Improving our chances

In this final article in our ‘Beauty Parades’ series, we focus on the pitch itself and give some tips on tactics that can be used to improve a professional services firm’s chances at winning.

Dealing with procurement
Increasingly procurement professionals are being used by client companies, as part of their decision-making process. With some professionals, their purpose is simply to drive down costs.  With others, they are looking to improve the overall value of the relationship the client has with its professional advisers. The more successful firms talk with procurement people as early as possible to find out their interests, their brief and their terms of reference in this pitch.  These firms include these needs in their final submission and turn the procurement person into an ally.

Making your bid different
Formal written proposals are an important part of the sales process. Clients do, however, see through old proposals that have just been ‘rehashed’ for their purpose.  Those firms that are successful tend to focus on all the issues the client has, they speak their language, feature their (the client’s) corporate colours and imagery and demonstrate that they have really understand their business. 

The pitch
Many professional firms have spent considerable amounts of money in recent years in developing their senior people’s presentation skills.  It seemed the obvious first step when ‘beauty parades’ became a common part of the purchasing process.

While it is important to be able to present well, the most polished speakers will not necessarily secure the client.  Those firms that are successful ensure that before they stand up to present they will have:

  • Explored all of the client’s issues – technical, business, commercial and sometimes personal
  • Built credibility with all of the key people present
  • Tested their solutions and gained input from the decision-makers so that these solutions are as much the client’s as theirs
  • Understood the decision-making process and found out what each person is looking for
  • Focused on the areas where they (the firm) has an advantage over the competition.  This information will have been gleaned from the decision-makers themselves or ‘allies’ within the client
  • Checked their understanding of the real situation through their intelligence network in the client
  • Focused on the issues which are closest to the hearts of the people with real influence both in the client organisation and with regard to this decision
  • Prepared the ground so that the audience are keen to hear the presentation and expect it to be the best.

Once in this position, successful firms can then start focus on presenting well.  They think of different ways to present their solution and personalise it to the client. We have seen beauty parades where professional services firms spend most of their time convincing the client of their technical knowledge and expertise.  The client then often complains that they could not tell the difference between the firms presenting and what they wanted to hear was anything special in terms of service, people, ‘delivery’ or added value.

Practice and rehearse
Everyone knows the difference a rehearsal can make to the quality of a presentation – especially if there is more than one person involved.  In his book,  Pitch Doctor, Neil Flett who coached the Sydney Olympic bid team says:

  • “Rehearsal makes or breaks a presentation
  • No rehearsal results in an unprofessional, confused transfer of information
  • Little rehearsal results in a mechanical, rigid display
  • Full rehearsal results in a natural presentation and gives the ability to add creativity  

Every time you rehearse, you find something that you could have done better.  If you don’t rehearse, you find all the mistakes in the presentation.  And so does your prospective client!”

Over recent years, many professional services firms have seen involvement in new business pitches run into several thousands of pounds and sometimes for no return. This is both a huge waste of resources and demotivating to all involved. In this series of articles for psmg, we have discussed how responding to every tender invitation will not necessarily win business that secures long-term profitable income and growth targets. We have also given tips and advice on how marketers and business developers can encourage their firms to be more selective about new business pitches.  By being more strategic, firms can use what precious resources they have to win the pitches they want.


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