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#103: Schlock and Awe

Posted By Mark Haas CMC FIMC, Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Updated: Thursday, August 6, 2009
Is it really necessary to have an elaborate corporate qualifications dog and pony show when pitching an engagement to a client? I hear from clients about how impressed they were with how much multimedia and exciting graphics were in consultant X's presentation.

A few questions. First, are we talking about pitching to a client who doesn't know anything about you? Talking to a prospect who, before your meeting, knows nothing about you (or a prior client who has forgotten the details from your last engagement) places you on an even footing with every other consultant. It may even put you at a disadvantage to consultants who have been referred or have a more visible public image. You can fix this to some extent by making sure your reputation arrives before you do. Too often, a consultant diligently prepares to meet a prospect without making sure the prospect is prepared to meet the consultant (this is a tip for another day).

Second, if you are pitching to a client who is wowed by a fancy presentation more than substance, is this the client you really want to partner with? It is naive to think that we would dismiss a potential engagement just because of the impressionability of a client; after all, we do make sure any communications we make and work products we deliver are top quality. If it seems like style is more important than substance (and it really is to a few people) then decide whether your skills are better used elsewhere.

Tip: Don’t get me wrong. Having a polished presentation of your capabilities and how you propose to address a client's situation is important. It’s just that you can make it professional without going overboard. Over the years I have had many clients wonder aloud how much that razzle dazzle presentation must have cost to put together - and extrapolate how much waste they are going to have to pay for during the engagement. If it is too gaudy, a prospect will be impressed, but only by how much schlock they have to endure. Sometimes the most powerful impact is made with a only marker and an oversized sheet of paper, which lets you create the project right in front of the client in real time.

© 2009 Institute of Management Consultants USA

Tags:  communication  marketing  meeting preparation  prospect  sales 

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