Strong businesses usually operate on a mix of inbound and outbound marketing techniques, and foremost among outbound tools is the pitch — where you know someone is looking for help with a project, and you do your best to convince them to choose you and your idea for the project. Pitching seems like a great method of winning sales. After all, you know the person is actively looking for help, you know what help they need, and in many cases you know how much they’re willing to pay. What could be easier?
But when your virtual stack of rejection notices gets so tall it begins to topple, and you count up how many hours you spent slaving away over project proposals and realise you could have set up several inbound lead generation funnels during that time, it’s easy to be tempted to throw in the towel and give up on pitching all together.
Don’t give up too soon!
You can win those kinds of projects and contracts. You just need to know how to write a pitch that captures attention and clearly and quickly proves you’re the perfect choice for the project.
Obviously, that’s easier said than done, but these guidelines, tips, and pieces of expert advice will soon have you winning projects left right and centre.
The basics of how to write a pitch
You’d be surprised how often people fail to get the basics right. So, the first thing to do when you’re crafting a fantastic project proposal is to cover off on all the basics.
- Follow all directions. If you can’t follow the directions in the project brief, prospective clients will know you’re not going to be good at following their directions throughout the project. It’s also common curtesy — it’s just plain rude to not put in the effort to properly read a project brief that the prospective client has put time and effort into creating. And offending a prospective client is not a good way to endear yourself to them.
- Include everything requested in the project brief. In a good project brief, your prospective client will have listed very specific requirements for good reasons. So, you need to make sure you address each of those items in your pitch, so your prospective client knows you meet all their requirements. Having said that, if you don’t meet a requirement for some reason, but you still think you’d be a great fit for the project, that doesn’t mean you can’t submit a pitch. But address the requirement upfront and spell out exactly why you’re perfect for the opportunity even though you don’t meet a requirement. If your arguments are compelling enough, you’ll still be in with an excellent chance. But if you ignore anything that’s not a perfect fit with what you can bring to the table, your prospective client will assume you don’t fit their needs.
- Meet the deadline. No matter how good your pitch is, if you don’t submit it before the due date, your chances of being chosen for a project are almost zero. If you can’t submit your pitch on time, prospective clients know you’re unlikely to submit the project deliverables on time and that’s going to be a dealbreaker for most people.
- Tailor your pitch to the specific project brief. If you have a generic pitch that you send to every prospective client, it’ll feel flat. It’s fine to have a template that you flesh out for each pitch (and that’ll speed up the process and help you achieve better results more consistently), but make sure your pitch doesn’t read like it’s a template. The very first step in this process is to personalise your pitch — never address a pitch to ‘Sir/Madam’. Remember, you’re writing a sales pitch. The content of your pitch needs to do some selling. But the way you construct your proposal also sells as well — it can make or break any deal.
Advanced tips for crafting winning pitches
Once you’ve handled the basics, it’s time to really finesse your pitch and turn it from a bland list of key points into a stellar one-page pitch.
- Make a great first impression. What is the most important section of a pitch or proposal? It’s the first paragraph (and heading if the platform you’re pitching on allows/requires headings). That first paragraph will tell your prospective client why they should spend their valuable time reading (or viewing) the rest of your pitch. So make it count. Tell them the number one reason why their project will deliver the best results if they choose you.
- Make the client the hero of your story. Humans are self-centred beings. So, don’t focus your pitch on you — your skills, your portfolio etc. — focus on how you can help your prospective client achieve their goals with their project.
- Include your elevator pitch. A great way of succinctly conveying your expertise and fit for a project (and especially your unique selling point or unique value proposition) is to include your elevator pitch. This gives you plenty of space to then explain how your experience and expertise will benefit the project.
- Mirror the client’s language and style. Ever heard of ‘mirroring’? When people mimic the words, tone, gestures, expressions, posture etc. of another person, that’s mirroring. It’s a sign that people are attuned and in sync with one another, and we humans like to work with those who are in sync with us. Mirroring has been shown to help wait staff win more tips and salespeople win more sales. If you mirror the language used in a project brief, your prospective client will believe you understand the project and will subconsciously think you’re in sync with them.
- Be creative. Wherever possible, adding a creative twist to your pitch will not only help your pitch stand out from the crowd, it’ll also show your prospective client how you can bring creativity to the table. This is especially important if the project needs a lot of creativity.
- Show, don’t tell. This technique is common among authors as it brings a richness to storytelling that takes it to the next level and helps involve readers in the story. But ‘show don’t tell’ is an important guideline for pitches as well as it makes them more persuasive. Instead of telling your prospective client that you’re the best Australian graphic designer with text like ‘I’m the number one graphic designer in Australia’, you can show your prospective client with a reference to an award and a portfolio of amazing visuals. Testimonials are a great way of showing that your clients love the work you do and highlighting key skills and the perks of choosing you. And data is a great way of showing the kinds of results you can deliver.
- Pitch your ideas. You need to be a little careful with this one as you want to avoid giving away your IP and having a dodgy prospective client take that free information and running with it themselves. But bringing ideas to the table in a pitch is an excellent way of inspiring your prospective client and demonstrating that you can solve problems. This is especially important for creative projects and any project where it’s clear the client wants an independent expert who can deliver results with minimal direction.
To help you write spectacular pitches for all your future projects, here are some examples of awesome pitches to inspire you.
Inspiring pitch examples
- If you’re preparing your pitch as a slide deck, here are some sleek pitch examples from some of the world’s biggest brands. These aren’t project pitches, but the ideas can be applied to project pitches with great results.
- Crafting an elevator pitch is one of the hardest parts of marketing. Here are some great examples of different types of elevator pitches. Feel yours could do with a tweak? Here are some examples of expert elevator pitch re-writes for even more inspiration.
- Here are three diverse examples of freelance writing pitches that were accepted. The article even explains why each pitch ‘won’.