Many times prospective new clients have narrowed their choices to three finalists and invite all three firms in for a one-hour presentation to pitch why they’re the best choice. Sometimes they see all three firms in one day, and sometimes they spread the presentations out over a few days. This happens in many industries — three executive search firms might be selected to show why a company should pick them to find their next CEO or three technology companies might be selected to convince a prospective client to use their equipment or software. The problem is: How do you stand out? You can request to be the last presenter and hope that makes you more memorable, but you can’t control that.
What you can control is your ability to tell a compelling story. In my experience, whoever tells the best story typically wins the new client. It doesn’t matter whether you’re first or last. If you have an emotionally engaging story, you can be memorable, and then the client will want to work with you. Even if you’re the first presenter, you can tell such a powerful story about a case study of someone you helped that you can set the bar that others have to top after you.
Here are my three secrets to winning such a presentation.
1. Start With A Great Opening Statement
First impressions are key. Even though you may have an hour to present, if you don’t pull people in with something they care about in the first 90 seconds, they’ll probably tune you out. So don’t say, “Thanks for this opportunity. We’re excited to be here” as you’re opening statement. It’s not about you, and most likely, nobody cares that you’re excited. You’re also not saying anything memorable with these lines.
Instead, open with a compelling statement of your understanding of the potential client’s problem and why you believe you’re the best team to solve it. The better you can show that you understand their problem, the more likely the prospective client is to think that you have their solution.
2. Tell Stories About What Makes You And Your Team Unique
Don’t state facts about how long you’ve worked there, but instead tell a short story about what you love most about your job and how well you work with your team. Be sure to use the phrase “What this means for you is … ” because that is a benefit for your prospective client. Here’s an example: “We work well together, and what that means for you is we’re more productive and easy to work with, so you’re in good hands.”
People usually want to hire people they trust, like and know. Often the best way to connect is to show them that you care about them and will have their back. If you can tell a story about a problem that came up with another client and how you used critical thinking to solve it before it became an even bigger problem, that can build confidence and convince them that you and your team are the right fit.
3. End With A Great Closing Statement
Don’t say, “That’s all we have — any questions?” Instead, summarize your key strengths, your personal passion, your commitment, why this new client is so important to you and what you’ll do for them. This is your chance to show not only that you’re easy to work with and that you have similar values about how you like to work but also that you’ll go the extra mile to help them succeed.
The next time you have the opportunity to win new business, remember that this is your Olympic moment. Don’t wing it. Practice what you’ll say at the opening and the closing. Reverse engineer the entire meeting in your head. Start at the end and figure out what you want the prospective client to think, feel and do after you’re finished. Then, plan what you’ll say to make them think you’re the best team, feel confident that you can do the job and take the next step of checking your references to hire you.