“So what is your pitching process?” asks David Kean, author of Catalyst and Pitching To Win, and widely considered the authority when it comes to pitching for new business.

“Well we don’t pitch”, comes one reply.

Ballsy. Especially when we were attending a workshop in pitching at Waypoint’s Mastering Better Business Development event.

“Okay.” replies David, not ruffled by this curveball in the slightest. “Why not?”

Everyone approaches business development differently. People have different techniques when it comes to pitching. Some don’t even pitch at all. Some pitch like crazy, throwing everything at it. Some rely on their networks. All work to an extent.

But ultimately these events are all about learning something new and putting those learnings into practice to get better results. The two keynote speakers on the day, David, and Martin Tucker, owner of Gener8 Business, both brought something different to the table, drawing on the worlds of tech, Ancient Greece and even the Rolling Stones!

As well as the keynotes, there was a selection of workshops to choose from. As someone who is increasingly getting involved in the pitching for new business at Velvet, I joined David’s pitching workshop (where the above interaction took place). Turns out a lot of us are facing the same sort of problems!

This blog could have been a 40-page dissertation with the number of useful notes I took, but I have managed to distil it down to my “Top 4 Learnings”:

1. I’ve got 99 problems, and the pitch IS one…

Despite Mr/Mrs/Ms. “I Never Pitch” that I mentioned earlier, everyone at the workshop had the same problem when it came to the pitch process. Time. Time to put the required effort in to win the brief, while also factoring in all the other pressures of day-to-day business. It was reassuring that all of us faced the same challenge.

Because of this, everyone takes shortcuts – using tired templates, not rehearsing properly, and making the bulk of the pitch deck about themselves. 

So basically stop doing that! Make the time to do a proper job. We were all asked to create a “manifesto” as a promise to ourselves not to take those shortcuts, and increase chances of success.

2. Cheat! Take shortcuts

“But you just said shortcuts are bad…”

Yes. Yes. But some shortcuts are good!

“But cheaters never win!” I hear you cry. Ah but they do. And frequently.

Some of the best generals in the world cheated for their victories. David Kean talked about the first instance of cheating in war being the Trojan Horse. Pitching is a bit like war. It’s competitive. The people who win wars do things that work. 

And they do it over and over again. 

And the best cheat when it comes to business development? Make the incumbent agency look sh*t. Make them seem slow and lethargic. Make them look complacent in their relationship with the client. 

3. A true champion is a true champion

People with influence are pretty important. Makes sense. You need those kinds of people on your side. Being YOUR champion on the inside. In his talk, Martin brought up an old SaaS saying – “you will never win a deal without a champion.”

But the challenge lies in identifying that champion. Someone might have the gift of the gab, the person who brought you into the process early doors, the one who seems to have the ear of the decision maker(s). Then it turns out they aren’t the champion you thought they were. 

So you need to do your homework. Be thorough. Check your “champion’s” ID. They should be the ones that have the real influence. And they might not be who you think they are.

4. “Customers don’t give you sh*t about you unless you are providing value”

Not my words, but the words of Martin Tucker. You need to be solving the client’s problem otherwise there’s literally no point you being there. So you need to understand what the customer is trying to achieve. What is their strategy? How can YOU help them?

And when belts are being tightened, and budgets being cut – being able to prove you can provide that value is going to put you at a huge advantage.

Are the above hard and fast rules of new business? As I said, people approach new business in different ways – and what works for you, might not work for someone else. However, such events allow us to reassess, learn from others and discuss common challenges across business. 

I may have only outlined four learnings, but I learned a lot more.