July 7, 2014|Kim's Blog, Lawyers, Selling|

I have been helping law firms for almost two decades with their major informal pitches and formal tenders. I’m pleased to report that my success rate is almost 100%. I train both marketing/business development people and lawyers themselves in effective sales and pitch techniques. So I was interested to hear about what the former Tikit team had produced with their PitchPerfect pitch document automation system.

From the demonstration (provided at an event hosted by Reed Smith) it looks easy enough to use. Within a Word document or PowerPoint template (tailored to the firm’s brand, format, layout and typography) there are special keys on the tailored ribbon. These provide drop down lists from which you can select paragraphs about different legal departments and matters and even different versions of lawyer CVs. This information is stored in SharePoint and the marketing/BD team controls the quality of the information. The system takes care of inserting the information and ensuring the correct format.

The main selling point is that once it is set up it saves marketing/BD staff a huge amount of time when pulling together a pitch document using standard materials in the approved brand format. It’s so easy that even lawyers can use it themselves – and one law firm said that their lawyers “loved it!” – that’s high praise indeed.

However, no matter how good the technology is in these kinds of systems I have some reservations:

1. It’s all about the client – The most successful tenders are where the lawyers have done detailed research into the client’s needs and have reflected in their pitch documents that they really understand what the client wants and have identified other possible needs. They then develop a creative and compelling solution (value proposition) that really adds value to the client which they must then present – with supporting credentials and evidence in a document or presentation. Automatic systems using internal information are going to ensure that you produce professional, branded looking documents in super-quick time but the value to the client may be lost unless the lawyers who prepared that document have done their homework and really thought about their strategy and how they can add value to the client and differentiate themselves.

2.     Quality content – For any system to be a success, the standard materials that are selected for the documents needs to be really high quality. Not only accurate and up-to-date but tailored to different audiences and needs. Whilst good English writing skills are practically guaranteed in the legal profession, persuasive writing skills are less common. Not everyone can write in a simple, engaging and persuasive manner. The eternal problem of GIGO (Garbage In, Garbage Out). 

3. Understand the sales process – Lawyers need training and support in understanding the professional sales process in a business-to-business environment. If they are confident about the sales process, they will focus on establishing a strong relationship and learning about the commercial context of client’s problems as well as their technical legal requirements. If they are really good at selling, they should be in a position to win the business before it gets to a reactive competitive pitching or tendering process. We need more attention on the early stages of targeting, relationship building and finding ways to support and collaborate with clients rather than on responding to pitches once the client has taken control of the buying process.

4. Personal perspective – From hundreds of debrief discussions with clients (both in-house lawyers and commercial directors) their feedback is often that the documents and presentations themselves are generally of a very high standard. What nudges their choice towards a particular law firm will be the personal issues such as how well they got on with the lawyers, whether there was enthusiasm and energy within and between the teams and the extent to which the lawyers “got” their culture. Perhaps an automated pitch system allows more time to reflect and refine these issues but the danger is that they may be overlooked in the effort to get the document out in double quick time.

5. Pricing – Increasingly, clients are looking to get more for less from their lawyers and will be interested in innovative and risk-sharing pricing strategies. The demonstration didn’t show how the pricing sections of pitches are supported but I suspect that there will be little to guide lawyers through a thorough consideration of the issues and the preparation of a creative pricing solution. And lawyers will need sophisticated financial models to support them in an on-line auction which is often at the culmination of a major panel bid.

Enable indicated that they are developing further systems to assist with the “to bid or not to bid?” evaluation stage of the tendering process. From experience, this is something that firms are perhaps best able to do as they will understand the strategic priorities and particular issues from their markets perspectives. They are also considering something called PitchTracker to help firms keep track of the progress and success of their pitches. Enable also plans to provide automated support for the debriefing process after a tender although some participants mentioned that InterAction already has a plug-in for this.

Enable mentioned another system (PerfectDirectories) designed to help law firms compile the lengthy documents required for Chambers & Partners and Legal 500 submissions which are a major exercise every year. It’s interesting to see how marketing technology is moving to support busy marketing and business development professionals.