Can we eliminate the bad and ugly?
It doesn’t have to be bad or ugly. Sometimes we don’t have the time or resources to make a pitch great, but almost all the bad and ugly ones can be made better with improved quality and consistency. Remedies include starting with better templates and content, the use of technology, and training. We opted for all three, but specifically technology, in my role as global pitch director for a large law firm. When we had the opportunity to deploy pitch automation software, we saw how the bad and ugly improved and the good got better. Here’s how:
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Using pitch automation technology, all pitch materials were housed in one central library. Very little content needed to be created from scratch, so the starting point for anyone working on a pitch document was better. And while content was stored in a central location, it was still owned by the team or person responsible for updates, ensuring it could not be overwritten.
We reduced middle-of-the-night outreach to contributors and scrambles to find the right content owner because content was updated on a schedule. When the annual report was released, for example, all financial, personnel and D&I content was updated. There was no worry about terminology or language being compliant with organisation standards because materials were already reviewed, edited, approved and in alignment.
A pitch template is a document the technology uses to know what parts of the proposal go where. For example, a standard template may have an opening letter, executive summary, solution approach, team, timeline, and pricing. The template is pre-formatted and uses the organisation’s branding.
The use of good templates is key to use of technology, as it helps guide non-experts through what a good proposal looks like. Templates keep the documents coming out of the organisation consistent and branded. Templates can also be adapted for different divisions or geographies of an organisation, and graphics can be adjusted to suit the taste of pursuit leaders. When best practices are built into the templates, everyone is able to produce a better document.
Using technology and templates reduced ramp-up periods for new team members. Prior to a one-stop-resource for all pitch material, training took months. New employees had to learn what was kept where throughout the global organisation, as well as whom to go to for changes or newly approved materials.
With the use of tech:
- All materials are in a central location – experience, case studies, and team biographies are easy to locate and use or edit
- Determining the owner of content is simple and straightforward – should changes be suggested mid-proposal, tracking down the content owner for approval is much easier
- All past pitch documents are available – if content is needed from a pitch last year, finding it is much easier
These factors greatly reduce the time it takes for new team members to learn their way around and begin producing high quality materials.
In my experience, some of the worst pitches come from non-pitch people throughout the organisation. In their defence, they were asked to pull together a proposal document last minute and had no idea where to start (and, for whatever reason, did not reach out to the pitch team). Those pitches would have been much improved by having technology and templates to guide them, and updated content to populate them with. If an entire organisation has access to the pitch automation system, the very worst pitches can be made significantly better and some of the strain on the pitch team can be alleviated.
Technology would be equally helpful in locations where pitches were not submitted in English, and local teams had the ability to translate, then store content in local language rather than starting from scratch every time. Better still, pitch automation software now includes an auto-answer function for common RFP questions, so even non-experts can get the best AI-suggested content when responding to RFPs.
Technology is helpful in improving the bad and the ugly, and helps make the good even better. Expert pitch team members are able to focus effort on the most read content, rather than thinking all parts of the document are equal. Bespoke content gets more time and attention because standard content is readily and reliably available. And, in turn, the expert team enjoys more job satisfaction, knowing their efforts and creativity are spent wisely.
This article was written by Nora Navin.
Nora spent the first half of her 30-year career at tech companies and the latter in professional services at global law and consulting firms. She held various marketing/ business development roles and rose to leading high performing pitch and proposal teams. Nora is currently an independent consultant in professional services and technology business development.