Earlier this week I facilitated another day workshop for MBL on pitching “Pitch Perfect – How to Prepare & Present Winning Pitches & Tenders” . Delegates represented law and property firms and both marketing/business development professionals as well as fee-earners. While we covered a huge amount of material, there were five areas of particular interest: M&BD adding value, pitch processes, knowledge base, content production and alternative presentations.
How the M&BD team adds value to pitching
Often, the M&BD team is only involved in pitching to either help with the production of the pitch document or in preparing presentation materials.
There are numerous ways that the M&BD team can really add value to the pitching and tendering process. We examined a model that considered the following areas:
- Part of the pitch team
- Adopt a client-facing role at scoping meetings and presentations
- Be an integral part of sales strategy and planning
- Strategic support
- Research and understand client and sector needs
- Develop the strategy and value proposition
- Lead development of new methodologies and services
- Provide pricing tools and advice
- Training and coaching support
- Train the team in sales techniques
- Coach team members
- Client liaison support
- Clarify and confirm client requirements
- Manage client debriefs
- Process support
- Maintain and enhance the pitch process
- Project management
- Manage research and team activities
- Build the pitch knowledge base
- Manage opportunity, pitch and tender metrics (and reporting)
- Editorial support
- Draft and edit materials
- Creative support
- Advise on design, graphics and delivery approaches
- Internal communications
- Communicate pitch processes
- Promote cross-firm and cross-team collaboration
- Share news of successes and best practice
What became apparent was the need to keep in constant contact with the client to check with their requirements and needs – which often changed as they reviewed documents from different firms and experienced others’ presentations.
Pitching and tendering processes
Some firms have highly developed pitch processes. They have clear policies, guidelines, systems and support for each stage of both small and simple as well as large and complex pitches and tenders.
Other firms are examining the changing requirements of clients in different sectors and building their pitch processes around them. The impact of more digital client journeys is reflected in these processes.
Some firms have developed a tiered approach with different processes and resources being applied to different types of pitches depending on whether they meet strategic, size and financial criteria.
Some firms have refined their pitch processes following the introduction of new technology. There are numerous established and new software systems to support pitch information management. Several delegates mentioned InterAction Foundation) and pitch document compilation (interestingly, Enable’s PitchPerfect sponsored this year’s Professional Marketing Forum conference).
Some firms have re-engineered the processes following new strategic directions, more focused marketing and business development plans, audits of past pitch performance and the use of best practice.
This case study shows how Savills redesigned its pitch processes to provide support on fewer pitches but achieve so much more with those where they did.
Building a pitch knowledge base
Most firms have libraries of information relating to the expertise and experience of their professionals. Most will also have case studies and testimonials of past work. This is often organised by territory, industry sector and service line.
Many firms will have libraries of the sorts of information that clients typically want to see in pitch and tender documents – whether these are financial (annual reports, insurance arrangements etc), compliance procedures (money laundering, anti-slavery, anti-discrimination etc), staff wellbeing (e.g mental health and wellbeing) or strategic and value based (e.g. equal opportunities, diversity and inclusion (D&I), Environmental Social and Governance (ESG)). In this regard it was noted that clients press for more than tick-boxing and virtue signalling and wanted to see evidence of real impact in these areas.
Most firms will also keep a library of past pitch and tender documents.
However, it was less common that competitor analyses, estimating and pricing records (particularly compared to actual costs of successful projects), client feedback (on both successful and unsuccessful pitches) and other relevant information was kept in such knowledge bases. And easily searchable.
There was also discussion about including interviews with new staff during the onboarding process. This was both to capture best practice from competitors and insights from staff who have worked client-side.
There were suggestions to develop exemplar pitch documents for different teams and sectors that others could use as a template or standard against which to prepare new documents.
Tailoring content and differentiation
The importance of following client instructions and ensuring that the client’s particular needs were reflected in the content was discussed. There was a discussion about the often inward-looking style of standard credentials documents and client-focused, research based proactive pitches that are tailored to the client’s particular situation, needs, organisation and sector.
There was much debate about ensuring that the content of pitches and tenders properly balanced the brand and position of the firm with the personality of the pitching team and reflecting the language of the client. Clarity, brevity and tone of voice were key.
With the production of engaging and relevant content being so critical, it was interesting to note that few firms deployed the services of internal or external experts in persuasive communications and copywriting. Clearly, there is a need to balance information with persuasion. However, pitch and tender documents are essentially sales documents.
A lack of sales strategy, identification of key (differentiating) messages, clarify on the value proposition and time constraints often meant that content optimisation was neglected. Sometimes – where there were many contributors – there was a fragmented and disjointed feel to documents and presentations.
Alternative presentation and delivery methods
We looked at different ways to design and develop presentation materials – including mind mapping, brainstorming and storyboarding. And we considered content development separately from content delivery.
There were numerous examples of firms using videos as part of the pitching process for:
- Introduction to the firm
- Team member profiles
- Client testimonials
- Animations of processes and transactions
- Thought leadership summaries
- Roundtable discussion highlights
We also considered what made speakers memorable – engagement, energy, enthusiasm and enjoyment were key themes. As well as audience orientation – focus on what they want to hear not necessarily what you want to say.
Some firms – particularly in areas such as economics and actuarial – produced highly sophisticated tailored presentations where clients (sometimes through an app) could interrogate the material in their preferred order and drill down for further information as required.
With remote working, we may see greater use of virtual reality and augmented reality in pitch presentations – which is already happening in the real estate sector who have long used drone “fly throughs” as part of property pitches.
There was also some debate about going “old school” and using tactile presentation techniques such as boards, handouts and props.
Previous pitching and tendering articles
Perfect pitches – Five key points (Video) Kim Tasso February 2020
Pitching and Tenders – Nine top tips and client feedback – June 2019
Selling legal services with storytelling – September 2017
Book review – Strategic tendering for professional services by Matthew Fuller and Tim Nightingale – May 2017
Tips on preparing content and presenting well at competitive tenders – May 2017
Fabulous first meetings – 16 selling insights – March 2017
Selling – the vital role of research in pitching – October 2016
Do perfect pitches need proper processes – October 2015
Helping fee-earners prepare the perfect pitch – February 2013
Helping fee-earners develop the perfect pitch – November 2012
There are also many articles on the sales process and selling skills.
Poll result highlights
During the day there were numerous polls. The more interesting results are shared here.
Personal introductions should be:
- Relevant and tailored to the audience
- Visually engaging
- Personable (use anecdotes and stories to make a connection)
Pitch processes (composite from various delegate responses):
- Fee-earner(s) alerts M&BD
- Update systems (CRM, trackers, M&BD plans, capacity planning etc)
- Decision on whether to proceed – and with whom
- Team meeting to discuss RFP, strategy and work/time/project plan
- Connect with the client and explore needs
- Confirm strategy, differentiation, insights, key points and pricing
- Collate information and evidence
- Branding, design and delivery
- Liaise with the client on next steps
- Sales cycles varied from a few days, to a couple of months and up to five years on Government contracts
- Whether an existing client
- Strategic fit
- Against target client list
- Pricing and profitability
- Availability of the right team (and other resources)
- Conflicts of interest
- Cost of pitching
- Likelihood of success
Client needs when pitching
- Response to information requested
- Evidence of understanding of requirements
- Meets requirements for expertise, experience, methodology, systems etc
- Clarity on solution, team and costs
- Additional insight on the issue and/or added value/benefits
- Understanding of how each pitch is different and why to select a provider
- Minimise risk and reassurance of effective delivery
- Strong relationship that fits their culture
Support provided by M&BD team:
- 40% Sales support/join the client-facing team
- 40% Strategy and creative support
- 40% Process support
- 40% Central information systems
- 20% Administrative support
- 0% Coaching support
Only 25% of the delegate firm’s had access to internal or external specialist writing/content production skills
Types of pitch presentation rehearsals:
- 80% For technology and presentation materials
- 40% With a pretend panel
- 20% Team rehearsals
- 20% Full rehearsals
None of the delegates’ firms used external coaches or offered/conducted individual rehearsals.
- Debrief lead partner and team
- Strengths and weaknesses
- Changing client requirements
- Unexpected questions
- Probability of success
- Next steps
- Any further questions to ask/information to provide
- Learning points for the future
- Debrief client
- Strengths and weaknesses
- Key points of interest from document and presentation
- Comparison with other firms pitching (relative rankings)
- Additional information required?
- Next stages in the process
- Internal communication
- Share insight with other teams
- Update content library
- Update databases and trackers
Delegates’ key areas of interest
- Reviewing the pitch process to identify where we can improve
- Developing empathy with the client
- Exploring client needs (with the iceberg model)
- Personalising the content more to the client
- Visual impact – Using alternatives to text (e.g. charts, flowcharts, video etc)
- Using mind maps when developing presentations
- Presentation delivery – confidence and personality
- Pitching fundamentals
- Providing training resources and checklists for fee-earners
- Improving pitch, bid, proposal and tender metrics
Thanks, as always, to MBL’s Lauren Brown for being a brilliant technical co-host and to the delegates for their enthusiastic participation.