Know the Room:  Researching Before a Pitch

Know the Room: Researching Before a Pitch

Duran Duran won a big contract for my agency.

No, Simon LeBon didn’t present the proposal a capella. But we knew our prospect was a huge fan of the band. So we played some of their hits as background music when she walked in. No one mentioned it. But, ever so slightly, her shoulders relaxed and face perked up. She was ready to hear what we had to say.

Did “Rio” make the difference? Would we have connected anyway?

Doesn’t matter.

What counts is going into a pitch – for potential customers or investors – knowing as much as possible about the people in that room.

Dogged detectives win business by uncovering information that:

  • Finds common ground.

Like attracts like, so you use nuggets of shared interests/experiences to build instant rapport and trust.

  • Reveals what they admire, respect and aspire to.

You show them how your offering fits into their definition of success.

  • Divulges their personality.

Know whether you can dial up the humour or not.

  • Exposes their fears.

Is there a competitor hot on their trail? Position your company as a way to gain strength and reduce vulnerability.

  • Showcases their passions.

Personal bits – e.g. Yorkie owner – are excellent back-pocket items for conversational asides or examples. Our shoulder bags are roomy and stylish. Capacity:  Two Yorkies! 

One should-be-obvious caveat:  You use this information to customise your pitch, not to show off or look like an obsessive stalker.

That Yorkie example? It’s simply said, like you always use it. You’re not opening with:  Rupert, I know you love your Yorkies, Carrot and Moe. No.

Knowledge is powerful. Judicious use of that knowledge? Killer.

Here’s how to research prospects before a pitch.

Go Deeper on the Company’s Site

You’ve landed a meeting with these folks, so you should already have a handle on the company’s basics. Go beyond the About page on their site. Click:

Careers – reading a few job postings clues you into what areas are growing for this business; see how job descriptions highlight aspects of the company culture

News – likely to be the “good” news, but worth seeing what’s been highlighted

Blog – if available, scan recent posts and do a search for any posts by or mentioning the names of the key decision makers you’re pitching

Team – read bios of your prospects – alert to common ground and quirks; notice the chain of command; you might be pitching the prospect’s boss next

Google What the Company Won’t Tell You

Use the Google News search bar to look up the company. Then do Google News searches on individuals’ names. For the best intel, also do a round of regular Google searches limiting the timeframe to the past year and another for the past month.

Don’t fall down the Internet hole! Stay focused on finding common ground, understanding any threats in their competitive landscape and sussing out the personalities of the players.

Listen to People Revealing Themselves

Social. Media.

Scan company accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, as a quick check on what you already know and to bone up on super-current events.

The golden nuggets, however, are often found in the individual accounts of people you’re meeting. Look ‘em up. You’ll be amazed at what gets shared (and how many professionals don’t bother setting privacy controls).

Who are they giving shout outs to? Are they posting inspirational messages or dark economic forecasts? Is Thomas tagged in dozens of charity event photos? Is Christina an All-Blacks die-hard? Does Sharon complain about long meetings? Did Bob levitate at Kundalini yoga?

All clues to better connect with them.

Skip Research at Your Peril

No one but you can decide how much digging is prudent for a given opportunity.

The only real mistake? Doing none.

Confidence wins business. Some people – sociopaths – are confident 24/7. The rest of us gain confidence from preparation.

Mastering your credentials preso is half of the equation. The other half is tailoring your pitch to appeal to the people in front of you. Ergo, research.

Assume They’re Sleuthing You, Too

Your prospective customers and investors might be scouring the earth for insights on you as well. Mutual transparency can be a beautiful thing.

Take stock of what’s publicly available about you and your company. Is it a picture of someone you’d like to spend time and money with?

Leave a trail of clues you’d be happy to see uncovered.