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July 22, 2019 Practice Points

Perfect Pitch: Four Tips to Hit the Right Notes with Your Presentation

What you should remember the next time you’re preparing for and presenting a client pitch.

By Kelsey Heino

Successful law firms are built on repeat clients, but first you have to get that initial project! Selling your firm to a potential client can be intimidating, especially if you’re a newer office or are branching out into untested practice areas or markets. Here are a few suggestions to wow your next audience.

Sleuth Your Way to Sales

The phrase “know your audience” may seem trite and old-hat at this point, but it’s cliched for a reason. Know the client you’re selling to, and ideally the decision maker, whether they’re in the room or will be receiving a summary of your pitch. Does he or she prefer flowery prose or a no-nonsense approach? Most of these people are busy, maybe even busier than you (hard to believe, I know!), and very often will prefer a streamlined presentation over one that veers off into rabbit holes. Don’t forget to research your competitors, to the extent you know who else may be bidding. Being able to distinguish your firm from the client’s other options, especially if you’re pitching earlier than the competition, may set the client’s mind more firmly in your corner—never underestimate the power of primacy. If the potential client is a larger corporation or government entity, consider the diversity of your team. Often these clients have allocated diversity spend, and if your office has the ability to check that box, be sure to press that advantage!

Practice Makes Perfect Pitch

The fastest way to fail yourself is to go into an important meeting or presentation feeling unprepared. All the research you’ve done and the great services you can offer mean nothing if you haven’t thought through what you’re going to say. Know your ask before you ever set foot in the room. Be prepared to alter that ask based on your presentation and how the client receives it. For really big opportunities, consider having a friend or coworker do a mock pitch with you, playing out every angle—good and bad—you can both think of. A pitch for an opinionated client can feel a lot like moot court, and the more you practice, the more you’ll be able to follow any line of questioning thrown at you.

Juggle the Jargon

You probably don’t want to give an hour presentation, 45 minutes of which is legalese. Explaining to your prospect all the intricate details of the motion practice you anticipate or going into the weeds on statutory interpretation is not likely to do you any favors. Maintain a balance between demonstrating your competence and coming off as a pretentious poseur (i.e. using the word “poseur”). Also, keep in mind your client’s industry—if it is very technical or scientific, you’re likely going to want to brush up on the jargon and any advancements in the industry. This will help put you on the same page with the audience, but also gives you a starting-off point for any questions they may have.

Don’t Leave It at the Door

Follow up with the people who were in the room. Obviously, you’ll want to reach out to the decision maker, but if there are other influencers in attendance, consider those backchannel methods, too. If possible, get feedback—both constructive criticisms and positive pointers. Maybe your PowerPoint was conflicting with the message or was distracting. Did the team work well together and present a cohesive message? Then, actually work that advice into your preparation for the next pitch. Don’t let good advice fall on deaf ears!

Use these tips the next time you are preparing for and presenting a client pitch. With a little luck (and hard work) you’ll be signing that engagement agreement before you know it!

Kelsey Heino is an employment and complex litigation attorney with Goosmann Law Firm in its Sioux City, Iowa, office.

Copyright © 2019, American Bar Association. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or downloaded or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association. The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the American Bar Association, the Section of Litigation, this committee, or the employer(s) of the author(s).