance have in common? More than you might think. When you get up in front of a prospect you want to put your best foot forward and ensure they remember who you are and why you’re the best option for their business. And, just as actors have to research and rehearse, a lot of the work you’ll do happens before you even set foot on that stage. Need a few cues to make sure you’re fully prepared?

Finding out what you need to know about your audience comes in two parts: things you ask about, and things you find out on your own.

On the asking side, find out ahead of time what the prospect’s top three topics of interest are. That way, you’ll know exactly what you need to cover with them, whether you’ve got thirty minutes or three minutes. You should also ask about employee demographics: male vs female, industry, types of workers, language needs, culture, and age.

It’s good to know what the prospect wants to know, but you can add depth to your presentation if you do a little extra digging. Most importantly, know the details of their current plan: company match, other employer contributions, participation rate, average savings rate, and investment information. Think about success stories you can share from similar clients you’ve helped. Get to know everything you can about their plan design, because that’ll help you understand what recommendations will really wow them.

It’s also a good idea to do some homework online. Check your prospect’s website and pay special attention to their mission statement as well as the “about us” section and any employee pages. This’ll help you understand not only the prospect’s plan but also their culture. Knowing what’s important to your prospect makes it easier to emphasize the most important things you’d bring to the table in a business relationship.

Bonus: Having this depth of knowledge also allows you to anticipate what your prospect’s questions might be, which makes you better prepared to answer quickly and confidently.

Once the research is done, create a strategy document and rehearse your pitch. Do a full formal run-through at least once, making sure you stay within the timeframe you’ve been given including time for questions. This is especially important if you’re presenting with a team, since a little practice ahead of time will ensure that everyone knows their role and no one is caught by surprise.

But there’s more to practice than just knowing your lines. Blocking – your physical position on stage – is also important. First and foremost, know who’s doing what once you get into the room. Who’s handing out items, and when? Who will set up the technology? How will you sit? Making sure everyone knows where they should be and what they should be doing allows you to focus on the most important part of the pitch: impressing the prospect.

And hopefully it goes without saying, but part of prep is knowing where you’re going and how to get there.  You can’t give a pitch at all if you can’t get to the location on time.

There’s more “blocking” work you can do once you’re at the location to ensure a smooth experience on all sides. Arrive early to the meeting; it gives you time in case you get lost along the way, or to set up the presentation if the client lets you in the room early.

And in the event that you don’t get into the room early, spend that time in the waiting area to make sure everything is charged and/or that you’ve got your power cords and any adapters you might need. Queue up any tech demos to avoid clocking/loading times. Have mifi, or make sure you’re logged into the client’s wireless before you step into the room. And turn off your phone.

You’ve spent a lot of time doing research and prepping your pitch. But is your stomach going to growl in a quiet moment? Are there bags under your eyes? Taking care of yourself is important to make sure that you’re on the ball and ready for anything the prospect can throw at you. So get enough sleep the night before a pitch, and make sure you’ve eaten something so you can maintain energy and focus during your presentation.

There’s a lot of work that goes into preparing a presentation for a prospect, but knowing your audience and tailoring your pitch specially for them shows your value as someone who is paying attention and has the prospect’s best interests in mind. Of course, nothing ever goes exactly as planned, but the more you know about your prospect the better equipped you’ll be to handle things on the fly. And for that extra boost of preparation, check out 8 Pitch Nightmares and How to Avoid Them.