If you’ve ever presented an idea, concept, solution, proposal or credentials to a potential client, you’ve pitched. What’s unfortunate is that most pitches are mediocre at best. Enter the new AMC show The Pitch.
If you haven’t yet watched The Pitch, you’ve been missing out. Every event planner, wedding planner, event supplier and sales person can learn major lessons from this behind-the-scenes view into the world of advertising pitches. Having sat in on and delivered a number of agency pitches myself, I can attest that this is a pretty accurate depiction of what happens inside and out of the boardroom.
Becoming a great pitch person is a craft – honed over years of rejections, wins, flubs and ovations. What I love so much about this show is that you now get the ability to fast-track your learning by watching what works and what doesn’t for others. So, for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of catching it, here are 5 lessons every planner can learn, inspired by The Pitch…
Most people believe that the pitch is the moment you present your ideas, but it actually begins from your very first interactions with your potential client. Every moment of contact you have before the presentation is an opportunity to create an emotional connection, build rapport and establish trust (not to mention give you valuable insight into your client – insights your competitors might not have). If your client hasn’t included a round for questions, ask for it. If they revert to talking over the phone, try to get a face to face. What most people miss is that your ideas are only part of the reason why someone chooses to do business with you.
A Tissue Session is an interim call that allows the agency to talk through partly-developed ideas with the client before the big presentation. Why the name? Every once in a while the ideas are so off they result in the agency passing out tissues to dry the eyes of the team. Given this, why on Earth would any company want to hold a Tissue Session? Without the session, the agency would be dead in the water on the day of the presentation. With the session, they have a chance to course correct. The tissue session is an opportunity to learn more about your client, their needs and their boundaries at a time when you’re still trying to get to know a virtual stranger.
You are the expert at what you do. The client is the expert at what they want. Sometimes these two roads might not intersect – maybe you feel that the client’s direction is wrong. As an expert, it’s your job to share what, based on your experience, is in the best interest of the client – but this can come at a cost. Make a client feel stupid or that you haven’t listened to them and you’ve lost them forever. Help a client understand what will grow their business and you could earn a client for life.
The value you bring to your clients is helping them steer clear of pitfalls you’ve seen before, giving them ideas to get them to their goals faster and knowing where your industry is heading. Rather than simply give them what they asked for, you might want to show them a range of concepts (just ensure you’re prepared with valid reasons why your preferred concept should be considered).
At the end of the day, the work you produce is your legacy. No future client will look at your work and understand that your client wanted it that way, even if you didn’t.
In virtually every episode of The Pitch, the time is spent on creative development, leaving no time for preparing for the presentation to the client. I’m constantly amazed by how bad the presentations are.
Never expect your creative to do the talking for you. First, you clients aren’t experts at what you do which means although they might have a guttural reaction to your presentation, the reason why you chose that substrate, those colors, that technology might get lost in translation (and so will your innovative thinking). Second, great presentations create an emotional hook and tell a story that carve out a lasting spot in your customer’s memory. Start by framing the compelling problem or the setting (point a), defining the client’s dream (point b) and briefly how what you are presenting will get them from a to b. Be concise, be compelling and stick to what’s important.
One of the biggest mistakes companies make when pitching a new client is leaving the meeting not knowing where they stand. Ambiguity keeps you guessing – great for quiz shows but not so great for business. At the end of every pitch I delivered I would ask one thing: “Is there anything we’ve discussed today that would prevent us from doing business together?” This would lead to a yes or no answer, which gives you an opportunity to follow up with a ‘why’ or expand on something you might have left unresolved, unmentioned or unclear. Never leave a meeting with loose ends.
Your ability to pitch can the lifeline to a healthy and growing business. If you want to hone your skills, take an hour out of your day and watch The Pitch…you’ll learn a lot.
Recently I was asked the question: How do I decide what to bill for my time? This is a question that plagues many consultants who have no idea what to charge for their services. Here’s what I recommend:
The first place to start is to understand what you want your business to look like: Do you want to be a premium service provider (i.e. you have a value differentiator in the market) or do you want to be the lowest cost provider? It’s very difficult, and not sustainable, to charge a premium price if you don’t have unique value to offer (this is, in my opinion, one of the biggest mistakes companies make).
At the end of the year, what do you want your income to be? Obviously, you need to be realistic with this number. If you’re a wedding planner with a year of experience under your belt, don’t expect to make what a seasoned and experienced professional nets. As a starting point, think about what your income might be if you were working for someone else.
Estimate your annual overhead. This would include the cost of your telephone, office / rent, staff, travel, insurance, and all of the other expenses needed to run your business.
What do you want your profit margin to be? – this is what you’ll earn over and above your salary. Profit margins are important: they can help you save up for the unexpected, the wanted and the rainy days. They also give you the ability to reinvest in your business – that means website updates, new staff, new technologies, new inventory, etc…all things important in growing your business.
A lot of new consultants make the mistake of thinking that they bill for most of their time. Unfortunately with downtime, administration tasks (quoting, billing, book keeping, etc), travel, education, and a slew of things tasks every consultant needs to do (that most hate doing), the average time spent on UNbillable work is about 35%. You also need to account for any vacations or holidays you want to take off throughout the year. So, if you’re thinking of working a 40 hour work week, only 26 of those hours will likely be billable. If you add a 2 week vacation, that works out to 1,300 billable hours per year (26 hours per week x 52-2 weeks).
So, let’s say you want to make $80K, your overhead is $20K, you want a 10% profit margin, and you plan on working 1,300 billable hours
Your salary + overhead = $100K
A 10% profit margin = $100K + $10K = $110K
Divided by you billable hours = $110/1,300 = $84.60
Based on this example, your hourly billable rate would be $85.
Do your research and find out what others are billing. Go back to my first question: What’s your vision for your business and determine how your pricing fits in line with other market offerings. If you’re not in the ballpark, you need to seriously reconsider either what you want to make in a year, what your overhead costs will be and/or how many hours you need to work on billable projects.
Good luck & happy billing.
Do you have any other methods you’ve used to calculate your fees?
Much of what I write about on my blog is idea-based. Once I share a concept, my job ends and yours begins. Your job is to take what applies to you, sell it in to your organization and put it into practice. But alas, most great ideas die on the vine – before they can ever be harvested. The following article, originally written for MPI Toronto, will give you more fodder to help you sell in that great idea. So enjoy!
You have a brilliant idea. The problem is that no one else in the organization shares your wild enthusiasm. They think it’s a fad, so they don’t want to invest time or money into something that will be here today and gone tomorrow. Should you kiss your great idea goodbye?
Most businesses want more customers. Let me tell you why that can be a BIG mistake. More customers is not the same as the right customers. So while you’re wasting time busily trying to keep someone happy who doesn’t value you and never will, your ideal match could be walking right on by.
Your customers can make or break your business. They can motivate you, bring out your best work, rave about you to others like them, delight your employees and make you ‘cha-ching’ more profitable. Or they can do the opposite. What grates me is how little time most companies spend on understanding the engine that drives their business.
More often than not, when I ask a business to describe their ideal customer I hear things like, “Chicago brides” (in the case of a wedding planner), “Event Planners” (in the case of an event vendor) or “Fortune 500 companies” (in the case of a corporate event planner). General, blasé, unremarkable and totally non-actionable. By trying to appeal to such a vague and large group of people, you’re unable to speak in a language that captivates any one type of customer, you’re unable to tell them specifically what problem you’ll solve for them and you’re unable to tell them what goal you’ll help them achieve. The end result is that you’ll sound just like everyone else. This increases your competitive pool and the chances of you being seen as a commodity.
The only way you will attract your ideal customers is if you first create a crystal-clear picture of who they are.
|Name: Brie Smythe
Occupation: Retail Salesperson
Family: Engaged, no kids
|Brie Smythe is a style-obsessed 29 year old woman wishing she lived in a chic loft in Soho, but, with a humble retail sales income, she really lives with her parents in Torrington, CT. She watches Gossip Girl religiously, carefully taking note of how Serena and Blair pull together their looks. She does her best to emulate their styles while shopping at suburban big box stores like Target. She met her fiancee in high school – she was the pretty cheerleader and he was the football star. They have dreams of moving out of their small town once their married.|
See the difference?
The first is not only a snore-fest but it provides no clear insight into who your customer really is. The second paints a picture of her personality as well as her hopes, dreams and fears. I can now imagine which magazines she might read, which blogs she might subscribe to, and how to talk to her so that I cut through the clutter.
One of the greatest keys to success is better clients. Just one hour of your time can unlock the key to your idea customer profile. What you’ll need:
STEP 1: Make a list of your favorite clients (These are the clients that make you happy, you produce your best work with and often times are most profitable).
STEP 2: Make a list of your worst clients (Unlike to the first list, these clients are not enjoyable to work with, you often spend far too much time servicing them and feel unsatisfied at the end of the project or event).
STEP 3: Look for similarities. Once you have your two lists culled, identify what unifies the customers in each list using the following sub-categories:
Demographics – The statistical data about the customer:
Psychographics – How your customer thinks:
Behaviors – How your customer behaves:
STEP 4: Build your profile – From the information you’ve pulled together begin to build your ideal customer profile.
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Photo via annstheclaf
This time of year is rejuvenating because it gives all of us an opportunity to shed old skin and recalibrate our thinking. But the hype often gives way to habit. You only need to turn to your local gym to see this phenomenon in action. Throngs of people sign up in January but more than half don’t make it to swimsuit season. In fact, gyms typically anticipate a 20-30% drop out rate by April.
In their 4th Annual National Small Business Survey, Staples found that more than 80% of small business owners don’t keep track of their business goals.
Most of these companies are plagued with a dichotomy. They are either convinced that big challenges require complex ideas and end up building a plan that is too difficult to execute or become anxious at the thought of introspective thinking and instead focus on independent tasks that lack a unified direction.
There’s a quote by Lewis Carroll that says, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” Goal planning provides a distinct path that takes you from where you are to where you want to go. It helps you know if you’re heading in the right direction, ensures that you spend time doing things that are most important to the business and aligns employees behind a direction. Establishing and maintaining goals are fundamental contributors to small business success.
One of the most useful tools I’ve developed for my business is a simple and easy-to-use 3-Step Goal Setting Worksheet.
I schedule 1 hour every Friday planning my next week to ensure that I’m working my way through to my milestones. And I spend 1/2 hr at the end of each day planning the specific tasks I’ll be doing the following day. The important thing is to not get caught up in the monotony of bad habits and always keep your eye on the end game.
Click here to download the worksheet.
What tools and processes do you use to define and maintain your business goals?
It’s very common practice to train employees that the customer is numero uno. It’s also common practice to spend the vast majority of time, resource and financial investment on those customers. But where does this leave your employees?
In a world where products can be replicated in record time, what often sets businesses apart is their culture, their mind-share and the intangible values they provide their customers. The power of a brand is built off of the sum of all experiences they have with you, but it’s the high-touch experiences (sales, customer service, project management, after sales support, etc) that trigger emotions – either good, bad or indifferent. Your employees can drive delight, create ire, or a whole host of emotions in-between. So, no matter how much time and money you invest in the customer, if your employees aren’t happy, it’s likely your customers won’t be either.
In the following video, Dan Pink breaks down what motivates employees to perform better. Contrary to popular belief, the answer is not financial incentives (although it is important to pay people enough so the subject of pay is off the table). It comes down to autonomy, mastery and purpose. My personal favorite, purpose, speaks to the desire for all of us to be inspired by our work. If we feel like we’re contributing to something, it simply makes work more enjoyable.
Herb Kelleher, the co-founder and former CEO of Southwest Airlines believed that employees should come first. In his book, “From Nuts!”, he writes the following:
“…employees come first — even if it means dismissing customers. But aren’t customers always right? “No, they are not,” Kelleher snaps. “And I think that’s one of the biggest betrayals of employees a boss can possibly commit. The customer is sometimes wrong. We don’t carry those sorts of customers. We write to them and say, ‘Fly somebody else. Don’t abuse our people.”
Howard Shultz, the visionary of Starbucks, famously said:
“We built the Starbucks brand first with our people, not with consumers. Because we believed the best way to meet and exceed the expectations of our customers was to hire and train great people, we invested in employees.”
And then there’s Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos. He pays call centre employees a conservative $11/hr and does not have a 401K match. Yet his employees are extremely happy (one only needs to take a tour of his Las Vegas facility to see this first hand). Hsieh has created a corporate culture that is evangelized by employees with religious fervor. As he says, “I just want to have a company where people can hang out together and then come in to work the next day and not worry about whether they’ve done something stupid.” It sounds so simple, but the culmination of his unique corporate culture, philosophies and purpose-driven organization has resulted in some of the most amazing tales of customer service I’ve ever heard.
So, what do you think? Should the customer be #1 or the employee?
Photo via mrkumm
Stew Leonards has a very famous customer service story (circa 1969) that resulted in a giant rock that sits outside of his stores inscribed with the following:
Rule 1: The Customer is Always Right
Rule 2: If the Customer is ever Wrong, read Rule #1
This mantra is probably one of the most debated topics in the world of customer service. Is it better for business to satisfy every single customer or is it better to delight your good customers and sever ties with those that aren’t a fit?
The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, a movie theatre located in Austin, TX, opted for the latter. One day they received an irate voicemail from a customer who’d been thrown out for using her cell during a film. The response from the theatre didn’t include begging for forgiveness, issuing a refund or a letter of apology. Instead, they turned the customer’s message, laden with f-bombs, into a public-service announcement shown to audiences before the movie commences.
There are a number of reasons why bending over backwards to satisfy every single client can be a flawed system:
When you invest time, energy and money into trying to satisfy the wrong customers, you reduce your ability to attract the right ones.
That doesn’t mean that we, as businesses, should throw out the notion of amazing customer service. On the contrary. In a time when one tweet can cost a business millions, delighting customers is simply the cost of doing business, not a value-add. However, it also emphasizes the need to do business with the right customers. Work with enough people who don’t get you, don’t appreciate what you do, don’t like you, and you’re creating your own detraction engine.
Now it’s time for you to weigh in. What do you think?
Photo via mikkime