Six Tips To Kick Start Your Next New Business Presentation

PR veteran Elizabeth Sosnow provides personal insight into what it takes for a successful new business presentation

When I was around 23, I was given an opportunity to be part of a presentation to a prospective client. I threw myself into research and spent many hours evaluating how I could contribute. When the big day finally arrived, I was ready to consider what might actually happen in the room itself.

As the team discussed roles and responsibilities, someone kindly tried to calm my nerves by suggesting that all would be well if I spent my time looking at the potential client instead of staring nervously at my colleagues. Well, I was, and am, an earnest soul. Let’s just say that I took the advice to heart.

To this day, I’m not certain if we won the business on merit or if my determined staring had more impact on a 65 year old man than my young self could have imagined..

After a few more years in the saddle, I have a slightly better idea of what makes a winning new business presentation. A few tips:

Advance Work: You often win based on the work you do before you walk into the room. Do more than just respond to the RFP:

1. Know the competitive context of your target industry. Until you know what “character” your prospect is playing in the media, you won’t be able to demonstrate that you can tell their story to others.

2. Identify 5 reporters that have a vested interest in your target: Quietly sound them out on the program’s potential “content hooks.” Those conversations may allow you to prove your credibility and deliver meaningful intelligence in one fell swoop.

3. Find out who you are dealing with: Once you know who will be in the room (or part of the judgment process afterwards), do some due diligence. Use search engines, LinkedIn or even Unsocial (if it’s available) to learn more about your quarry. Helpful hint: Don’t stop with learning about their current position – take the time to understand their career trajectory. That’s valuable intelligence that could easily shape your presentation.

4. Develop a mental script: Some presenters are desperate to read slides instead of trying to connect with the audience. Instead, try to think of each slide as a jumping off point to express a deeper and more interesting conclusion. What are those 5 bullets really trying to communicate? If you focus on the big picture, you give your client control over the details. Trust me, they’ll ask you if they want to “go deep.”

5. Understand your own value — and role — on the team: It’s no accident that my opening story used the word “I” frequently. When you are young and inexperienced, that’s the default position. Try a different tack. Why were you invited to be a part of this team? Was it show the breadth of the firm’s media contacts? Highlight depth in a particular industry or skill-set? If you know what you are providing the team, you can focus your preparation on the areas that matter. Gentle hint for some of my exuberant friends: sometimes you can show more and talk less.

6. Hone in on their weakness: Do you know what led them to need PR counsel? Even more important, have you “read between the lines” to determine what their unstated needs are? Work hard to determine those blind spots, then make sure to develop a program that shows how you would address them.

Those are just a few ideas to maximize your preparation for a presentation. What’s the first thing you do to get ready for a big pitch?

Oh, and make sure to check back here on Monday (12/13) for part II on this topic, which looks at “5 Ways to Maximize your Next PR New Business Presentation.”

Elizabeth Sosnow develops and oversees implementation of strategy for large clients in financial and professional services, with a particular emphasis on the legal, insurance, marketing services and consulting industries. She leads BlissPR’s Digital activities, including blogger outreach, influencer engagement, SEO benchmarking, email strategy and social network analytics. She is also the incoming Chair of the Digital Practice for Worldcom’s Board of Directors in the Americas region. Reach her on Twitter via @elizabethsosnow.


6 comments on “Six Tips To Kick Start Your Next New Business Presentation

  1. This is a great list, Elizabeth. I especially like your point about honing in on the prospect’s weakness. I always recommend investing some time and energy in measuring the success of the prospect’s existing PR program in relation to its competitors’ programs. By pulling coverage on the prospect and its competitors, and then analyzing that data to create spot on PR recommendations, you’ll be ahead of other firms pitching the business.

    I’ve seen this data-driven approach work for winning new business, and the executives really engage when you show them data and tie it to your proposed strategy. When you show prospective clients charts and graphs that reflect their current program, while delivering insightful recommendations that showcase how your team will take the company to the next level, you leave a positive impression.

    Kristin Jones, CEO

  2. Thanks for your comment, Kristin. I certainly agree that an analysis of past coverage trends is a critical part of preparation. Visuals can add a a lot of flavor and drama to your analysis, as well.

    When possible, I try to take it a step further by drawing conclusions about “what’s still missing” in coverage on the given topic. If you’ve done your homework, then you have a handy set up to tell the potential client about:

    1. Their Achilles heel(s)
    2. Their peers and competitors’ progress (or lack thereof)
    3. The unclaimed media opportunity that is ripe for the taking

    That’s a formula that’s served me well. And now, there’s even more data to be assessed – you can add inbound link analysis, website rank for important keywords, Klout score, etc.

    In short, hooray for data!

    Elizabeth Sosnow

  3. Hi Michael:

    That’s actually relatively easy to do…use LinkedIn and good old Google as your starting points to gather intelligence. Then, map out some key data points, including:

    1. How many years as a professional? what does this suggest about their relative sophistication and potential reception of your ideas?

    2. What kinds of jobs have they held? Have they charted a steady course of marketing jobs or has it taken another direction? It’s important to understand what there “but in” is for marketing in general and PR specifically.

    3. Did they work at agencies or were they in-house? It makes a difference if they understand how a PR agency operates – and makes money!

    4. Have they managed teams or are they “single shingle” types? That would impact how you discussed your client service approach.

    Those are just a few of the questions you might try to answer. Believe me, knowing the answers could make a material difference.


  4. Pingback: 5 Ways to Maximize Your New Business Presentation « PR at Sunrise

  5. Pingback: Five Ways to Maximize Your New Business Presentation | PR at Sunrise

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