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In life, you spend a tremendous amount of time pitching. Whether it’s pitching yourself for a new job or pitching your company to a new client, you’re constantly looking for an edge that will convince someone to take the risk of working with you. In any given pitch scenario, there are things you can do to aid in your quest for the elusive partnership, as well as things you can do that will get in the way of success.
Here are three things you can do to help seal any deal, and three things that’ll scare away many prospects.
What to include:
1. X marks the spot: Be specific. Let the client know why your exact skill set and background will be a boon to their cause. Convey why you and you alone possess the expertise needed to help them succeed. Don’t spout platitudes like "I’ll be a good fit" or "I’ll work hard." Everyone says that. Describe in detail how your specific skill set will benefit them, and make them know why it would be a mistake not to work with you. Whether it’s proficiency in coding, fluency in multiple languages or knowledge of a culture or demographic you know the company wants to expand into, let them know how your skills intersect with their needs: the perfect X.
2. Mind the details: Want to showcase your work ethic and professionalism? Polish your pitch until it shines. This means using correct grammar, punctuation and syntax. A hastily-assembled pitch or cover letter riddled with errors looks sloppy and tells the client you aren’t willing to take the time to get the smallest details right. And if you can’t take care of the small things when your career is on the line, why should they trust you with their bigger goals when their company is on the line?
3. What I’ve learned: As our careers progress, we learn a tremendous amount. We learn both what to do -- and often what not to do. When pitching, offer a few specific examples of lessons you were taught that resonated throughout your career. It lets the client know that you’re an intelligence sponge, able to soak up positive interactions while adding them to your professional tool kit. You might also want to offer one or two examples of incidences where you learned what not to do. It’ll show that you’re judicious, able to recognize warning signs and prevent a potential catastrophe.
What to avoid:
1. Personal references: For most of us, friends and family would go to the ends of the earth to help us succeed. Which is wonderful when it comes time to plan a birthday party or wedding but no so much when you’re trying to convince someone to put money or her reputation on the line. Leave out all the extraordinary praise by people who would be innately biased in your favor. We’re thrilled that your brother-in-law thinks you’re a fine prospect, but it means more coming from someone who has nothing to gain by singing your praises.
2. Follow-up fatigue: It’s great to follow up on a pitch a week or so after submitting it. And if you don’t hear back for a few weeks, checking in on the status. But constantly following up irritates the client and makes it seem like you’re impatient. Check in once or twice, but after that, let it go. If you don’t hear from them, move on to the next pitch. They most likely have as well.
3. Stand out -- just not like a sore thumb: Most companies have specific rules when it comes to submitting pitches. If you follow these rules, and your skill set matches up with what they’re looking for, there’s a good chance you’ll get a callback. But too many people feel that if they break the rules and submit pitches that differentiate from what the client requests, they’ll be seen as rebellious, unique. Which can be true, but it also lets the client know from day one if you don’t feel like doing what you’re asked to, you’ll do it differently, often at their expense. Geniuses do break the rules. But you have to first know where the lines are if you aspire to color outside of them.