Pitching for Success (and why it’s ok to say no sometimes…)

Be it a formal Request for Proposal (RFP) or an informal request for further credentials and fees, the process of winning new work can strike fear into the heart of professional services firms as they scramble to “out-pitch” the competition. Even if you have a perfect library of information and templates at your fingertips, how can you stand out and make a difference?

Here are a few things to think about:

Do I really want this work?

There’s a real temptation to say yes to every request to submit a pitch/proposal – after all can anyone afford to be picky, especially in the current economic climate? In a word, yes. Carefully consider each opportunity – aside from the standard conflict checks, do you have the resources and expertise for this project? Is this a company or project you want to be associated with? Does it fit with your strategy in terms of sector/ geographical focus (in some cases it won’t, but there may be longer-term gains to consider)?

What relationships do you have there and what’s the reason for the opportunity? Submitting pitches can be a time consuming and costly process, so investing some time upfront to validate the opportunity is an important step. And saying no is not the end of a potential relationship – it may just be that this particular opportunity isn’t right to work together on, and the client will respect you for the integrity you show in declining – it doesn’t rule out future opportunities.

Don’t focus on the document (not yet anyway)

Another temptation is to immediately focus on the production of a beautiful, all-singing-all-dancing proposal document – after all, that’s what the prospective client will want to see, won’t they?

Well, maybe, but don’t just jump in. First, leverage your contacts, relationships, and general commercial knowledge to speak to your target, if possible and if the process allows, and gain as much insight and additional information as you can. Most clients welcome the opportunity to discuss in more depth what their project is all about.

Carry on communicating

Don’t be afraid to continue developing a relationship with your prospective client during the proposal process – getting an RFP is not a cue to stop communicating, it’s a signal to widen relationships and start looking at them as long term – remember even if this opportunity doesn’t come to fruition, another might – put it the groundwork and think BIG.

It’s all about the chemistry

Choosing your people, getting the chemistry right within your team and with the client is key. You might be putting together a cross-discipline team, so ensure you invest time upfront in making sure you gel and present as a cohesive unit as possible, with an established way of working.

If you are presenting, make sure you rehearse and try to pre-empt what you might be asked and who’ll deal with what. This is even more important as procurement processes evolve as with most other working practices, becoming virtual/digital.

It’s not ALL about you

As simple as it sounds, putting yourself in your client’s shoes is key. Resist the urge to just tell them how good you are and what qualifications and awards you have.

Explain how you’d add value to them in particular. Be aware of your audience and speak to them in a language that is both appropriate and comprehensive whilst also being consistent with your own firm’s brand and tone. This applies in both your written document and in a presentation.

Feedback and ..feedback (don’t be shy to ask)

Ask for feedback after the formal part of the pitch is finished and the decision has been made. This is an important part of the process. Make sure you feedback the information to the pitch team and also at a sector/service/department/firm-level too. Learn from both your mistakes and your successes.

Lots of teams don’t ask for feedback if they win the work – but not only is it an important beginning to your working relationship with the client, it can help inform best practices for other teams and departments.

For more information on how we can help you to pitch successfully, email Lara Squires or call her on 01903 530787.