Opportunities to pitch the firm's products and services can take a variety of formats. For an informal client meeting, an open-ended discussion document may be needed, while other opportunities may call for a very detailed request for proposal.

However your pitch is delivered, try incorporating some of the approaches outlined below to increase your chances of winning the business.

1. Qualify the opportunity

There are a few items to evaluate before giving any opportunity the green light. Team with the appropriate practice or business development leaders to determine:What is the probability that we will win?

Who is the incumbent?

  • Is this a "beauty contest" to solicit unnecessary proposals for the sole purpose of due diligence, or is it a genuine opportunity?
  • Is there a strategic angle to taking part in the pitch? (Does this enhance our visibility in a critical space, or is this a door to future opportunities?)
  • How strong is our relationship with the decision makers?
  • Do we have a track record/evidence indicating we can deliver against their criteria?
  • Do not be afraid to turn down new business opportunities. Weigh the cost of involving several people in a proposal effort against the win probability.

2. Find out as much as possible about the (potential) client

  • Always try to get a meeting with the key decision makers, especially if you don't know the organisation or the company is unfamiliar to you.
  • Understand the factors that might influence the outcome. This is a good time to probe for the hot- button issues
  • Establish what you do and don't know:
  • Is there crucial information missing? Are you on the inside?
  • How can you fill in the gaps?
  • Utilise internal or external resources to gain a broader view.
  • Check CRM systems and obtain a client revenue report.

3. Tailor your presentation/proposal response to the client requirements

  • Focus on making your presentation/proposal concise and clear in delivering on the company's primary issues and requirements.
  • Ask yourself, "What does this statement demonstrate to the client?" Avoid questionable claims, such as, "We have the largest team in the market." Instead try, "Because we have over XX staff specializing in this area — the largest team in the market — we have the right expertise to draw upon to obtain the best rates for your program."
  • Ensure that you have a clear value proposition
  • If not specified, check with the client on how it would like to receive your response — as a formal presentation, a written submission or a succinct one-pager.
  • Line up your support resources — sales support manager, graphics/print, binding
  • — to ensure you meet the client's deadline.
  • Focus your content on the client's requirements.

4. Plan your oral presentation carefully to ensure success

  • Before making an oral presentation, hold a run-through with your team. The client will evaluate your proposal/pitch presentation and consider it a preview of how you will behave in a project setting. As such, you will want to present a united front.
  • Agree on roles and responsibilities for the oral presentation.
  • Think through the top questions your client may ask, as well as your response.
  • Consider what sort of handouts you will need. Do not bombard the client with thought leadership they are unlikely to read.
  • Get the logistics straight. Make sure everyone on the team knows where the presentation is being held, where to meet and who on the client side will be attending.

5. Conduct thoughtful follow-up meetings

  • It is helpful to schedule debriefs both internally and with the client after you have delivered your proposal/presentation. Generally, it is more effective to have a third party conduct a debrief because the client will be more willing to discuss the positives and negatives of your pitch. Remember to include your business development team, relevant CRMs and your sales support manager in these meetings so everyone can focus on ways to improve.
  • Agree on your team's next steps for developing the client relationship.
  • By giving more thought to what your (potential) client is looking for, you will hopefully avoid spending time on the wrong content and increase your win rate!