In the final part of our series on pitching for new business, we get to grips with one of the biggest issues facing companies when pitching – the art of selling creative ideas.

Heather Baker of integrated communications consultancy TopLine Comms explores this complex and crucial part of the bidding process.

Show what you’re capable of and communicate it well

We bring loads of creativity to our pitches. The main purpose of these ideas is to show potential clients how we think and to demonstrate what we’re capable of. After we’ve shown what we’re about, we go on to develop campaign ideas based on a detailed analysis of the business and the market, which happens in the first month of the contract.

An average idea communicated well is vastly better than a great idea delivered poorly. I love using props, visuals and storytelling and I sometimes attempt humour. I also position the idea from the audience’s perspective, rather than my own.

I never use words on a PowerPoint slide – always images. And at TopLine we have a slight advantage in that we also offer animations and explainer videos, so I can easily insert these into any pitch.

Finally, audience participation is key. I always make sure we have rapport and dialogue and check in with the audience throughout the pitch to make sure I haven’t lost them.

Convince your audience – great ideas are grounded ideas

Of course, great ideas also need to be grounded – always bring it back to why we’re here in the first place. To do this I always end by emphasising how this is a great idea that will also support the prospect’s business objectives.

Case studies and awards always give credibility, and at TopLine we’re fortunate to have a few of both. Finding examples of where creativity and boldness have really delivered great results can also work, even if these examples come from competitors.

When I introduce my team at the start of a pitch, I always talk about each person’s specific achievements at the company. It’s a good way of giving them confidence and credibility at the same time.

Be big, be bold, but don’t lose sight of the goal

When it comes to pitching great ideas it’s important to assess potential pitfalls before walking into the room. Creative companies don’t always have the best reputation in business, which is often about style being delivered over substance.

The only way to avoid falling into this negative stereotype is to reject all good ideas that won’t have an impact on the important metrics that the client cares about. You can be clever and imaginative but always remember you’re pitching because the prospect has a problem that they want you to solve.

Ensure the client understands what success looks like to you

When selling your ideas it’s also important to ensure you’re not overpromising, and that the client realises this. Set modest targets and then add stretch targets. This gets the client aligned with your definition of success. I would also always make sure that if I’m setting a target, the whole team who are delivering against that target agrees we can hit it.

On top of this, I love it when the client gets involved in developing and refining ideas – when the process is collaborative it can work very well. But if, for example, the client wants to reduce the scope of a campaign by reducing the budget, they need to be told clearly and in writing that this will reduce the impact.

I also think it’s worth identifying factors likely to lead to failure in advance. Tell the client up front what they could do to make this idea fly, and what they could do to make it fail. This method shows you have thought it through, while also making them think twice about watering it down once you’ve left the room.

Believe in what you’re selling and be clear from the outset

Ultimately, if you go into the pitch really believing in your idea, and keep it conversational, you don’t need to keep a checklist of what not to say or do. It’s all about painting an enticing picture of how this campaign is really going to benefit them, and outlining the cost of not acting. That’s how you’ll smash it.

Find out more about Heather Baker by visiting TopLine Comms.

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