In Part 01 of this short series, I covered five practical aspects of delivering a good pitch. Part 02 covered the art of communicating the value of your design services. This final Part 03 is about the most important thing that clients buy – you (and your team). I am a great believer in the old saying ‘people buy people’. The best design projects come from a good match between the right clients with the right designers.
But clients and projects are unpredictable, which is why the most important thing when you first meet with a potential client is to be true to yourself. Outline your offer rather than guess what a client wants to hear. This way, you won’t win them all, but the ones you do should be a good match for your agency and your preferred style of working and communicating – and that has a better chance of being a good long-term relationship.
Some clients are impressed by big bold personalities and some appreciate a quiet and considered style. Some designers turn up in suits and some come along in jeans. There is no single right way to dress, act or speak. But if you try to take on an attitude that is not you, it is likely to come across as false or awkward. Authenticity shines through – go in on your strengths and don’t try to be something you are not.
I know very few people who relish presenting or pitching. It can be nerve wrecking, especially when you really want to win. The more pitches you do, the more confident you will become with experience. In the mean time get some training and practice. Your breathing, voice, body language or your inner-fears can all be worked on to help you be relaxed and confident. And don’t forget that clients get nervous in these meetings too. Ultimately they really do just want to hear about your services and how you could help them.
Some pitches request a formal approach and leave you no time to open up a conversation. But if you can, leave space for questions and encourage a more informal discussion to emerge. Have some questions of your own on-hand and make them specific to the project – this shows that you have been thinking about the project even before you have been commissioned. A genuine conversation is two-way and gives everyone a chance to get to know each other better. A good working relationship is the bedrock of a successful project, so really listen and engage.
Know why you want each project you pitch for. Of course there is the money, but unless you know the payment level is exceptional, something else needs to motivate you through the dips and challenges that every project brings. Is this about winning another project in a tried and tested sector that you command? Will this give you a chance to try something new or exciting? Could it win an award? Do you hope it will lead to a longer-term relationship? And be honest, if you know this project doesn’t really motivate you – ask yourself why you are pitching at all, because you won’t do great design work if you don’t really care.
Before you leave, make sure you have told them that you would like to work with them. As human beings we all like people to take an interest in what we do and clients are no different. Clients like to work with designers who ‘get them’ and make them feel special – it’s good customer service from the very beginning.