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Critical thinking: CMO Kenyatte Nelson on what he looks for in a perfect pitch

Former Group Marketing Director at Shop Direct Kenyatte Nelson gives us an insider’s take on what makes a winning proposal.

There are five things I’m always looking for from a great pitch or project proposal. The format and approach could look a hundred different ways, but the content will generally do the following.

1.Tell me something I don’t know
This doesn’t mean start with the problem – no-one likes being told they have a problem. This does mean that I want you to show me something on the horizon that I need to be paying attention to. When agencies and project owners do this, they immediately add value. Highlighting what’s coming requires an understanding of the business, the customers, the prospective customers and, most impressively, the big and relevant changes that are happening in the world we operate in.

2. Give me proof that I should care
Help me to understand that my success or failure will be dependent on how I respond to the sea change that you have called out. Business leaders are hopelessly competitive, so when a proposal or pitch connects my response to change with my chances of future success, it will get my attention. Appeal to logic and emotion by showing me that there have already been winners and losers here, and that the outcome has depended on how well and quickly those businesses responded.

“Business leaders are hopelessly competitive, so when a pitch connects my response to change with my chances of future success, it will get my attention”

3. Show me the promised land – not the map
Give me a sense of what the future could look like assuming we have made the ‘right’ choice and said yes to working together. Make me understand that getting there won’t be easy but will be easier if we go on the journey together. Don’t forget, you’re selling to humans and most of us are emotionally driven (even if we don’t admit it). You don’t make a person want to go on a trip by showing them a map; you do it by giving them a vivid idea of how amazing it will feel once they get there. Incidentally, people who have been there before don’t share the route they took – they share the memories.

4. Show me you have the tools
Give me the confidence that you have the tools needed to take me where I want or need to go – and that those tools don’t exist anywhere else. This isn’t about credentials but about the things you offer and the way that you work – the qualities that make you or your business uniquely able to help me navigate any challenges and arrive at the desired destination.

“I get excited when a pitch makes me feel like I’ve just been told a secret that could dramatically improve our current situation”

5. Show me your results
This one is particularly important if you’re a service provider. I want you to show me that you’ve done this before and provide proof points of previous success, even if the diagnosed challenge was different. The exact brief doesn’t need to be the same, but the approach should be consistent, and the eventual result should be similarly positive.

I get excited when a pitch or proposal makes me feel like I’ve just been told a secret that could dramatically improve our current situation – and I’m motivated to take action when I feel like there’s a chance that the rest of the world might learn that secret and do something about it before we can.

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