How to pitch virtually for new business during the Covid-19 Lockdown

Natalie Luke, founder of agency Aduro Communications, talks to Ben Smith about pitching for, and winning, new business during the Covid-19 crisis.

Ben Smith: How often have you had to pitch for business since the start of the Covid-19 lockdown? And how did it go?

Natalie Luke: We have pitched twice so far and won both pieces of business.

BS: Had you ever pitched remotely before?

NL: Yes to clients in Scotland.

BS: Were you pitching to a new client or a new project to a current client? It must be different/easier if you know the people you're pitching to?

NL: One of each so far and definitely easier with those that you know, but there are many ‘leveller’ moments that help you build a relationship with those you don’t know quicker.

BS: How many people were on the other end of the virtual pitch?

NL: About two to three in each which is definitely our preference, and we pitched with fewer people from our side too. Too many people in the virtual pitch environment can mean there are a few awkward interruption moments as people unintentionally talk over one another.

BS: What worked well and not so well in the pitches you've done so far?

NL: It’s been a great ice breaker to be doing video calls with clients from their kitchens/ bedrooms, and the depth of connection you build as you get that ‘through the keyhole’ moment we have found to be a real asset in the pitch process. There is an element of ‘camera etiquette’ which you have to navigate, our preference is camera-on as being able to ‘read the room’ and see people’s expressions is a big part of the pitching process and to get a sense of how well ideas and strategic thinking are being received. It’s tricky if the client chooses not to switch their camera on and it becomes more like a conference call as that is a more stilted pitch environment. If clients take a while to process their thinking or don’t want to reveal their initial thoughts then a wall of silence meets all the hard work.

BS: What's your current virtual pitch software of choice and why? What other technical advice do you have for people doing a virtual pitch?

NL: Microsoft Teams and Zoom have been the most popular. In particular, Microsoft Teams has been strong for clients globally with less hitches and ease of use for those new to the platform. Testing the software beforehand is worth it so there are no tricky moments when you realise you have been on ‘mute’ for the first 10 minutes of the call and no one noticed… or that the camera is pointing up your nose! If you find it off-putting watching yourself on screen it is good to know how to switch yourself off so others can see you, but you don’t have to watch yourself present. Putting yourself on mute when others are talking is also helpful as it cuts down the background noise and eases the pressure if there is a risk of barking dogs or children interrupting in the current working environments.

BS: What do you need to prepare differently for a virtual pitch, compared with a face-to-face one?

NL: Keeping docs simple, and clearly written, sounds obvious but even more important now when communicating things clearly via video is needed. Also, share your screen where possible, rather than sending the doc in advance, so you can be in control of what they see when, so clients aren’t skipping ahead and you can help focus the attention.

BS: Have pets or children interrupted any of the pitches you've done so far?

NL: During a pitch the other day, the client’s two little boys came and sat on his knee and you realise that before, families/life out of work would never have been raised at that stage in the process. It does help break down barriers and make everyone take note that we all have a lot more going on in our worlds than just what people see at a desk or in a meeting room.


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