Everything that you and your team do in a new business pitch will affect the outcome. But, there are three places you should pay particularly close attention: the open, the close and during Q&A.
The opening because your prospect is actually listening to you (it may be the only time) and it gives you the opportunity to talk about how you will solve their problems or what benefits you’ll bring to them to make them richer, better, stronger, etc.
The close because the prospect, who may not have been paying rapt attention throughout, tunes in again. It’s your opportunity to repeat your main thesis of the benefits you’ll bring to them and ask for the business.
The Q&A session, whether formal or informal, engages the prospect more than any other part of the presentation. Q&A is also an opportunity to get key players, who may not have had a lot of opportunities to present, to get involved.
Body language becomes very important during Q&A. Here are a few things to remember:
- Eye contact is critical, especially for dicey questions. The moment that you answer a question by looking down or at the ceiling, you are telegraphing that you are not confident with the response.
- Make sure you share the eye contact. If prospect A asks the question, start the eye contact with him, but at some point look at others across the table, as well.
- Lean in when answering the question. Don’t sit up straight and never lean back. Sit as close to the conference room table as you can.
- If you are standing when asked the question, take a step towards the person who asked as you answer. Never step back.
- Animated hands are powerful when answering a question, but, don’t touch your face. It’s a tell.
- Smile. That smile says you are confident in the answer you are giving. As importantly, most people look angry when they don’t smile.
- When asked a question that requires a “yes” or “no” response, answer in a full sentence. “Yes, because….”
- Posture is crucial. You look more confident with a strong posture, and you’ll look weaker with a slouching posture. This is important because by the end of the pitch most of us have lost our strong posture. Pump it up again. (See Filling the Space Blog)
- Avoid saying “That’s a good question.” It’s a habit to get out of. It makes you look like you don’t know the answer.
- Be honest. If you don’t know the answer say so, but promise to get back to them the same day with the answer. They will respect you more.
- If your colleague is answering, make sure you look interested in the response. It wouldn’t hurt to nod occasionally in agreement.
- Avoid piling on. If your colleague answered the question, you don’t need to add your two cents.
- Note to the CEO, or leader of the pitch. Allow others on the team to answer questions. Don’t hog the answers and don’t add more information after each question is answered by others.
- Watch the prospect’s face as you answer. If there is doubt, ask “Did I answer your question?”
The Q&A session can make or break the pitch. It should be rehearsed. If possible, slot the Q&A session before you close the pitch, otherwise you will be ending the pitch with odds and ends questions, instead of a powerful close and ask for business.
Do well. Any questions?