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Mike Jones explores the next steps towards successful pitches: documents, meetings and presentations. As published in The Solicitors Journal, April 2011.

Last week I talked about the first five tips for building a winning pitch process: 1) Act immediately; 2) Don’t pitch for everything; 3) Get into the client’s shoes; 4) Build relationships; and 5) Uncover the buying criteria.

Now we look at the final five ideas to help make the most of the precious pitch opportunities that come your way.

Documents don’t win pitches. If this is true, why do lawyers and law firms spend so much time and energy on producing pitch docu- ments? In a very well-researched paper recently, over 100 directors of leading UK companies were asked to rank the importance of 15 different factors when assessing bids from law firms. Of those factors, the proposal document was consistently ranked much lower than ‘leadership’, ‘chemistry’, ‘commitment’ and ‘listens and responds’. What matters to buyers are the people factors NOT the document. The pitch document may lose you a pitch but it will never win one for you.

Ask them to assess a draft. One of the best ways to use the document part of any pitch is to make it part of your relationship-building strategy. Many (if not most) clients will happily accept a draft document in advance of the final submission if asked nicely. This gives you two distinct advantages. First, you receive early feedback which ensures you are on the right wavelength. Second, you involve the buyer in the process so they feel a greater sense of ownership and attachment to the final submission.

Focus on the benefits. Do not simply reel off a catalogue of ‘features’ about you and your firm. The usual “we have 20 offices in ten different countries” or “we have one of the largest pensions practices in the UK”. Such statements mean very little to clients and hold virtually no sway with them unless they are directly relevant to their needs and can be communicated as a benefit. For example, how much more compelling to say: “You told us you require pensions advice. Ours is one of the largest and most respected pensions practices in the UK, which has advised suc- cessfully on hundreds of schemes similar to yours. This means you can be confident we have the breadth and depth of knowledge to handle even your most complex matters.”

Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. A team has never lost because of over practising! However, the road to failure is littered with many woefully inadequate presentations caused by the absence of rehearsal. If the pitch is important invest time to make sure you and your team give it your best shot and come across as a coordinated, professional, well-drilled unit. Anything less and you short change yourselves and your potential client. You might just as well have not bothered to pitch. Teams that rehearse are teams with a high win rate.

Never give up. There are countless examples of decisions being overturned and even more examples of work being given to ‘losing’ teams after the event. You will already have invested a lot of time in building a relationship. Stay in touch. Offer advice. Don’t simply waitanother three years before the next tender process is run otherwise you will remain the outsider. Finally, good luck!