If colleagues are to be believed, much of new business is word-of-mouth. You build a good reputation in your marketplace, and when someone needs your services, it is likely your name or company name will come up as a referral. This is true in any number of industries. Whether you are referred or you are responding to a “Request for Proposal,” you will probably have to pitch the business. Here are a few tips that can help you make that presentation stand out from the crowd in any industry:

Research. Prior to the presentation, do your homework. Show the potential client that you are thorough and detail-oriented by sharing facts you’ve learned about the industry or the company. Demonstrate that you are knowledgeable and/or a quick study.
Compete. Assume you have competition for the business. In an RFP situation, you certainly do. In a referral situation, you might be the only one the client is considering, but he or she still has the option not to hire you. The project may be yours to lose.
Share ideas. Take the proposal to the level you think it needs to show the client that you are serious and can generate great ideas. If you’re competing for the business, sharing some key ideas may be the lynch-pin in securing a win.
Budget. Provide a proposal that falls within the client’s budget parameters. If the client doesn’t have a number in mind, you should still provide a realistic budget for your proposal. Be careful here, and be prepared to implement your proposal within the budget you present when you win the business.
Present. Get in front of the client. Arrive at that meeting with a professional presentation that is effectively delivered. Don’t read a bunch of power point slides to them – they can do that themselves. You’re there to give them additional details and to share some of your company’s personality with them.
Be Time-Aware. Agree on a time frame prior to the presentation meeting. Make every effort to keep your presentation and discussion within the allotted time. If you have 30 minutes, don’t come in with a presentation that is 45 minutes long on a good day. Always remember to leave time for questions and comments.
Show gratitude. Follow up your meeting with a thank you note. It can be electronic or hand-written, but it’s an important part of the process. It reminds the client again about you and your capabilities.