Reaching the perfect pitch

When working as a pitch team, don’t just deliver rehearsed lines. Be part of a friendly debate. This shows that you work as a team and that your individual expertise contributes to form a strong and effective group. As tempted as you are to direct all your energy to the lead client member, don’t ignore all those also sitting around that board table. Leave people out of what you are saying and they will not vote for you.

Always release them first by monitoring their reactions and body language. Staying so long that the client has to take a big breath and say “anyway, we better get on, thanks for coming in…” and you lose points. If you have control over where the clients sit, try to place them with their backs to the windows. If the clients are facing the view, they will be distracted by it and you will be backlit.

Keep it short. It has been shown that an audience falls into a ‘waking sleep’ within 15 minutes of one person presenting. Keep rotating your speaker, stick to the key facts and ‘sell-points’ and make the session shorter than expected. If the client needs or wants more information, they will ask the right questions. Before going to visit a new client, read their website, do a Google/news search and understand their language. Immerse yourself in what they stand for. When you sit down in front of that client, you need to appear as one of them.

Many lawyers are happy to sit and process paper for ever. Put your jacket on and go to the events where the handing over of a business card could result in a meeting that might lead to a pitch and hundreds of billable hours. It is all too easy to rely upon Powerpoint to get your message across. Sometimes it may be essential to show a complex chart or graphic, but do not be tempted to supply an endless stream of facts and figures, on paper or screen. It is far more powerful when you tell the story yourself.

Rather than resort to a ‘hard sell’, use the subtlety of soft skills to get your message across. Plant the seed of an idea by telling a brief anecdote where you happen to drop in a good client’s name, a project that was a huge achievement for you or some skills that you know this prospective client needs. The client will come to their own conclusion. This is always more powerful and long lasting than you telling them that they need you. Rehearse your pitch, not necessarily for the words you will use, but for your style and approach. More importantly become used to working within that particular pitch team. Invest time in getting it right and rehearse your message, preferably in front of someone impartial who can contribute to your efforts and on camera so that you can see yourselves as a team.

Former stockbroker Mark Jeffries now coaches high-level teams of lawyers, politicians and senior executives in both the UK and the US