Pitching to design clients: how to win the account

I had a pretty unusual experience the other day. You see, as a web designer, I am used to visiting clients and pitching my services to them in hopes that I will win the account.

But a few days ago, I had the chance to be pitched to for a web project that I simply don’t have the time to do on my own. I sat in interviews with multiple web designers and web design agencies and I LOVED what I learned.

I’ve never had a chance to experience a designer’s pitch from the client’s perspective. This post will offer a few ideas to help you win the account next time you pitch to your design client. In addition, if you have any advice on winning your next client pitch, leave a comment for all of us to enjoy.

The first impression

Did you know that when you meet someone for the first time, they immediately make a judgment call. They judge you by the way you dress, the way you greet them, the way you stand, the way you shake their hand, the way you do your hair, and more. The list is endless.

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So it’s important to make a killer first impression when you are meeting a potential client for the first time. (For more on that topic, try reading “The Designer’s Guide to a Great First Impression” here at Millo.)

When you meet your potential client for the first time, stand up straight, look them in the eye, introduce yourself, offer a professional handshake, and smile. Dress at least somewhat professionally. I’m not saying you have to dress like you’re attending a funeral, just be presentable and dress to represent your company and services as best as possible.

When it comes to pitching and winning, first impressions really are everything.

Establishing a connection

After creating a good first impression, it’s absolutely vital that you establish a connection with your client. The best way is to offer a personal business card. This not only shows that you are willing to stay connected and available for any of their needs, but also demonstrates preparedness and professionalism.

Take time to make sure your business card also offers a great first impression and won’t get tossed in the trash after the meeting.

Other ways to establish a connection include telling stories and personal experiences where appropriate and finding common experiences and common ground between you and your potential client.

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It can be hard, but one of the most important parts of pitching to your client is to appear human without sacrificing professionalism

Following up

Believe it or not, the most important part of your client pitch might come after the meeting is over. If they specifically asked for any information (references, portfolio samples, etc.) take scrupulous notes during the meeting and be sure to get them the information immediately.

Imagine if your competition made it a priority to write them a follow-up email right after the meeting, but you waited a few days. Who looks more professional and responsible?

Your competition.

Also take time to ask what the next step is and when you can expect to hear back. Helping your potential client set deadlines shows you are responsible and deadline-driven; two very important attributes of a successful designer.

If you want to win your next pitch make the follow-up as important as the actual client meeting.

How do you win pitches? Share with us.

Those are a few of the things I recently saw as I sat on the client side of designer pitching sessions. What else have you found to be successful when you pitch to potential design clients. I’d love to hear your suggestions, so go ahead and leave a comment.

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  1. Thank you Preston for sharing the details. Got 2 questions for you:
    1) How much time do you usually recommend for somebody to have a conversation with a client over the phone?
    2) And how much time for a conversation in a face to face meeting, that is happening after the phone conversation?

  2. I couldn’t agree more with the ‘Namecard’ and ‘Follow up’ bit, first impressions indeed count. Not just in web or other creative work, but in everything. Superb article!

  3. Very impressive article! In my opinion, the two killer areas are the First Impression and Follow-Up. I have seen designers go in to meetings dressed in jeans and those dressed in business attire and wonder who gets the deal. It does have something to do with your audience, of course, but in the long run I’d take the business attire.

    Likewise, lack of follow-up or follow-through will destroy any credibility you have worked so hard to achieve. Too much time since the meeting, and your client will actually have trouble remembering they met you in the first place.

    One key component in wining pitches is to learn when to stop talking. Answer the question, provide as much detail as possible (again, according to your audience), but be sure to ask an open-ended follow-up question at the end. Then stop talking – he who speaks first, loses.

    Another key component is asking for the sale. This is another area where many designers may leave projects on the table. One way to test the urgency of the request is to repeat back what you have written notes about, and give the client two dates of when you can start their project and ask which works best in their schedule.

    Thoughts, everyone? Great post, Preston!

    1. @Lisa Raymond,
      First of all, it’s great to see you back here at Millo leaving your extremely useful and insightful comments. We’ve missed your input. Thanks!

      Your comments are spot-on! I think the perfect combination of a good first impression and a powerful lasting impression make for a successful sales pitch.

      I also like what you said about being a little more straightforward and asking for the job. Offering starting dates is a great way to do that!

      Thanks for sharing your insights!

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