In business, just as in life, things don’t always go exactly as planned — and this might be especially true of pitching new business. Coe Juracek would be the first to admit that in his more than two decades as an investment professional, he’s had his fair share of curveballs during his pitches and times when things didn’t go the way he anticipated. Yet for Juracek, every meeting is an opportunity and every setback simply a step along the road to eventual success. Here’s how this pro overcomes challenges in new business pitches.
Coe Juracek: Start by Finding the Right Prospects
What’s Juracek’s starting point? “If I’m going into a pitch [I make sure I] know that it’s something that the audience, at least reasonably, would need or want,” he says. “We’re trying to find as a business the intersection between our skills and the places that we see opportunity and the demand for those things in the marketplace from investors so that we can marry those two things together. We don’t try to be something we’re not for the investors, and we can’t make the investors take something they don’t want or don’t need.”
According to Juracek, the senior managing director of the Investor Coverage Group at Crow Holdings Capital, you’re less likely to have challenges in the first place if you match your product or services with the needs of the people you’re pitching. It may sound obvious, but too often a lot of new business people run into obstacles because they simply haven’t done their homework. They use a scattergun approach to lead generation rather than honing in on the best prospects.
“We may not be the best fit, they may not pick us, but at least I know that we’re in the ballpark. That’s not to say I can’t be surprised sometimes.
Sometimes people obviously surprise you, but ideally I would already know that there is some alignment, so I think the first thing is advanced groundwork,” Juracek adds.
Listen First, Then Speak
So you’ve got yourself in the room and you’re meeting with the right people. The next obvious challenge is making sure you can match their needs. Coe Juracek notes that the key to overcoming challenges is simply to listen to what prospects are saying, rather than railroading them with your slide deck and preprepared speeches.
“As much as you’re there to tell a story or to tell some information that hopefully will get somebody to take action, the best thing you can do is listen. And the more listening you do, even in a pitch, the better the pitch is,” he says.
Of course, even when you’re listening, things still don’t always go smoothly — and you want to make sure you get your point across.
“I think there’s such a fine line. I mean, 90% of the people in our business are going to go into a formal pitch meeting with some sort of presentation or deck. And your goal is to walk through that deck at some level. You don’t really want to just have people staring at a piece of paper. You’d like to make a personal connection and really have a conversation. But typically you’ve put a lot of thought into how a deck progresses. And it’s useful for the audience to hear that progression of logic,” says Coe Juracek.
At the same time, he adds that some audiences either just are not capable of sitting and listening as you’d like them to, or they want to have more of a conversation.
“And then you can get just taken off on tangents and the next thing you know, your hour that you had on the calendar is gone and you never got through the real argument of the pitch,” says Juracek.
For Coe Juracek, Pitching Is Like a Dance
The challenge, Juracek says, is that even with a receptive audience, you want to be responsive to them — asking questions and making comments — but somehow you have to find that sweet spot of being receptive and listening while also keeping on track to guide the meeting the way you want it to go.
“And that just isn’t easy. I have not found a secret recipe for that,” says Juracek. “I think it’s like a dance, because the other participant in a meeting is going to have input on what your steps are, the way they ask their questions, their receptivity to redirection, how firm they’re going to be about taking a meeting wherever they want it to go. And you can’t dance alone. You can’t partner dance alone. You’re going to interact with that other person.”
How To Handle a Complete Shutdown
Another situation that’s incredibly challenging in new business pitches — and Coe Juracek says it’s happened to him on more than one occasion — is when you think you’ve done all your groundwork, you think you know that you have a receptive audience, and you walk in and they drop a bomb right at the beginning and say, “Oh, I’m not interested in this.”
“There’s different ways to attack that,” says Juracek. “I kind of go back to [the fact that] if they’re in a meeting with you, they at least thought it was worth their time to sit with you. So maybe they don’t want the strategy you thought they were going to want … [but] it’s an opportunity to listen to them about why they don’t want it and to figure out if you have some other thing that you do that might actually be better for them. Worst case is — which isn’t that bad — you learn a lot more about them and have that knowledge for the future.”
Find the right prospects, prepare, listen, and take every meeting as an opportunity — even if the prospect says no. That’s how Coe Juracek overcomes challenges in new business pitches.