Friday, 4 November 2011

The Pitch Team

I have been working on pitches recently - the sort that involve trying to win business rather than those associated with balls... These have been pitches for my own business, pitches in conjunction with other consulting firms and in offering advice to other business either about their pitches or about immediate post-pitch client service.

I've been surprised by two simple things. The first is the number of organisations both large and small who have a dedicated 'pitch team' - i.e. a group of often senior, experienced, high-flying members of staff who secure business for the firm. The second things is how often these same organisations are surprised that, as the contract starts, the client is unhappy that they don't seem to be working with the high-fliers and that they don't recognise anyone they are working with.

I completely understand the point of having a pitch team - and I think that having a few members of the team who may work exclusively on pitches is a fine thing. The team should, however, also have members of the service team who will go on to work with the client. This is vital so that the client can see who they are working with and so that the staff can properly understand the client's requirements.

By doing this you avoid my second point above. I'm amazed that businesses will go to great lengths to win business and then upset the client in the first week of the contact by having a bunch of strangers interacting with the client.

Only last week I was speaking with a large advertising business who had spent five months travelling the world to woo an international client. They had wheeled in all their big guns - global specialists from their business and a couple of consultants who gave the impression of being staff. They duly won the business although at a price they are already regretting (bad pricing and chasing turnover at any cost is a regular theme of mine in this blog that I will, I'm sure, return to soon). Five days into the contract, they received a call from the client essentially saying "Who the &*%$ are these people and where are the guys I was speaking to during the contract pitch".

So overall the pitch was a bit of a disaster. They now have an angry and upset client who is already, only a couple of months in, trying to find ways to terminate the contract - and the firm is irritated that it is servicing a contract with almost no profit in it (as they said to me "what does the client expect at that price").

As I said - I'm surprised. Surprised that the advertising firm doesn't realise that it needs to please its clients and surprised that such a large firm can get its pricing so wrong and then try to take its frustration out on the client.

The lessons are simple. Have a pitch team that includes the people who will work day-to-day with the client in the execution of the contract. Work to please the client. Talk with the client regularly to make sure they are pleased. And price your work properly - don't just chase turnover.

As with most things in management - it may sometimes be difficult but it certainly isn't complicated.

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