I’ve written extensively on this topic in two of my books and cover it frequently at workshops, but thought I’d do a quick round up – in no particular order – on some of the top tips to get you off to a good start for the year…
1. To pitch or not to pitch? If you aren’t clear on your strategy and positioning about which clients and work you should be pitching for then back to the drawing board you go. With professional firms spending so much time on each pitch, there’s no way you want to waste effort on an unlikely punt.
2. Money Money Money? It might look like a lot of work – and therefore lots of fees – but is it profitable? And if you succeed in winning the work, and more profitable clients/work turn up – what’s it gonna cost you then?
3. Why me? Whilst you might think you know the answer to “Why have they asked me to tender?” (“I am the best lawyer/accountant/surveyor etc for the job”) think carefully (and research) why the client has put you on the list. Is it an even playing field?
4. Any previous? One of the best indicators of your likely success is the extent of your prior relationship with the client organisation. Ideally, your marketing and business development strategy will ensure that you have made contact with the majority of those you are likely to get a tender from long before it hits your desk.
5. Look before you leap? Before you accept the invitation, before you start counting your chickens, before you pick up that phone to make contact – do your research. Use your internal systems to find out which of your colleagues might have relevant insight and get creative with your external researching prowess to find out everything you can about the client’s industry, market, organisation, people and issues.
6. Lone wolf? Whilst it is true that proposals don’t sell but people do, it is rare that pitches are won because of a lone star. Make sure that you assemble the right team (for the brainstorming, bid strategy, research, documentation, estimating, presentation, actually doing the work etc).
7. Getting started? Selling starts the minute you type an accepting email or make a call to ask questions or book an appointment to explore the brief. Make every interaction count. Build rapport and value from the very first exchange.
8. Why us? Hopefully, your marketing strategy will make it clear why clients should choose your firm and/or team for each type of work – so you can tailor these messages to the particular needs of each client. If you cannot confidently explain in non-jargon terms the three or so key reasons why the client should pick you then don’t expect them to do so.
9. Ready or not? Tenders and pitches take time to prepare. Lots and lots of time. Clients usually dictate tight timescales. Don’t leave things to the last minute – you are unlikely to do the best you can if it’s all at the 11th hour. Look at the timescales, prepare a project plan, allocate time to do the various tasks in a timely manner – and stick to it. And yes, I am perfectly aware that lawyers/accountants/surveyors are busy people – but today’s tender is tomorrow’s billable time mate!
10. Judge a book by its cover? If you have to produce a document, of course you need to consider how it is designed, packaged and presented. But as well as making the document appear to be professional, engaging and succinct – and in your house style – you need to consider the quality of the content too. Consider signposting, diagrams/illustrations and different media types.
11. Déjà vu? Reworking standard materials can save time, but each document – and the message – must be tailored to the precise needs of each client and task.
12. The price is right? If you are pitching in with a top-of-the-market price, then you had better ensure that your differentiation and/or extra added value is clear and justified. Otherwise, you need super market intelligence, some nifty software, lots of past data and some creativity to help you work out the best possible deal.
13. Can you feel it? You may be the most expert lawyers/accountants/surveyors in the known universe with more track record than Linford Christie but if you don’t manage to generate rapport with every one of the people on the decision making team then you ain’t gonna get the job. When will the professions learn that EQ is just as important as IQ?