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How to Pitch like a Pro


Last week our London office hosted the second of our “Good to Great” series, which are designed to supercharge creatives who run in-house teams.

Produced in association with Make Your Words Work, “Pitch It” focused on how to transform the way your in-house design team pitches and sells their work.

We had four amazing creative leaders who gave advice on how best to present work and get buy-in from senior management for working with their internal team.

Here are our experts’ tips to ensure your team has the best chance at winning the pitch!

1. Read the Brief

Read the brief, and then read, read, read it again. There will always be items you miss the first time and it’s worth checking throughout the project that you are on track. Make sure you have a full understanding of what your client wants. It’s okay to disagree, but you need to know what it is they’re asking for and address those points in your presentation. It can be a good idea to start your pitch with your own take on the brief, keeping in mind you need to use the brief as a reference to justify certain decisions you’ve made.

One benefit for an in-house team is that you have access to the client any time you want, which is an advantage an external agency doesn’t have. Use this opportunity to quiz them about the brief and discuss elements of it with them.

2. Be Confident

Rather than showing loads of ideas, pick your best one or two and present them confidently. If you are unsure about what you’re showing, your client will pick up on that. Having a passion and belief in your ideas will lead your client to believe in it, too. As UsTwo's Business Director Liz Whitney (pictured below) told us, “Confidence is half of it, having the confidence standing up and winging-it and thinking ‘I’m going to say this so convincingly that you’re going to believe me’. Conviction in what you’re saying is really important”.

Liz Whitney

3. Know Your Audience

Think about who you are presenting to: are they creative, sales, or finance? Make sure that you are tailoring what you are saying to each person. A finance person might only be interested in the cost, whereas a salesperson might be looking for the ROI. Cut out all design jargon, otherwise you run the danger of not speaking your audience’s language.

4. Who Should Present

The magic number of people to include in your pitch depends on a number of factors, but what’s most important is that you include the ones most qualified to talk. These will be the ones able to speak confidently and positively about the ideas presented. The designer will communicate most passionately about the design and be best to answer questions about why certain decisions were made, the account manager may be the best qualified to talk costs, etc.

5. What to Show

The amount of work you should show in a pitch varies greatly. At the very minimum you should show:

  • The Why - Why are we doing this?
  • The Big Idea/s - What is it/are they?
  • The How - How we will execute it
  • The Return - What we will achieve

6. Preparation and Presentation

In the run up to the pitch, you and your team will have put in a lot of time and effort, but at the end of the day whether your ideas are chosen or not depends on its presentation. Preparation is everything! This includes trying to predict what questions they may ask and being prepared with answers. It’s important to think about what they want to hear. In-house Design Team Consultant and Founder Emma Sexton (below) of Make Your Words Work told us, “Articulate your work in the context that they care about. And what they care about is how the work you’re doing is going to make their content better. Making them better at what they do.”

Emma Sexton

7. Collaborate

The pitch presentation is just the start of the process. Nine out of ten times the creative that wins the pitch won’t be the final product. Collaborate with the client after the pitch and develop the idea together. The process will go much smoother if the client feels ownership and knows that their opinion is taken into account. When working with clients, Jelly London's Founder and Creative Director Charlie Sells said, “They need to feel they’re involved, [make sure you're] using words like ‘we’ and ‘our’ when talking of the project.”

8. Adapt

Be prepared to think on your feet during the pitch. The client may change the brief or start to go in a different direction, if you can roll with it then you are more likely to succeed. In fact, you may even end up with more work!

9. Act Like an Agency

A great analogy that Liz Whitney shared with us is that in-house teams are often seen as a large oil tanker whereas external design agencies are pictured as a speed boat. Agencies look exciting, agile and fresh, whereas in-house teams can wrongly be perceived as slow and uncreative. You need to think and act like the speed boat. Ask for the chance to pitch against agencies to show that you can compete. Don’t be shy about collaborating with agencies, it can energise you as well as enhance what you and your team have to offer.

10. Learn from Mistakes

You may not win every time, but always try to elicit feedback for next time. There can be many reasons why you didn’t succeed, from how you presented to the costs of a project. If you don’t ask, you are bound to make the same mistakes in future.

Thank you to all our in-house experts: Emma Sexton, Liz Whitney, Charlie Sells, and Nicki Field for their great tips.

If you missed the event and would like to see their full presentations, you can watch them here.

Have any tips you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments section!

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