Why Pitching a Client is Like a Job Interview and Why It Isn’t!

by Chris Farnell · 26 comments

Pitching a Client
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Howdy dahling BGB’er. Hope you had a fabulous New Year and 2012 has started with an appropriate bang. 

This is a guest post contributed by Chris Farnell on why pitching a client is similar to a J.O.B. interview… and then again… why it isn’t!

He makes several good points, with the very last point being my love-hate favorite. ;) How about you?

Got ideas on ways a pitching a client can be similar to interviewing for a job? Drop ‘em in the comments below and let’s dialogue.

Perhaps one of the big reliefs of moving into freelance work is the knowledge that you don’t have to apply for jobs any more. No more scouring the web for job descriptions that don’t actively exclude you.

No more repetitively writing out your date of birth, national insurance number and A-level results into each employer’s personally customised application form. And of course, no more trying to prove yourself in front of a row of be-suited people with clipboards like some sort of cut-price Dragon’s Den.

Except that’s not strictly true.

On going freelance you very quickly learn that job hunting is no longer the annoying interval that happens between jobs, but is actually a pretty large percentage of your working day- annoyingly, usually the bit that doesn’t pay.

Of course, this means that in a lot of ways your experience answering questions about whether you’re happier working on your own or as part of a team will still be useful to you (incidentally, the answer to that question is “Both”).

At the same time it’s important to remember that pitching for work still isn’t the same thing as interviewing for a job. So today we’re going to show where the line between the two is.

Why Pitching a Client is Like a Job Interview

The similarities between a pitch and a job interview ought to appear pretty obvious. Most of the tips that help you get through a job interview will also help you get through a pitch.

The usual interview questions will probably also rear their head during this discussion. As with a job interview it’s a good idea to smarten yourself up, offer a firm handshake and sit up straight in your chair.

More importantly it’s also a good idea to read up a great deal on your prospective client. As with a job interview this means checking out the company’s website and brochures, but also going wider than that.

See if they’ve been covered in any news stories or industry websites, have a look at any customers reviews that are available.

As well as the preparation necessary for the pitch, there will also be similarities in how you answer questions. With both interviews and pitches, it is important to keep your answers specific.

Don’t say “I’m good at working to tight deadlines”- instead tell the potential client about occasions when you have managed to meet a tight deadline, and how you were able to do so.

Why Pitching a Client Not Like a Job Interview

When you go into a job interview you are talking to somebody with a tick list, which can take the form of an actual tick list, or just a list of qualities they’ve got stored away in their brain.

Either way you are talking to somebody with a job description that requires a certain skill set and level of experience, which they will be looking to get for a price that has probably been decided in advance.

When you interview for a job, you’re task is to demonstrate to the interviewer how you are the candidate that best fits the criteria they already have in place.

As a freelancer, your job is to tell the client what their problem is, offer them a solution to the problem, and tell them what resources will be needed to put that solution into action.

This means that while the structure of an interview will be primarily decided by the employer, when you’re pitching to a client it will be you who is leading the discussion, laying out the information your potential clients need in an accessible way and making sure to leave room for them to ask questions.

As we’ve already said, it’s important to be able to provide specific examples of your work. But while in a job interview those examples will be more closely related to individual tasks (such as a time when you have demonstrated good time management) when you are pitching to a client, you need to be able to show examples of other clients you have worked with who have got their money’s worth.

Ultimately the biggest difference between an interview and a client pitch is that during an interview you are trying to sell yourself as a product. Your potential employer will be looking to hire someone who will be able to fill a role that, no matter how detailed the job description, will still be relatively nebulous.

When you pitch to a client, the way you present yourself is a factor, but at the end of the day you are not trying to sell yourself, you are trying to sell your specific solution to that company’s problem.

This means that, far more than during a job interview, the devil will be in the details. Go over your proposal repeatedly in advance, identifying any potential flaws and issues and having answers to them readily prepared.

Once it’s over you’ll learn the final crucial difference between a pitch and a job interview. With a pitch, whether you win or lose, you’ll soon have to do it all over again.

BGB’s comment- WEE! Fun times right?

Alright, hope you enjoyed the read dahling! If you did, can you do me a big favor? Share it with your buddies and networks please? :) It’s easy, look to the left or below for some handy sharing buttons. Thanks you rockstar you!

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Amie Marse January 5, 2012 at 2:24 PM

Thanks for putting this together. And this should be a guiding post when creating an online portfolio. I hire freelancers constantly and one of my biggest peeves is when they shoot me a resume or send me a link to a portfolio that is essentially their resume on the web. Do yourself a favor and tell me how you’ve helped companies like mine before – not where you went to school or who paid you a wage.

Just like this blog says – you are the product, position yourself as one :)

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Chris Farnell January 6, 2012 at 4:46 AM

Exactly. When you’re writing good content, the key is to provide specific information where-ever possible. The same thing applies to when you’re pitching for the work in the first place.

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admin January 12, 2012 at 1:12 AM

Amen Amie! :)

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Adrienne Smith January 5, 2012 at 9:31 PM

Why Pitching a Client is Like a Job Interview and Why It Isn’t! http://t.co/9rqt5Bba via @BigGirlBranding

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Francisco Rosales January 6, 2012 at 1:20 AM

Why Pitching a Client is Like a Job Interview and Why It Isn’t! http://t.co/7pXE34Dp via @BigGirlBranding

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Raj January 6, 2012 at 1:28 AM

This process of mini-interviews before landing up freelance projects is useful to both the client and the freelancer. They can gauge the seriousness of each other by the interaction they have during this process.
Raj recently posted..Yahoo Site Explorer Shut Down. What Are Some Alternatives for Checking Backlinks?My Profile

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Chris Farnell January 6, 2012 at 4:42 AM

Absolutely Raj. Every freelance job I’ve had has been the result of an in-person meeting. There isn’t really a substitute for it.

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admin January 12, 2012 at 1:10 AM

Great point! :)

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Mel Melhado January 6, 2012 at 5:53 AM

I agree, I like the idea of interacting with the applicants through a mini interview. It helps me discover more about them. Before hiring its important to take into consideration certain important aspects and this post perfectly covers all those important point. Brilliant post!

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admin January 12, 2012 at 1:10 AM

Thx Mel

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osakasaul January 6, 2012 at 6:39 AM

Why Pitching a Client is Like a Job Interview and Why It Isn’t! http://t.co/y3vjXRpx via @BigGirlBranding

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Jure KLEPIC January 6, 2012 at 8:39 AM

Why Pitching a Client is Like a Job Interview and Why It Isn’t! http://t.co/5qTzESt6 via @BigGirlBranding

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Neal Schaffer January 6, 2012 at 3:52 PM

Why Pitching a Client is Like a Job Interview and Why It Isn’t! http://t.co/disSm9ZB via @BigGirlBranding

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Lori Taylor January 7, 2012 at 1:45 AM

Why Pitching a Client is Like a Job Interview and Why It Isn’t! http://t.co/Anu9DLGO via @BigGirlBranding

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Matt Kinsella January 11, 2012 at 12:20 PM

I know it might sound pedantic but maybe a better question would be put the other way around: Why is a job interview like pitching a client? Because if you can successfully pitch to clients you can walk through most job interviews.
Matt Kinsella recently posted..What Do You Want In Life?My Profile

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admin January 12, 2012 at 1:08 AM

Ha very true Matt! Thanks for dropping in to comment. :)

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logo items January 12, 2012 at 12:59 AM

Very true! It’s just you have to put yourself into the position of your potential clients. Every marketer must have this in mind. Exaggerated sales pitching and hard selling is always not a good first impression.

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admin January 12, 2012 at 1:05 AM

Agreed. Can’t stand hard selling!

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Stacy January 18, 2012 at 9:31 AM

Either is a job interview or a business meeting, non-verbal communication is also very important. So, besides the aforementioned advice, here’s another one: learn as much as you can about non-verbal communication, it can help you succeed in your negotiations.
Stacy recently posted..Electrolux EIFLW55HIW Washing Machine ReviewMy Profile

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Chris Farnell January 26, 2012 at 3:00 PM

True. You could probably do a whole extra blogpost on how you should manage your body language during meetings like these.

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admin January 27, 2012 at 8:23 AM

Ooh sounds like a great idea! :)

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How To Get Website Traffic January 25, 2012 at 2:30 PM

The communication aspect about how you can help them is the most important. Once they understand the benefit you’re offering them, then it will go well after that.

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admin January 27, 2012 at 8:28 AM

Marketing 101- always lead with benefits. :)

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Stephanie Treasure February 3, 2012 at 1:11 AM

Pitching a client is similar to a job interview, in my field, marketing because the prospective client wants to know about the tangible results of working with you. A good Marketing Executive resume should always have numbers and tangible results. Likewise, in your marketing, perhaps in the testimonials, make sure you showcase the results of past clients.

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Julie Mellors February 8, 2012 at 1:21 PM

So true :-) RT @biggirlbranding: #BGB #Remix : Why Pitching a Client is Like a Job Interview and Why It Isn't! http://t.co/OUYmdP5t

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James Martin February 11, 2012 at 12:53 AM

Great ideas. I have honestly underestimated the power of using Google+. I will definitely add that to my social media strategy for 2012. I have definitely made great use of Twitter for social networking, and will continue to utilize it on a regular basis.

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