Winning pitches – 5 tips for the bid process

Winning pitches for new instructions in the real estate industry is not getting any easier. Particularly when managing numerous bids simultaneously, all at different stages of the procurement process and for different services. It’s easy to focus purely on the delivery. Drafting responses, collating content, finalising proposals, hitting the deadline. However, taking a step back for a moment, it is worth remembering a few simple aspects to bid management.

There are numerous technical factors to winning pitches. Expert copywriting that delivers technical knowledge in user-friendly language. Creative design that presents the content in a compelling form without detracting from the message. Innovative ways of delivering the final pitch presentation. But the following are a selection of common sense, practical observations about the overall process, learned from many years of losing and winning pitches.

1) The journey isn’t over yet

While the bid stage marks the “beginning of the end” of the prospective client’s journey from prospect to client, it’s important to remember that the journey isn’t yet complete. Throughout that process, the purpose of your marketing communications has been to develop their trust in your offering, to nurture the relationship. Don’t stop now! There will be numerous opportunities during the bid process to continue to build that trust through your interactions with the prospective client before that final presentation.

For example, intelligent, probing questions that interrogate the brief demonstrate a level of rigour and expertise. Prompt, pro-active communication throughout the process shows your professionalism. If possible, engineer meetings with the client and their specific teams to discuss the instruction, to develop the human relationships between key personnel and illustrate your hunger for the work. All of these can have a significant impact on the client’s perception of you before your bid even hits their desk.

2) Consistency is key

The mere fact you have been invited to tender demonstrates the client has formed an opinion of your firm, most likely positive. Therefore, now is not the time to change tone, approach or message. Keep the messaging in your pitch material entirely consistent with the marketing comms the client has already experienced. A change at this stage will likely jar and threaten to dismantle the trust that you’ve carefully built.

3) Keep your powder dry

Hopefully the pitch process will culminate in a final presentation of some form. All the preceding stages of the bid process are merely a means of reaching this final, critical stage in the decision-making process. Ideally, keep something back to help clinch the instruction – some fresh innovative content (a testimonial video for example) or that critical case study that could make all the difference. There is no point including this early on in a tender process that could last multiple stages and several months, when it will fade from memory by the time the client makes the decision.

4) Beware the rain-maker

Most professional service firms have them. The senior business development leader or salesperson, who might also be the founder or senior partner of the business and leads the business development operation of the firm. Having sat on both sides of the bid process, however, I have seen the damage an over-reliance on this individual in the final pitch can have. By the time you reach the final presentation, their job should be done.

By this stage, the prospective client already knows that your firm has the required capability, scale, expertise and experience for the instruction. Your rain-maker will have played a significant part in convincing them of this, to create the opportunity. However, converting them into client means convincing them you have a specific solution to their need. And that solution in professional services is people. Ultimately that is what professional services firms are selling. The client needs to be convinced by those fee-earners who will actually be doing the work not a figurehead. To be persuaded by competent, confident, skilled professionals who the clients can see themselves working with day-to-day, not by slick sales skills.

A client once commented how impressed they were that the Senior Partner sat in a pitch yet played no part in the presentation. They only answered a couple of questions specifically directed at him at the end. This demonstration of complete trust in the team of professionals in the meeting played a significant part in winning the instruction.

5) Feedback is essential, good or bad

Clearly, you will only improve your conversion rate by finding out what worked or failed to win an instruction. There are so many aspects to a bid, you will only be able to refine and improve your approach by knowing what impressed and what didn’t. Fees, quality of the team, expertise, capability, value-add and quality of submission are all components of a winning pitch. But if you do not know which one failed to convince or indeed did clinch the instruction, you will not know where to improve.

The purchasing of professional services has become more procurement-led, with the result that the bid process has become more detailed and demanding. It is easy to focus on every technical minutiae of the pitch and meeting all the client’s requirements. However, it is worth remembering some of the human aspects of the process which could also have a significant impact on the client’s decision.

Nurture Professional Services Marketing Ltd. Company No: 11096654. Registered England & Wales,2 Beverley Court, 26 Elmtree Road, Teddington, Middlesex, TW11 8ST