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Coco Chanel’s Secret To Winning Presentations – Every Time!

I have always (so modestly) rated myself as quite brilliant at new business pitches, and at structuring presentations to win. Deluded fool that I am! This became abundantly clear when I read this story about Coco Chanel. I suddenly realized how naive I was, and how badly I had got it wrong. Here’s the story.

I loved the theatre and acting as a young man. So new business pitches were an aspect of business I was immediately seduced by. The thrill of the chase, the creativity of shaping a great presentation, the fun of rehearsing, the theatre and drama of the pitch. That delicious taste of victory.

I spent years gathering techniques to deliver the perfect pitch, and to structure presentations so they are irresistibly persuasive. The hit rate has been pretty good. It would have been much higher if I had read this story about fashion icon Coco Chanel at the beginning of the journey. Here it is.

I read this story in the outstanding Jon Steel book, “The Perfect Pitch.” It goes something like this. Coco Chanel once said this of dress design:

What Coco Said

“If a woman walks into a room and you go up to her and say: ‘That dress is amazing!’, then the dress failed. But if a woman walks into a room and you go up to her and say: ‘YOU look amazing!’, then the dress succeeded.”

And The Message For Pitches

The presentation is just the dress. The magic- the power- the essence- is THE IDEA.

If you want to win more than your fair share of new business pitches, you have to make sure you have the most powerful, most effective IDEA. And then ensure you wrap that idea up in the very best presentation you can (the dress).

Some Creatives Often Disagree With My Next Statement

I have now come to realize that the best idea always wins. A great idea presented badly always beats an average idea presented brilliantly. IDEAS shine through. Clients can spot a great idea even if they just see a sniff of it.

So-What We Have To Do Is This ….

Always ensure you come up with the BEST IDEA. And then deliver that through an outstanding presentation… and you’ll win 4 out of 5 pitches. Promise.

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5 Responses to Coco Chanel’s Secret To Winning Presentations – Every Time!

  1. Paul Yole February 15, 2012 at 10:16 am #

    Jon also says in his book that you don’t need to have the ideal solution to win the pitch – you just have to beat the next guy.
    So the aim is not to be right, but to win.

  2. Kirsten February 15, 2012 at 10:31 am #

    Hi Chris

    Usually I agree with most of what you post, but I’m scratching my head with this one…I think it’s the analogy I’m wressling with possum.

    “A great idea presented badly always beats an average idea presented brilliantly.” By your reckoning then, what? – A beautiful woman dressed badly always beats an average looking woman dressed beautifully? I’m just not sure that’s where Coco Chanel was heading with that statement.

    Let’s be honest, if ‘a client could spot a great idea even if they just see a sniff of it’, we’d just email it over and be done with it.

    But I appreciate the sentiment anyway (I think), and the positivity as always.

  3. Carl Sherriff February 15, 2012 at 11:28 am #

    Thanks Chris. And Coco. I can’t believe that only last night I said to a lady friend “That’s a fabulous dress”. Damn, there’s no going back now. Cheers, Carl.

  4. Anne Miles February 15, 2012 at 8:42 pm #

    Believe it or not I’ve seen some good ideas totally obliterated by appalling presentation skills though.

    I agree that the presentation is like the dress – great analogy.

  5. Tina February 16, 2012 at 7:42 am #

    Hi Chris
    Presentations & pitching to new clients is not something many of us are good at but its a key aspect of most sales roles. Do you have any recommendations on books articles courses etc that could improve skills and of course confidence in that area. Thank you.

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