Pitch points from a pitching and tendering training workshop

In early April I facilitated another of MBL’s training workshops on Pitch Perfect – How to Prepare & Present Winning Pitches & Tenders” for legal and accounting firms. Whilst these sessions are typically attended by fee-earners hoping to improve their pitch confidence and success, on this occasion the delegates were mostly from Marketing & Business Development (M&BD) teams. Here are some of the highlights mentioned by the delegates: Pitch points from a pitching and tendering training workshop.

Efficiency vs effectiveness of pitches

Whilst much of the emphasis for pitch professionals and teams is to improve the efficiency of the pitching and tendering process, there needs to be equal attention on the effectiveness. Producing a great looking document or presentation really quickly is not a great strategy if the win rate isn’t improving.

There was discussion about the systems that can be used to track opportunities and the metrics to review what was being won (see below). There was a need to consider the value of tender wins as well as volume and to also review the trends in the win rates of different types of pitches and tenders for different types of clients and work.

Many delegates found they needed to take a step back and a 360 degree view of the pitching process to  ensure that the client needs are always the focus and that the systems, fee-earners and M&BD resources are fully aligned.

Assess changing buyer trends

We reviewed various research results about the shift in buyer expectations. For example, in the Meridian West Business Buyers’ Barometer there were four key trends highlighted:

  1. Culture and purpose – 72% of buyers said they actively look for clearly-defined information to help them evaluate whether there is an obvious cultural fit with a prospective advisor, and a well-articulated organisational purpose beyond the pursuit of profit.
  2. Price certainty – More than two-thirds (68%) now say they prefer to seek a fixed price when instructing external advisors.
  3. Trust – Trust is a hard to win commodity that can be quickly lost. For example, with numerous negative press stories concerning the effectiveness of audits at prominent UK businesses, the reputation of accountants, in particular, has taken a dip. 53% say their levels of trust have fallen in advisors over recent years.
  4. Internal capabilities – In recent years internal business functions such as finance, legal, risk and HR/people have become more influential in shaping enterprise-level strategy. Leaders of these business function have also been steadily building their internal capabilities and bench strength. 52% say they are reluctant to outsource work if it can be completed in-house.

Accept invitations even when the chances of success are low

In an article on LinkedIn in February 2023 “An alternative view to Go/No Go – Why you Should Say ‘Yes’​ to Your Next Request For A Proposal“ Sue-Ella Prodonovich suggested that instead of assessing your prospects of success as the sole criteria for whether or not to pitch, begin by thinking about the benefits of going through the tender process:

  1. It tells clients where your firm is at right now and potentially introduces them to new partners
  2. It educates colleagues about what you do and how you do it
  3. It skills people up
  4. It forces you to work on your processes
  5. It makes you understand who you are and what you do
  6. It creates awareness
  7. It helps you position yourself
  8. You get to test ideas

She also reported that an experienced General Counsel offered six reasons they thought you should apply anyway including:  the need for new blood, just two pages outlining your expertise, there’s often a shallow pool of talent, there is a often a significant time lag, you might be right for another (future) piece of work and people move around.

Deconstruct bids to increase understanding

An article in PM Magazine in December 2022 by Alex Footman and Stephen Timmins  talked about the need to deconstruct a bid in order to properly understand the client requirements and produce a robust plan to meet milestones and differentiate.

They suggested a kick off meeting within a week of receipt, to overview the needs of all stakeholders, including all key personnel (operations, team, pricing, support, BD), identify the strategic information to shape win themes and list the key questions (needs, specification, delivery, add value).

They listed all the key documents to deconstruct: the main document, pricing document, specification and supporting appendices (including policies). And to deconstruct your response to address the weighting of the written and commercial response and questions and sub-questions (use headlines).

Use ChatGPT for research

As well as other tried and tested research methods, some firms are starting to experiment with ChatGPT to research companies to whom they are pitching. There was also value in ChatGPT for helping to provide basic training in how to conduct pitches and proposals. For example, when asked how best to research for proposals for legal pitches, it responded with:

  1. Legal databases: Online legal databases such as LexisNexis, Westlaw, and HeinOnline provide access to case law, statutes, regulations, and secondary sources such as law reviews and treatises.
  2. Government websites: Federal, state, and local government websites provide access to legislation, regulations, and other legal materials.
  3. Law libraries: Law libraries have a wealth of legal information, including legal treatises, case reporters, and law reviews.
  4. Professional associations: Legal professional associations, such as the American Bar Association (ABA) and state bar associations, often publish legal research materials and provide access to legal databases.
  5. Academic sources: Academic sources, such as law reviews and scholarly articles, can provide in-depth analysis of legal issues.
  6. Industry-specific sources: Depending on the nature of the legal matter, industry-specific sources such as trade publications and industry reports may be relevant sources of information.
  7. Expert consultants: Expert consultants with specialized knowledge and experience in a particular area of law can provide valuable insights and research assistance.

And, when asked what information might be useful when pitching for legal services of British Land, it answered:

  1. Background information on British Land: Start by providing an overview of the company’s history, business model, and recent developments. This will help establish your knowledge of the company and its operations.
  2. Legal services required: Clearly outline the specific legal services that British Land requires, such as real estate transactions, leasing, property management, or litigation.
  3. Experience: Highlight your law firm’s experience in providing legal services to clients in the real estate industry, particularly in relation to the specific legal services required by British Land.
  4. Team: Introduce the team of lawyers who would be working on British Land’s matters, highlighting their relevant experience and expertise.
  5. Fee structure: Provide a transparent and competitive fee structure for the legal services, outlining the scope of work and estimated costs.
  6. Technology and innovation: Highlight your firm’s use of technology and innovation to improve efficiency, reduce costs, and deliver value to clients.
  7. Client service: Emphasize your firm’s commitment to providing excellent client service, including responsiveness, communication, and collaboration.
  8. Credentials: Provide details of your law firm’s credentials, such as rankings, awards, and testimonials from satisfied clients.
  9. Personal touch: Show that you understand the importance of building a personal relationship with clients, and highlight your firm’s commitment to establishing long-term partnerships with clients.

Focus on client needs to differentiate

A March 2023 article from BTI’s Mad Clientist offered six tactics to improve your pitches and proposals focusing on what clients want to see and how to differentiate.

  • Share selected industry trends and highlight potential impacts and issues arising from the trends and ask clients to comment.
  • Outline how other companies in the industry handle similar situations Offer examples with specific protocols and decisions made. Ask their opinion about these approaches.
  • Share your early assessment of the client’s situation Clients love early assessments. They know all the facts aren’t in — but they value early opinions and direction. They also know the strategy will change if the facts change.
  • Share your statement of your client philosophy Be clear and concise. Ask clients to comment and add to it. Embrace high-impact words from the client’s perspective — make it a joint statement. Make your client-centricity as clear as a bell.
  • Put your credentials and experience in an appendix Let clients look at your details when they want. As crucial as this information is — clients want more than statistics and credentials. Show off your insight in your pitch — let clients see your credentials if they so choose. (They are more likely to hire you based on your insights.)
  • Share one idiosyncratic insider industry insight You would only know this if you have experience in the industry. This would be different from trends you can glean and develop. Every industry and company has a unique aspect of its culture, history, strategy, or the way it talks about itself. Your idiosyncratic insight is proof of your unmatched understanding.

Use storytelling to persuade

The importance of persuasive and engaging stories was discussed. I mentioned an article describing a conference session “Facts tell, Stories sell” on the topic in November 2022.

This addressed the neuroscience (“sensing, meaning, action”) and mentioned the book “What great salespeople do – the science of selling through emotional connection and the power of story” by Michael Bosworth. There was a case study of Accenture using stories in pitching and included an outline of the story arc:

  • Hook (to connect)
    • Personal story
    • Key team members
    • Company creation
  • Fight (to differentiate)
    • Insight
    • Success
  • Land (to agree)
    • Values
    • Teaching

Rehearse repeatedly

In an April 2022 article in PM Magazine the Global Client Pursuits team of Baker McKenzie lawyers outlined its processes to “Talk through, Walk through, Run through”.

As well as advice to match the client’s people on seniority, technical expertise, diversity, competitors and numbers they said they used a two pager placemat reference tool which:

  • Showcase understanding of client’s challenges/how you’ll deliver
  • Meet evaluation criteria/show your win themes
  • Prepare for discussion/use animations to build momentum

The article also offers insights into hybrid meetings, the contents of a client research pack and a planner.

  • Talk through
    • Map content (client centric)
    • Role and topic of each participant
    • Brief introductions
    • Agenda and three win themes
    • Show and tell
    • Anticipate questions and objections
    • Review evaluation criteria
    • Tech check
    • Share actions
  • Walk through
    • F2F seating plan
    • Delete duplication/prepare transitions
    • Regular mini summaries
    • Cross-reference to show collaboration
    • Assign a Chair/allocate questions (juniors start – partners continue)
  • Run through
    • Live rehearsal (use audience)
    • Review after run through
    • Check eye contact, engagement and styles
    • Run through again
    • Consider cultural fit with client

 Delegate poll results

Whereas there was some variation in the pitching and tendering experience of the delegates (ratings from 1 to 8), there was less variation in training/experience in selling (all results were 1 – 3). It’s interesting that many firms don’t see the link between sales expertise and experience and pitching success.

Of the six topics covered in the session, those that were of most interest to delegates were creating a pitch/tender document and preparing and delivering a presentation. Other areas such as research, planning and developing a sales strategy were less popular.

Some tender opportunities were picked up from bulletins and portals.

Systems used included:

Delegate pitch and tender metrics included: conversion, capture, win/loss, bid/no bid, final stage reached

M&BD teams primary roles were in content development and process support.

Amongst the best speakers mentioned were Tony Robbins, Jim Carrey and Lady Hale. Attributes of great talks included: funny, compelling, relatable, aspirational, positive, anecdotes, interesting life and career, engaging, humour, real life examples and emotion.

Only two thirds of delegates contacted the clients to ask about their requirements and expectations for presentations and meetings.

Related pitch and tendering posts

Pitching insights – Qualification, Branding and Following up (kimtasso.com) October 2022

Five Spice Girl lessons from a pitching workshop (May 2022) (kimtasso.com) May 2022

Pitching and tendering – Focus, differentiation and less is more (April 2022) (kimtasso.com) April 2022

Insights on pitching – Online, virtual, productivity, confidence (kimtasso.com) December 2021

pitch insights – M&BD adding value, pitch processes, knowledge base (kimtasso.com) October 2021

Seven pitching themes – specialisation, engagement, research, content (kimtasso.com) May 2021

Perfect pitches – Five key points (Video) Kim Tasso February 2021

Pitch Points – Five thoughts from a pitching and tendering workshop (kimtasso.com) January 2021