How to assess whether you and your business is pitch-ready
This is the fourth tutorial in the series. The first three tutorials covered fundamental topics: generating business opportunities, writing a proposition, and ensuring what you write is meaningful to the client. These are important foundations, and are part of a process that enables a business to promote and market itself professionally. They also direct and drive business development and marketing activity.
Ultimately it is the combination of these activities, plus endeavour, that determines whether a company achieves success. Having invested effort in creating the building blocks, the next step, before taking any of this good thinking to market, is to take stock. To review and realistically assess where your business is in terms of its capability to pitch for business opportunities – in other words whether you are pitch-ready?
One of the first points to recognise is that pitching draws on every function of your business. Writing proposals and presentations, regardless of the shape and size of the opportunity, requires a long list of information. Therefore, for a business development process to be effective requires information to be readily available; information that is accurate, up to date, and fit-for-purpose.
There are two consequences that result from poor quality information and information gaps: inefficiency and poor quality proposals and presentations. After all, what goes in, comes out!
Inefficiency does not only mean that simple tasks take longer to complete. It is also expensive to run a business that does not provide its staff with the tools they need to do their job properly in the first instance. Inevitably people replicate the same task repeatedly. To have a business development process that, for a lack of application and internal effort, undermines the quality of pitch documents and therefore makes converting business opportunities less likely, simply doesn’t make sense.
Boring though it may sound, if you want your business to take advantage of every opportunity that comes along, then you have to invest some time in determining how you are going to pull the necessary information together, and in setting out responsibilities to create and maintain the bank of information you have determined your business needs.
So what kind of information does a business need to pull together?
Basic business information should be at everyone’s fingertips. This includes legal, financial and policy documents. For example: company registration number; bank details; compliance statements, copies of insurance certificates; policies concerning employment, procurement and the environment; and financial statements. This information is frequently requested. It answers all those supplementary requests larger corporates and public sector organisations make; and as well as storing scanned copies of certificates in PDF format, it is also helpful to be able to copy-and-paste text directly into an e-procurement platform. Therefore, having that information in a Word or Excel document may also be required.
The next information pot to consider relates to what you do, make or provide. Well-written product and service descriptions, and other information about what your business does for clients, need to be available in Word – so text can be copied and pasted into documents. This also includes technical and product specifications, SLAs and other supporting documents that underpin what you sell to customers.
The most valuable information in the pitch process is descriptive. Unfortunately this is often the area where there are not enough good resources. The biggest boost to the business development process (and therefore the most profitable return on investment) is in spending time and effort writing good quality copy about products and services. This library of content can then be used widely across your organisation, in a whole host of business development situations.
This is far better than leaving it up to individuals to come up with their own slant or description of products and services. Not only does it make it easier for everyone, it also reduces risk. Not everyone can write good copy, but, more importantly, if copy contains factual errors or is misleading, then the writer can create issues for the business further down the line.
A fragmented approach also undermines the promotion of a brand, as inevitably everyone will have a slightly different take on the business from each other, which will also be different to the website and other collateral.
Therefore, to determine how pitch-ready a business might be requires it to pull together the resources it has available, and then to decide what is good, what is poor quality and needs to be improved, and identify the gaps you need to fill.
To help you we have created a questionnaire, which takes you through the questions you might consider in auditing pitch information in your business. If you want to receive this, email firstname.lastname@example.org and you will be sent the link, and once you have answered the questions you will receive a detailed report about your readiness.
Determining whether the descriptive information is good quality is relatively straightforward. The more factual descriptions about your business activity, history and capabilities should be clear and succinct. When it comes to describing products and services, however, it is really important to evaluate whether the copy is compelling – whether it makes the benefits of what you do clear to the reader.
The final step, having collected together everything that a business needs, is perhaps the hardest one of all. As well as putting information in a place that can be easily searched and accessed, the value of being pitch-ready is in getting the business developers to use it in their proposals and pitch documents. The transition to writing proposals and presentations that conform more closely to ‘standards’ is always under appreciated by staff, who sometimes view this as restrictive.
However, the principle is not to impose standard paragraphs and a rigid methodology on everyone. It is quite the reverse. It is to create resources that are easier to find and use, and therefore less time consuming than writing everything from scratch. It is also important that everyone in the company realises and supports the idea that it is better for the business to describe itself as consistently as possible and not just in presentations and proposals, but as widely as is possibly can.
Points to remember
It is important review and realistically assess where your business is in terms of its capability to pitch for business opportunities – in other words whether you are pitch-ready?
Pitching draws on every function of your business. For a business development process to be effective requires information to be readily available; information that is accurate, up to date, and fit-for-purpose.
The biggest boost to the business development is in spending time and effort writing good quality copy about products and services
Determining whether the descriptive information is good quality is relatively straightforward. Copy about products and services should be compelling.
Create resources that are easier to find and use, and therefore less time consuming than writing everything from scratch.