Getting onto the pitch lists you really want

All too often the time-frame from an invitation to pitch arriving to the point when a submission needs to be sent is very short.  It rarely gives a good opportunity for a firm to really get to know the prospect client, let alone put together a really tailored solution.

From our experience, the more information a firm can discover about the prospect client, the stronger its position for winning that piece of business.  This requires a much more proactive and strategic approach to business development and beauty parades.

Establishing a target list
To get onto the pitch lists they want and to increase their chances of winning those clients’ business, the more successful firms build a target list of prospects that they would really like to have as future clients.  Invariably, this list is often quite long.  The decision is therefore taken to reduce the names on the list to make it more manageable.

Setting the priorities 
It’s all very well listing the prospects we want, but just because they meet our criteria doesn’t mean we meet theirs.  Some prospects may also be harder to win than others, so we need to be able to devise a process for deciding which prospects are really right for the firm. Scoring the prospective client against predefined triggers and filters will help firms devise target lists made up of a manageable number of key prospective clients. 

Triggers are factors that indicate it may be appropriate to approach a prospect organisation.  For example, the prospect may be experiencing change in management/ownership.  If there’s no trigger, there’s no opportunity for us at this time.

Filters are those factors that make it easier to approach a prospect and make us question whether we really want them.  For example, we have a track-record in their marketplace.

Investing time getting to know these organisation before they have a real need means that these firms are, not only putting themselves on that client’s radar, but are:

  • Building their knowledge of the issues and opportunities facing the prospect
  • Making sure that when they are invited to pitch for the prospect client’s work their solution will be totally tailored to the prospect’s situation
  • Developing a competitive advantage over other firms who will be competing for this same prospect and their work.

Knowledge is power
Intelligence dramatically influences a firm’s choice of action and with superior intelligence it has a stronger chance of ‘outwitting’ the competition in a pitch situation. Marketers and business developers play vital roles in this process and often help their firms get to know the key people in the prospect client organisation.  In doing so they ensure:

  • The firm determines what the client is looking for in an advisor 
  • Only relevant information about the client is gathered
  • Marketing activities are refocused to support business development activities and help generate dialogue points and meetings with the prospective clients on the target list
  • The risk of duplication of effort amongst fee-earners is reduced

A plan of action
Invariably, the more successful firms establish a plan of action for each of their target clients.  This includes particular activities the firm wants to undertake to a) improve its understanding of that prospect and the issues affecting them and b) make the client aware of the firm’s strengths and capabilities so their advice and expertise is eventually sought.  Sometimes this plan is project-managed by a fee-earner, in other firms marketing or business development professionals oversee it.  Either way, a team approach is often used bringing together particular expertise, knowledge and even personalities to ‘matchmake’ with the key decision-makers and influencers within the prospect client.  The activities in the plan are continually reviewed as existing information is updated and new data on the prospect client is amassed, shared and re-considered within the team. 

The timescale between targeting and winning a client can be substantial.  By adopting a more strategic approach to business development we can ensure our efforts generate better results. The new client will either make an exclusive approach to us when it has a need, or will invite us to pitch alongside others it wants to consider.  If we have spent time getting to know that client in advance of the beauty parade we will be in a much stronger position than another firm ‘going in cold’.


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