Consultants: Read this before you pitch me

As a marketing director in a DC nonprofit, I get pitched on a regular basis on a variety of products and services, from web development and database management, to data analysis, general marketing and social media analytics/implementation. Some go better than others– and most go mediocrely. So here’s my advice to every consultant:

1. Don’t bother coming to me first– start at the top: At the director level at least in my nonprofit of under-50 employees, I’m less likely to see value in your new product/service because it likely costs more money than I have to spend. If you really want me to listen, get a C-suite person at my company to like your idea, so you at least get a pitch meeting. If you come to me directly, I will ignore you.

2. Prior to our meeting, learn everything you can about my organization’s (and possibly division’s) business problems: If you did step 1 above, you should get this information. Make sure the info you learn is reflected in your presentation. In one presentation I attended, the company’s founders spent 20 minutes talking about themselves or about case studies they did at other companies, rather than talking about us. Why am I giving you 30 minutes to hear about your life history, why you quit your job, etc?

3. Don’t be slick: Nothing is more off-putting than consultants who seem smirky, self-important and use the word “ideate” in a non-ironic context. You may not even know you’re doing this, so try practicing your presentation in front of your family or someone who doesn’t work with you. Find out what they think. You’re aiming to sound genuine, curious and confident. When you talk like a consultant, I tune you out. Jargon doesn’t make me think you’re an expert– it makes me think you use fluff to make up for your lack of real results.

4. Share metrics that matter to me and case studies that are relevant to my industry: I’m tired of consultants telling me about how they’ve done social media marketing for free events, when I want them to market my paid event– that’s an example of a case study irrelevant to me. I’m also tired of hearing about views, clicks, and shares. I’m more interested in conversions and revenue. If you researched me a little better, you’d know this. If you can’t find out before the meeting, ask me (and everyone else) during the intros how we measure success and what we’re hoping this meeting will provide us. That way even if your prepared pitch isn’t geared to me, you can tweak it as you talk.

5. Give your tech guy a starring role in the pitch: For whatever reason, most of the sales/business development people I’ve met, give off a smarmy, fake, say-what-I-have-to-to-get-your-money vibe. I know, I know, it’s what they do. But still. If you want me to listen, let your tech guy talk (if tech is a component of your product/service). In my experience, tech people can explain the use case and product/service the best, are the least irritating to listen to, and tell compelling stories.

6. Spare me the PowerPoint– try whiteboarding: I only put this in here because I think it would be interesting and make me pay attention. Too often we spend half the meeting looking at your dull deck about past projects I don’t care about. How about this– come in, tell me what you understand my business problem to be, and tell me how you’ll fix it. Then I’ll pay attention. If letting go of the deck scares you, at least tailor your deck to me, so that I feel like it’s about my business and our problems (and your solutions), not your product and how wonderful you are.

Hope this helps every consultant I’ve ever met, and every consultant I’ll ever meet. I’m happy to “consult” with you to improve your presentation to me!


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