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Only pitch once you've taken a brief

Briefly, if you will: How taking a creative brief will make your next pitch so much more effective

February 2018 (Updated December 2020) · 4.5 Min Read

What exactly is a brief?

We recently wrote an article all about pitching. Pitching comes in many different forms but one of the most common and the most important is directly to a potential client. In Pitch Perfect, I mention the importance of taking a full brief from a client before you ever try to sell anything but what does this mean?

A brief reflects its name. You are taking a short snapshot of a business in its past and present state whilst finding out what direction the stakeholders would like the business to go in the future.

Why should we take a brief?

Often, as a supplier of a product or a service, we are asked to source a solution to a client’s problems but how are we supposed to do that if we don’t know exactly what our client’s problems are? By understanding the intricacies that hold a business together, we can start to understand the problems that might eventually tear a business apart. Addressing those problems will make our next business pitch much more effective.

How to take a creative brief

How should we take a brief?

We are regularly sent a brief by email. This gives us a basis for our enquiries but it is not enough to ensure we can truly help our client. To do that, we need to speak to them directly, to ask them the right questions, to truly listen and only once we have enough information, to take action. This can be done over the phone but a face to face meeting or a Zoom, Skype, video chat is preferable. This improves your chances of understanding your customer’s needs whilst allowing them to see the real you. That visual often builds rapport and adds an extra layer of trust.

What questions work well?

There are many things that you can ask in a brief but the most important are as follows…

Who is your ideal client? (Never accept an answer of everyone)

What do you want them to do?

Why would your customers do that? Unique Selling Point (USP)

Why do you need what I do to help you achieve what you do?

What to do with a creative brief?

What do I do with the brief?

Once you have asked these questions, it is important to listen. By that, I don’t mean, make sounds that make it seem like you’re listening, I mean listen. If you take down notes, take on board what the customer is saying at every stage and constantly ask follow up questions, two things will happen.

What do we mean by truly a match for the customer’s needs?

Well, sorry to break it you but your product / service is not right for everybody and even if it is, it might not be the right time for a business to buy. The thing is a “good” salesperson could probably still sell to your prospective client but what would that mean for them and for you?

Firstly, they’d be buying something that has no real use or at least is not as useful as something else would have been for them. Secondly, they’d eventually realise this and they’d also probably work out that you must have known before you sold it to them. Thirdly, your relationship would break down, you’d never be able to sell to them again and if you kept up the same methods with other customers, your business' reputation would take a deep dive into a pretty dirty drain.

If however, you don’t pitch anything and you inform them that actually, now is not the time or maybe that they would be better looking at a different product, a few things could happen:

What if I do have what they need?

Great! Pitching should now be easy. You have all of the tools and all of the information at hand to get creative. Depending on what you are selling and your style, you can pitch right away or come back later. Go get ‘em!

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