Pitch to win: picture the competition

Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.
— Vince Lombardi

You must pitch for some business. Where do you start? Most managers answer this question correctly: with the customer and what they want. However, most managers get the answer to the next question wrong: What should you do next?

Wrong answers include:

  • Start collecting previous PowerPoint presentations
  • Brief a presentation designer
  • Start writing the pitch
  • Arrange a meeting with five departments so they can start preparing their content

The correct answer is: compare customer needs with your competitor's capability.

Compare customer needs with your competitor's capability


Well the customer has probably given you five to seven customer criteria and there are maybe 20 relevant arguments you could make. In short, high potential for information overload. You and your team can easily be busy up to your deadline: steadily stuffing more and more information into your pitch.

"We need to tell them A and B and C and D and E... and X and Y and Z."

The pitch will soon be bursting at the seams. We call this the shotgun approach: if we fire enough pellets some will hit the target.

What else could you do? Well, you could use what we call the rifle approach: know which of your pellets will be most effective and will hit the target. How?

Start by creating a chart, list the customer's criteria across the bottom (exclude price, first understand how you compare on all the other criteria). Next draw a vertical scale of 0-10. For each criteria, think about your customer and what score they would give your organisation today. Score from 1-10, where 1 is low or not good and 10 is high or excellent. Mark these on the chart with a cross. Join these crosses with a line.

That was easy! Now for the hard part. Pick three competitors for this pitch and think about the customer. What score would they give your competitors? Then plot each competitor's results on the chart with different symbols and plot a different line for each competitor.

Next, sit back and look at the chart. What do you notice? From experience, what you see is:

  • For most criteria, many of the lines are close together
  • On one or two criteria, your organisation is ahead

Find your points of difference

What this means is the customers does not see much difference between you and your competitors. The points of difference are small and can be quite subtle. So, in your pitch, if you bury these fine distinctions between you and competitors beneath an avalanche or information, are they more or less likely to notice the difference?

What can you do? Well to get a little technical, you need to ensure your pitch emphasizes your points of difference. What this means is spend more time (more slides) on your points of difference. And that means less time on what's the same (we call these points of parity).

For example, if you had one point of difference in five criteria, and you were pitching with say 10 slides, spend five slides on the point of difference.

And what about the other points of parity where you are the same as your competitors? Sometimes even though there is little difference between you and your competitor, one of these criteria maybe more important to the customer. So, you should spend more time and more slides on this.

For the example, let's say there is one criteria which is a point of parity but important to the customer. This is how you should arrange the 10 content slides:

Contrast this with what might happen. With five criteria there would be two slides for each one. Your best point gets less time and your three weaker points of parity get more time. Try this just once. When you see the difference, you will use it in all your pitches.

When pitching to win, always picture your competition. When you have a clear picture, you can move on to look at your price versus the competition. How does the price difference with your competitors look when you compare it with your picture? Do the differences justify the price?

Picture your competitors like this and you will win the pitch and win it at a better price. To make your pitch more persuasive download our ebook Persuasive Pitching: Make Them Listen & Win, and try the Persuading for Results course at the University of Newcastle, Sydney.