They may not be wars but pitches are battles. To win you have to succeed on two fronts. You must beat your rivals and you must win-over the hearts and minds of the prospect. Not surprisingly the world’s great military strategists are worth listening to.
“In war, three quarters turns on personal character and relations; the balance of manpower and materials counts only for the remaining quarter.” Napoleon.
Your content, size and clever solution may meet the rational brief, but the people and chemistry, the relationship building and the emotional connection count for the three quarters. He also said “A a picture is worth a thousand words.”
Sun Tzu in The Art of War could have been writing the pitching manual for today. “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” Too many pitches are heavy on tactics but lack a winning strategy, which among other things starts with genuine insight into the decision-makers.
“If ignorant of both your enemy and yourself, you are certain to be in peril.”
A reminder to get under the skin of the prospect, what are the underlying issues?
“Success in warfare is gained by carefully accommodating ourselves to the enemy’s purpose.
Pitches are not for the faint-hearted, once you decide to pitch then it’s all or nothing. All these great warriors were big on attitude. “There is nothing impossible to him who will try it.” Alexander the Great (before Addidas!) or this from Genghis Khan: “If you’re afraid – don’t do it, -if you’re doing it – don’t be afraid!”
Leadership, actual and perceived,is critical :and as Stormin’ Norman said:
“When placed in command, take charge”.
Alexander the Great understood a team is only as strong as its weakest link
“Remember upon the conduct of each, depends the fate of all.”
These leaders also knew that you leave nothing to chance! Napoleon: “All great events hang by a single thread. The clever man takes advantage of everything, neglects nothing that may give him some added opportunity; the less clever man, by neglecting one thing sometimes misses everything.” And Nelson: “Time is everything; five minutes makes the difference between victory and defeat.”
Finally, possibly the best ‘pitcher’ of them all, the Carthaginian General, Hannibal, seen by many as the ‘father of strategy’. When he led his war elephants over the Alps into Northern Italy he took his enemy, the Romans, by total surprise–and won. Find a way to be surprising!
Aut viam inveniam aut faciam
“I will either find a way, or make one.”