Why Didn’t They Buy It? Tips For Pitching And Presenting

Your work was brilliant but the client didn’t get it… what happened?

I’ve been working with a lot of creative teams on selling their ideas.

You’ll recognize their struggle if you do any kind of presenting where you are trying to convince someone to try something new.

You work hard on your concepts, put it together in the way that makes sense to you and give it your full voltage enthusiasm.

But you don’t get wild applause. You get doubt, confusion or disappointment.

It may not be your work, it may simply be the way you presented it.

Two ways into information
There are two different ways people prefer to receive and share their information.

1. Some like real, actual, factual information, tangible things they can touch, see and feel.

2. Others like the intangible, the possibilities and the connections they can imagine.

Myers Briggs statistics show that over 70% of the general population prefer that first approach. They like to deal with reality and base their decisions on the concrete things that they can observe and discuss.

However, jobs in creative industries naturally attract people in the second group, people that are excited by possibilities and enjoy the challenge of solving something that isn’t obvious or clear.

If you work in a creative industry, you may be surrounded by people who like big ideas and trust themselves to figure out the details later.

Consequently, you might think your clients feel the same, that you can explain your overall concepts to them first and explain exactly how it will work later.

That approach could be a problem, if that isn’t how your client takes in information.

If your clients prefer that first style of real and actual information and you move quickly to the possibilities of your idea, they may believe there’s a gap in your explanation.

That gap might be big enough for your idea to fall in and never be seen again.

Figure out how your clients like their information served
You need to read the signals and figure out how to speak your client’s language, to give your ideas the best chance of succeeding.

Listen to how they brief you.

If they take you steadily through the background, progress to what they have explored, what has succeeded, what has failed and finally explain the issue they want you to address; they are walking you up the rungs of the ladder.

People with a preference for real, actual, factual information like to give you the parts, step by step, then show you how it adds up to the whole concept at the top of the ladder.

IF this is your client’s preference, your best chance of convincing them is by delivering your information back to them in the same way.

For example, if you are pitching an advertising idea, you might start your presentation with a review of the brief. Then move on to the research, how you developed your thinking and how it connects to the research.

You might cover off the timing and the budget. Finally, walking them up each rung to the top, you deliver your concept or idea.

At each rung of the ladder you client will be nodding “yes,” so when you get to the idea at the top– they’ll have no hesitation in agreeing that it meets all their criteria.

They’ll have enough detail and clarity of information to say yes to your idea.

People with this preference often can handle a lot of detail and may be good at remembering specifics. You’ll need to work out those details and deliver them in your presentation.

They’ll love it if you really colour the picture in, the closer you can get your scamps to reality the more they’ll appreciate your work.

When that won’t work
HOWEVER, there is the other part of the population that will find this kind of presentation slow, tedious and uninspiring.

As you march up the ladder, they’ll be thinking about their shopping list, what they’ll do this weekend and may be disappointed when you get to the idea because they haven’t been engaged.

When they brief you, they will start with the issue they want you to address, or the top of the ladder. They’ll tell you why they are seeking a big idea and then give you a few of the supporting elements to help you understand their issue.

Often, they will wait to see where you have questions, what you need to know to fill out the explanation, because they won’t want to overwhelm you with unnecessary details.

When you present to them you want to do the same; start with the top of the ladder – your big idea or creative concept, and then work down the supporting rungs.

Using our ad presentation example, you’d review the brief and then jump to the big idea. When they understand the idea, they can relate as you explain how things might work, the timing and the budgets.

That support information is now relevant to them, but they won’t need a lot.

People with a preference for the big picture find too much detail overwhelming.

They get bogged down in things they don’t feel they need to know at this moment. Your best bet is to drip feed the detail in later, as decisions need to be made, not pile it all on in the presentation.

They are often very happy with scamps or an outline or the idea and don’t need them to be precise.

The wise way… is the client’s way
I was doing a workshop on Myers Briggs, the foundation for understanding people’s preferences in information, and the creative team asked why clients don’t try harder at understanding the vagaries of creative work.

The truth is they don’t need to. The client usually holds the budget and the right of approval. Given that they’ve got the power, it puts the onus on us to figure out how to present our work to them. Our goal needs to be presentations that make it clear, easy and enjoyable to say “yes.”

You put a lot of effort into your ideas, spend a little more time to figure out your client’s preference for taking it in, and you’ll sail across the finish line.

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