This tweet came up on my twitter timeline last week.

With over a decade’s experience of being a consultant I have to admit I did sigh and reflect that sooner or later, he will probably pitch for work.  Of course the usual twitter echo-chamber provided lots of supportive noises and I’m sure he thinks that what he is doing is right.

I’ll admit it is much nicer when clients come to you rather than the other way around.  But even if they do come to you, you still have to be able to reflect back to them concisely what their need is, what your solution is (and how much it will cost) and why you are the person or organisation to meet their need.

Pitching teaches 3 useful disciplines that I use pretty much every day:

1. Identifying client issues and reflecting them back clearly:  being able to reflect back to a client their issues and needs is a hugely important skill that helps to develop trust and demonstrates to clients that you listen to what they have to say, think about it and can analyse quickly.  There is no better way to check that you are on the same wavelength as a client that demonstrating that you understand them.  Getting better at this over time is important and the better you are the more people will trust you and give you repeat business;

2. Getting really good at estimating how much time and money a project will take: true, this is usually what people think about when they think about pitching for business.  And, yes poor commissioning practices can make this a race to the bottom (there is a well known international NGO that I won’t pitch for because they refuse to pay market rates and won’t pay VAT on consultant contracts – which is just dumb and drives value down while bankrupting consultants along the way).  However from a business management perspective, it is crucial that I am as good as I possibly can be at estimating my own time and cost and understanding what goes into setting the fee I charge clients and the cost to my business of doing that work.  This helps me to have a better handle on how much work I can take on (I currently have 9 projects for 8 clients and 3 more in the pipeline) and what that means for costs and income at any time.  You can never be too good at understanding this stuff.

3. Celebrating my successes:  Part of any pitch is reflecting back on the work you’ve done in the past and how it relates to the work you want to do for a client.  This allows you to draw out different narratives from your experience, celebrate milestones and achievements and generally reflect your success.  That’s a really important thing to do – no-one else is going to do it for you.  You have to be your number 1 fan.

I’ve written before about how the whole tendering process can be made much better.  But simply deciding to not engage with the market place on a principles basis or because you object to the ‘race to the bottom’ bad practices that are out there tells me that you:

– don’t know how to listen to a client

– don’t know your own value

– don’t know how successful you are

So tell me again, why won’t you pitch for work?


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