One of the first pieces of client work I did as a newly independent coach and trainer was supporting a pitch team of a top 100 law firm go out and come 2nd in a multi-million tender. That experience taught me a lot, and the second part of this 2-part blog post there are the remaining 6 tips to help you improve your effectiveness when you pitch for work. (Part 1 here) Read right through to the end of the blog post to find out why the pitch team came 2nd not 1st. It is not what you think it may be…
7. Don’t lecture the client
The words that you use in a pitch are incredibly important. For example, potential clients don’t like to be told what they do or don’t need. It’s simple, really. So, when you are pitching use phrases like – ‘in our experience’, ‘you have told us’, ‘one potential solution is..’, ‘may we suggest’, ‘in our research’…. I once saw a pitch when a lawyer told the panel, ‘you need a partner’. It didn’t go down too well with the panel.
8. Questions, questions, questions
Leave a good half to two thirds of your allocated time slot for questions. Your pitch presentation should be succinct and to the point. Your objective at a pitch is to show that you truly understand the client’s needs (and can meet them), and to engage with the client. Answering questions is another opportunity to increase your credibility with the client AND increase engagement. After all, when I was buying high value services from suppliers, I was asking myself – do I want to work with these people, and are they able to meet my needs?
9. Practice, practice, practice
If your first run through is on the morning of the pitch, in the car at the client’s premises, or in the back of a taxi on the way to a pitch – this is too late! Having spent time with many firms supporting them with their business development, it always amazes me that so many highly successful lawyers, accountants and consultants, wear as a badge of honour, the amount of times they have turned up at a pitch unprepared but still won the work. In our experience, people who have run through their pitch presentation a couple of times will come across significantly better to the client. After all, in a pitch a client is looking to see who has taken the time to prepare. In fact, the reason I was called into work with this pitch team was that they had been consistently getting feedback that they didn’t come across as a team.
10. Ditch the slides
Unless specifically asked for slides, ditch them. Your objective is to engage fully with the client. Slides, handouts, talk booklets all divert attention away from you and what you are saying. Far too many professionals, in my view, use slides as an emotional crutch. This isn’t what slides were invented for. They are there to support and highlight the message, not become the message. I’m not saying don’t prepare a talk book, brochure or pitch presentation booklet – just give a copy to the client after you have finished the presentation.
11. Follow up afterwards
It’s an unfortunate fact of life for every pitch winner there must be a loser. Whether you win or lose the pitch always get feedback on why you were or weren’t chosen. Use this information to inform how you go about pitches in the future.
12. It isn’t just what happens on the day
You are probably wondering why my pitch team came second. It was simple. The pitch panel had a weighted matrix for how they would score each firm. My firm, not unsurprisingly, scored the highest for how they came across on the day of the pitch. However, they were marked down for the quality of their tender documents which they submitted.