Whether you think your pitch meeting went well or poorly, you can improve your next one with an intelligent de-briefing.
When you walk out of a big pitch meeting, what comes next? We all know you shouldn’t discuss the meeting on a public elevator or within earshot of your hosts. But once the coast is clear, what should you say? Here’s the smart way to debrief.
What was that question?
Make a list of the questions the other party asked, and think back to how you answered.
Questions show two things:
They are most often a search for data and learning--someone’s attempt to better understand what you are trying to say. You almost always do well on these questions because you know your business better than anyone else.
Second, questions are a natural way for someone to signal what their concerns are, and what they are really thinking about. These questions usually take a different form. They can have a more negative tone, and they can be stated somewhat clumsily-- often as a statement that’s been turned into a question. These questions tell you what your potential partner is worried about, and what you need to address in your follow-up.
What was important to them?
There is nothing wrong with waiting for follow-up, and asking the other party to outline next steps. But it’s more creative and proactive to walk out and think about what the others reacted to. See if your colleagues heard the same things as you did.
What were they thinking?
Of course you can never know exactly what’s going on in someone else’s head. But try to figure out why your potential partners asked you particular questions or steered the conversation to certain topics.
Avoid answering those queries by falling back into what you think is important-;try to put yourself into their heads. And don’t make things more complicated than they need to be. If your potential partners asked a certain question repeatedly, maybe they just didn’t hear you the first time.
What’s the process?
Ask yourself, “If they don’t follow up, what’s the next logical step in engaging them?” If your counterparty doesn’t already have a process in place, they’re not going to build it for you. You need to do it.
One safe bet is to suggest a next step that will provide more information on something the other party asked about, in a way that doesn’t disrespect their process but gives them more data to assuage any concern. It may be best to include your follow-up information in your next communication, without waiting to ask, “Would you like us to do this?” or “Would this help?”
We all struggle to be self-aware, to know what we are good or bad at, and to examine ourselves. A pitch meeting, along with the content and feedback that come out of it, provides a platform for you to look at yourself and your company and learn. Take 15 minutes after the meeting to review the data so that your next meeting is even better.
Based in New York, ED POWERS is a managing director and head of the Capital Access Funds team at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Capital Access Funds is an experienced, returns-driven private equity fund-of-funds.