Photo by Danny Kekspro on Unsplash

Travelling for work

You Did What Today? Travelled to Europe for a client pitch/proposal.

This was a slightly atypical day as far as graduate schemes go, but illustrates the variety that is involved with being on a consulting graduate scheme. It was also an incredibly interesting experience and, as such, rates as one of my favourite days during my time as a graduate.

Today I was invited to accompany a director, with tens of years of industry experience, to a pitch to a company in Europe. As you can probably guess, when I say ‘pitch’ I am referring to a sales pitch. This is where we present a solution to a client in order to convince them to buy consulting services from us to solve a problem they are currently struggling with.

‘Selling ourselves’

I’d was planning on opening this post by stepping back a little and describing a process that new graduates will not necessarily know the details of – how we sell consultancy services. Graduates don’t always get sight of the entire sales process and it took me about a year to fully discover and understand what’s involved.

I quickly realised that this topic deserves its own post. If you’re interested, read it here, before reading this article.

Once the sale process is initiated, a large part of ‘winning’ the work comes down to the pitch. This is where a team of consultants (usually more senior experienced colleagues) perform a slick presentation in front of the client for up to an hour. There is also time for questions from both parties. These pitches vary in importance, depending on how much revenue the project could generate and whether the client is one that we are actively targeting as a firm.

The dragon’s den

Much like the popular TV series, where contestants/founders often fall down when it comes to details of contracts or financials, pitching for work relies on the success of a few key aspects:

  • A strong introduction; pulling the client into the presentation and not letting them switch off
  • Powerful stories; evoking emotions and aspirations within the client that they can (literally) buy into
  • A unique and innovative approach; becoming more important these days is the ability to offer a unique solution, unlike your competitors
  • FOMO; generating a fear of missing out in the client so that they act on primal instincts to not be ‘left behind’
  • Explaining ‘why us’; being able to explain and show why our firm will deliver better than anybody else
  • Hitting the right price point; understanding what your competitors are likely to be offering and staying competitive whilst avoiding a ‘race to the bottom’ in price
  • Personal connection; using existing relationships and making the client actually like you goes along way to securing the win

In our pitch document, we tried to address all these points, and more, and even added in a live demo to prove our capability to produce great results, before the client had even asked.

So what did I actually do?

I was responsible for creating the live demo and presenting it during the pitch. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of presenting on such an important stage and, luckily for me, this pitch was a little less formal than usual, which helped to put me at ease. I was required to answer some tough questions on exactly how I have performed the analysis, which tested my quick thinking and ability to communicate complex topics to an audience.

I also helped prepare and review the pitch document, which is basically a brochure that contains the following:

  • Proof that we understand the client’s issue (by explaining their brief in different words)
  • A proposed solution to their issue, that we can provide
  • A rough breakdown of how the project timeline and project team would look
  • A price (often with flexibility and options built-in)
  • A summary of why our firm can deliver better than the rest
  • A conclusion and a shortlist of questions we would like to ask the client, to help us understand even further

Finally, I was tasked with taking minutes of the meeting, for us to reflect on internally afterwards. It is important to have this information so we can learn from any mistakes we may have made or can improve our pitch for a second round – something clients often ask for if they are undecided between two or three of the competing consultants.

The waiting game

Now, we wait to find out if the client has picked us or not. There is not much to do except revise any aspects of our pitch that weren’t spot on (in case a second pitch is requested) and get on with working toward the next proposal in case this one falls through…

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