Getting Ahead of The Game
We very much hope you enjoyed our last article ‘The Secrets of Successful Pitch Coaching Part 1′ in which we looked at how to coach a team to deliver high quality winning pitches that stand out from the competition.
Reminding ourselves of the ‘PACE Strip’ in the diagram below, this article focuses on the green section and looks at Getting Ahead of The Game before being invited to tender in a way that helps a firm to achieve ‘Pole Position’ in advance of a pitch becoming ‘live’.
The hardest challenge involved in writing this article is that there is so much we could include on how to achieve pole position! In fact the subject incorporates almost every aspect of best practice Business Development and Key Client Management. What we have attempted to do in this article is highlight some of the key points rather than cover everything in detail or re-write our three books (Creating New Clients, Managing Key Clients and Growing Your Client Base).
Winning an opportunity does not start when the opportunity is announced to everyone (on the PACE Strip this is highlighted by the first red vertical line with the word “opportunity” below it). It should start a long time before this point – months and often years before. In fact, when we are running workshops on this topic we draw the green line going back much further than this paper would ever allow.
The key to gaining pole position and getting ahead of the game is what we do before the opportunity becomes live – it’s all about focus, it’s all about planning, it’s about carrying out the right activities and, of course, it’s all about building relationships and trust.
So what should we be coaching our teams and our fee earners on? We should be coaching them on:
- Truly excellent key client management – to ensure we don’t miss any opportunities within our existing clients and that we are ahead of the competition; and
- Best practice business development – so that we are in pole position when trying to win new clients.
To ensure pole position we need our teams to be ‘living’ key client management and to have a structured, effective approach to managing, protecting and developing existing clients. We also need them to be implementing a planned approach to business development and to their new client ‘pipelines’ and, finally we need them to have the essential skills, techniques and confidence in consultative selling and building profitable relationships.
Winning new client pitches
Instead of reacting to an opportunity once it has been announced to everyone, the team should have identified the client during the Prospecting stage of the business development process as a potential client they would like to do business with in the future. The key here is that the team have been coached in best practice prospecting, including the identification of the ‘best’ target clients – the ones they want to win and are likely to win. This can be done by introducing the teams to selection criteria such as triggers and filters and coaching them on how to apply these to their sectors and markets.
Creating a target list of prospects is not enough as unfortunately in many firms these remain just that – a target list or a wish list – and nothing is done about them. What we don’t want is the team to suffer from ‘listitis'(!) – long lists of potential clients that they then do nothing with.
Therefore we should also be coaching our teams on how to approach new prospects in a way that is professional and effective. Coaching them on the best methods of approaching prospects that they are comfortable with – and that work – such as high focus, high impact, high value campaigns or other effective capability and contact marketing activities.
Below is the PACE Pipeline Model which identifies P1 as Prospecting and P2 as Promoting both key areas to be coaching your teams on to ensure they are not just waiting for opportunities and that they do get ahead of the game.
In addition to coaching the teams on prospecting and on generating meetings, it is also vital to coach them on the key skills, techniques and approaches that will enable them to make the most of new business meetings. This should include:
- Meeting preparation;
- How to begin a meeting effectively;
- How to position and differentiate the firm;
- How to engage with a wide range of clients;
- Active listening;
- When and how to ask the right questions;
- Structuring meetings for maximum benefit for both sides;
- How to conclude a meeting; and
- How to follow up effectively.
You should be coaching them on all these key skills and any others that impact on their ability to build relationships, sell consultatively and build trust.
The only way to be ahead of the competition before an opportunity has gone live is if relationships have been built in advance. If you have identified them as a client you would like to work with, if you’ve approached them and motivated them to want to meet and if you have built trust with them over time through meetings and keeping in touch. Never pushing, never ‘selling’ inappropriately, never being on your agenda and never being desperate. Always being genuinely interested, always moving at the pace of the client, alwa ys providing value, always showing you care and that you are thinking of them and always building trust at every stage.
Winning pitches with existing clients
Firstly the team need to be aware of the opportunity at the earliest stage possible – not just finding out about it at the last minute or when it is formally announced. How do we achieve this? Again it all comes down to relationships and trust. Do we know all the right people within the client, at all different levels? Have we planned and thought about whom we know and whom we should know – and put actions into place to build our network of relationships? Have we trained, coached and developed our teams so that they can build strong relationships with people at all levels, ask the right questions and carry on a dialogue outside of their technical expertise?
So what should we coach our teams on here? This time it’s all about key client management. Below is a framework that encapsulates the PACE approach to Key Client Management, each aspect of which needs to be coached including:
- Understanding the client;
- Gaining, and actioning, client feedback;
- Client protection and strengthening client rel ationships;
- Understanding the people and the decision making processes;
- Client development – maximising the opportunities;
- Client planning;
- Client project management – the internal communication and elements of making key client management work.
In addition to ensuring the team are comfortable and confident in implementing a structured approach to key client management it is also vital to ensure they have been coached and developed in the essential client relationship and client engagement skills.
To get ahead of the competition within an existing client, they not only need to be delighting the client at every point of contact (or at every ‘Moment of Truth’), they also need to be coached on meeting regularly with the client (at all levels, including senior executives) and holding meaningful discussions with clients about:
- Their business;
- Their world;
- The critical factors affecting their business;
- What’s going on in their sector;
- Their future plans; and
- Everything else that is important to the client.
They need to be coached on how to:
- Understand, in detail, the client’s decision making process(es);
- Access and build relationships with Procurement Departments (after all they are people too!);
- Manage the politics within an organisation; and
- Gain access to, and build relationships at, the highest levels of client organisations.
In summary, The Secrets of Successful Pitch Coaching Part 2 – ‘Getting Ahead of The Game’ means coaching your team on:
1. Actively approaching and building relationships with clients well in advance of any opportunity – not waiting for the phone to ring or invitations to bid to arrive;
2. Managing and implementing a structured approach to business development;
3. Prospecting – identifying the clients they want to win and are likely to win using selection criteria;
4. Promoting – generating meetings with prospect clients in a professional and effective manner and motivating the prospect clients to meet;
5. Building relationships, consultative selling and building trust;
6. Conducting effective client meetings;
7. Engaging with (and delighting) clients;
8. ‘Living’ and implementing key client management;
9. Gaining access to, and building relationships with, decision makers and influencers (including Senior Executives and Procurement); and
10. Focusing their activity – not going after anything and everything.
Through coaching and developing your teams on this they will gain POLE POSITION and they will be AHEAD OF THE GAME.
- The Secrets to Successful Pitch Coaching – Part 1 Published 31st August 2011
- Building business relationships Published 22nd November 2010
- Can you grow your revenue using social media? Published 26th Oct 2010
- Values Published 7th January 2011