Pitching in teams is usually more effective than pitching alone.
There is one caveat, however.
Your sales team must be in sync, in harmony. Otherwise, even the most technically excellent pitch can be sabotaged by one-upmanship or plain ol’ mediocrity.
Harmony matters, and it doesn’t just happen because your team has chemistry. It takes best practices.
If your prospect is comparing your pitch against your competitors, she probably won’t have harmonious team feeling on her checklist. But if your team lacks a solid, cohesive team karma, she may well mark you down in other areas without even being aware of it.
Visibly poor teamwork does not inspire trust.
A sports marketing agency once pitched a league sponsorship to two similar prospects within the space of one week.
Both prospects were in the electronic games sector. Research showed similar business outlooks for both prospects, both were leveraging sports as key marketing platforms, so the two pitches were similar. You’d think that if the agency did well in the first pitch, they’d do well in the second.
But there was one major difference: the people… not on the prospect’s side, but on the agency side.
In the first meeting, the pitch team was tactical, rehearsed and harmonious. In the second, they were, shall we say, out of tune.
Leading into the first pitch, the agency’s sales consultant briefed the CEO and CMO, not just about the prospect, but also about meeting flow, with a game plan for the all-important second half: tactical questioning for exploring and investigating the prospect’s critical issues.
When the meeting started, the sales consultant briefly opened, then turned it over to the agency heads in their respective areas, letting them present their magic.
The sales consultant then orchestrated the Q&A, with the pitch team asking as many questions as the prospect. It was a robust, professional, client-focused discussion. Next steps were agreed, with the prospect contributing to those next steps.
A successful pitch!
In the second pitch a week later, the agency CMO couldn’t make it. So a Marketing Manager joined the pitch. Upon arriving from three different cities, the sales consultant, CEO and Marketing Manager had a quick lunch to discuss roles and tactics, but the Marketing Manager simply would not collaborate on pitch preparation. The CEO was frequently on his mobile, distracted by a shareholder development, so the newly hired sales consultant couldn’t reign in the marketing guy.
When the agency went into the meeting with the second prospect, it went from bad to worse. The Marketing Manager would not shut up. Whenever anyone made a point, he would one-up it. The sales consultant tried to move the conversation to exploring the client’s critical issues and key objectives, but the marketing guy kept talking about the virtues of the sponsorship.
Tactically, the second pitch was all over the place and, emotionally, it was awkward.
There was no team harmony.
The prospect walked the agency to the lift, gave them a cordial handshake. “Thanks for comin’! Adiós, muy buenas!”
He never returned phone calls, but he did briefly reply to an email about three weeks later. Adiós, muy buenas.
Compare this to the first pitch.
Compare this to the real Pitching Machines – sales teams that plan, agree, rehearse and bring out the best in each other. These teams are tough to beat.
Here’s a simple guide to pitching with team harmony. This does not include the standard research, presentation skills or other sales skills. This focuses solely on pitching with harmony, as a cohesive, professional team for building client trust.
- Name a Pitch MC: No, this should not be the CEO unless the CEO has established the contact with the prospect. And therein lies the key; this is not about rank, it’s about relationship. If a salesperson has established the relationship and garnered the meeting, the salesperson should be in charge. All other executives and specialists should yield to the pitch maestro/client contact.
- Assign Roles: Agree who should present which area of the pitch. Certain individuals have the expertise, other individuals have the passion. Assign roles appropriately so that your stars shine, and your team harmonizes.
- Agree Sequence: Agree this as you would any presentation, yet try to arrange the material so that each individual presents only one segment. Too much back and forth can be messy. It kills impact and harmony.
- Let the Pitch MC Open & Close: The person who has the best relationship with the client, usually the person who has garnered the meeting, should be the individual from the pitch team that opens and closes the meeting. Great salespeople are comfortable not being the star of the show; they let their teammates present their respective magic. And the team should let their Pitch MC open and close the meeting and, in fact, orchestrate the Q&A after the actual presentation.
- Plan a Great Q&A: As I’ve posted before, this includes the pitch team asking questions of the prospect. (More on this in other blog posts.)
- Rehearse: The value of rehearsing can not be over-stated. If it is impossible (is it, really?) to rehearse, then a top line discussion on roles, material and meeting flow must happen. These roles and flow must absolutely be agreed and adhered to.
- Harmonize/Let the Stars Shine: This is where the rubber meets the road. During the pitch itself, bring out the best in each other. Let your teammates shine in their appropriate roles, and show the prospect that you love it when they shine. This is harmony at its best. It demonstrates professionalism, and it builds trust.
In a competitive pitch, if the content is equal, it’s the team that best harmonizes that will win the business.
Back to the sports marketing agency’s two pitches, the first pitch was tight, professional, harmonious.
The first prospect remained engaged. A month later, they agreed to move forward and after two months of tough but good-faith negotiations, they signed a lucrative partnership deal.
Clients will invariably trust a competent and harmonious team over a group of technical experts without a song sheet. So this needs to be demonstrated in your pitch!
Bring out the best in your teammates. Harmonize.
Do you want to be a lone superstar? Or do you want to win business?
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The best practices of pitching in teams are many, but even knowing them is not enough; you need to embed them. You gotta’ show prospects the love!
I run pitch workouts with sales and technical/product management/C-Suite teams, sometimes with video… and teams are often stunned at their flaws. This inspires actionable areas to immediately correct and results in higher win rates.
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