The Procurement Process Doesn’t Stop With the Order

The Procurement Process Doesn’t Stop With the Order

When does procurement turn into a partnership? The easy answer is that as soon as the order is placed, procurement is over and done with. But in reality, the procurement process doesn’t stop with the order. To be successful, it should be a long-term process that goes beyond the moment the contract is signed.

Too many companies looking to work with consultants underestimate the complex procurement system. On the surface, it seems like a straightforward process that ends with the order. But consulting is not that straightforward; simply signing a contract and assuming everything will work out exactly as specified neglects the versatility of consulting, and intellectual services in general.

Ultimately, both sides hope to develop a mutually-beneficial professional relationship. Regarding procurement, as a long-term process improves communication, better aligns the scope of the relationship, and provides the necessary insights to achieve continuous improvement and productive partnership. Consider these 5 steps to a successful procurement process:

1) After the Proposal

Don’t disengage with consultants you did not select for mutual business. Instead, explain why you choose to go in a different direction, giving honest feedback about the strengths and weaknesses of their proposal and how it could have better aligned with your expectations.

For you, this step requires only a little effort. But for the consultants you didn’t select, you provide invaluable insights about your expectations, along with their ability to compete for proposals and opportunities like yours in the future.

Consultants who are willing to listen will be able to use these lessons to better compete for similar opportunities in the future. And who knows? Perhaps you will be in need of a consultant again in the future, so nurturing relationships with a range of consultants can be beneficial for both sides.

2) Change Management

No matter how hard you try, establishing and maintaining a relationship with consultants in executing a project will not be a linear process. During the course of the project, a number of changes will take place that you didn’t account for during the proposal or contract. Some of these changes may include:

  • Scope changes. New tasks may be added as a need becomes clear, or deliverables that turn out to be impossible or difficult to reach may be dropped.
  • Staffing changes. Organizations are in constant flux, and both sides may have to account for turnover that requires adjustment and additional training.
  • Timeline changes. Everything before the project starts is an estimate; you may have to adjust the pace as the true duration of the project comes into view.
  • Unforeseen events. Budget changes, project merges, project freezes, or any other events may occur that affect the execution of the project.

Change management is necessary to ensure that these changes do not derail the project. By keeping an active log of all changes as they occur, you can adjust the commercial conditions in due time and before they become dangerous.

3) Mid-Project Assessment

As early as possible, set yourself and your consultants a benchmark toward the middle of the project. This is the perfect time to review the initial objectives and get back on track toward accomplishing them on time.

As you get into the details of any project, it’s easy to get carried away with minutia that ultimately won’t affect the overall success. A Mid-Project Assessment enables you and your team to ensure that these inevitable tangents don’t endanger the timeline and success of the larger project.

The Mid-Project Assessment should be a major event for everyone involved. Keep it separate from regular operational project reviews, which should happen in smaller circles and on a regular basis.

4) Project Closure

Once the project has drawn to an end, it’s time for a thorough evaluation. Now it’s time to compare your end results with your initial goals, which enables you to understand and begin to prepare the adjustments that are still necessary to reach your ultimate goal.

At this time, you can also evaluate the relationship with your consultants, and whether they delivered on the initial promise. Evaluate your provider using dimensions such as commercial quality, delivery quality, posture, talent & expertise, and ROI as it relates to the project.

5) Mutual Continuous Improvement

Nobody is perfect, and no project or professional relationship will be flawless. The project closure is an opportunity for you to give feedback to your project suppliers about your thoughts on the results, relationship dynamic, and any other dimensions you covered in your project closure review above.

Giving feedback enables your consultants to improve their business by gaining a clearer understanding of client expectations and identifying potential blind spots. Constructive feedback will also uncover relationship difficulties that may be improved on a future partnership with you or other clients.

You can take advantage of the same intelligence because it better enables you to understand the consultant journey through your project. As a result, you will improve supplier competitiveness, and ultimately increase the potential for positive outcomes. Improving your procurement process, you will be able to contribute to intelligence gathering about the market and its segments.

Finally, you can benefit from feedback about the project as much as your consultant. Hearing from your partner about the relationship and its successes and failures allows you to uncover what you can do better in the future, ultimately helping you work your way toward better project implementation. Simply asking for feedback will position you as being committed to good practices, openness, and transparency.

At its core, consulting should be based on a mutually beneficial partnership. If you treat procurement as a linear process that ends the moment the contract ink is dry, you probably will have trouble getting the best possible results out of that partnership. But by treating the relationship as dynamic and flexible throughout the project, you and your consultants will both benefit and improve their business practices as a result.

50 Ways to Ruin Your Proposal: The Problem is All Inside Your Head

50 Ways to Ruin Your Proposal: The Problem is All Inside Your Head

      The many common mistakes performed by consultants while preparing their proposals are not just inside their head. Mistakes often enter into proposals and presentations in the most awkward time and manner.

The following is a list of many of the possible ways we have seen consultants ruin their proposals. Examine the following list with care (and humor) because the proposal is often the first impression you make on the client and you know the saying: “The first impression is always right, especially if it’s a bad one.”

  1. Call your client by another name. They like that; it’s like role playing! Even better, if you forget the name of their entire company, that will really impress them. They’ll think, “Wow, they can’t remember our name? Their business must be booming!”
     
  2. Forget the name of a previous client on your document. Who cares about confidentiality? I mean, isn’t a name on a document just like a referral?
     
  3. Present a generic presentation. Like people, all businesses are the same, so you don’t need to put too much effort into building your presentation. Right?
     
  4. Don’t insert the company’s logo, or if you do, use the wrong one. What’s in a logo, anyway? Chances are, the client won’t even notice.
     
  5. Don’t customize the resumes of the project team. No one cares about who the guys are on your consulting team. Their seniority and expertise don’t actually have much bearing on the project. Besides, the client should trust your judgement in personnel. That’s why they’re hiring you, isn’t it?
     
  6. Don’t answer the questions of the clients. If you’re not careful, you could learn a thing or two about the context of the project and better tailor your proposal. Yikes!
     
  7. Forget the criteria of choice included in the RFP. The client included that just for kicks. It’s really not that important and definitely not worth your time to include.
     
  8. Present a bland presentation. Graphics and images are much too distracting. Keep your documents black and white with 12-point Times New Roman font and no formatting, except for paragraphs. That will catch their attention and show them that you mean business.
     
  9. Don’t explicitly state your pricing. When it comes to pricing, it’s better to keep your client in the dark. He should just trust you on this one. After all, trust is rarely earned through clear communication.
     
  10. Hide some fees here and there. It is just like an egg hunt. Clients love it, and it keeps them on their toes.
     
  11. Forgo details about your approach or the deliverables. If the client has done their research, they should already know how your services will fit with their business needs.
     
  12. Don’t explain the governance of the project. You might give the client a good understanding of the roles and responsibilities of the different parties involved. This would give the client the elements to estimate their internal cost for the project; see point 9 above.
     
  13. When you change the pricing, don’t say so. Especially when it goes up! Clients love hidden surprises, almost as much as they love egg hunts.
     
  14. Don’t talk about timelines or milestones. It is very often a minor subject for your client. Focus on how this is going to be a long-term relationship with no clear results or predictable costs. That will reassure your clients that you have everything under control.
  1. Send the proposal by email, and wait for the client’s answer. Don’t give them the chance to ask questions. You could end up having to rework the proposal. What a waste of time!
     
  2. Ignore the timeline explained in the RFP. The client will not include that element in the evaluation, unless you actually think they need your services in a timely fashion.
     
  3. Use psychedelic color schemes. The tie-dye theme was a great hit at your seventies party. Your clients will love it too!
     
  4. Don’t ask questions. You already know their business. Why would you waste all that time and energy? You are the consultant, and they’re here to learn from you, right?
     
  5. Provide solutions to issues not found in the RFP. After all, you know their industry/product/market better than they do. Why not “wow” them with your prescient ability to create solutions in areas without any problems?
     
  6. Don’t listen to the client. Listening to the client talk about their needs is a pain. You might have to collect more information or even have to rework your proposal to better meet their expectations.
     
  7. Base your price upon a client’s ability to pay. Larger companies can pay more. It’s not like they picked you because they thought you would offer a better price, right?
     
  8. The longer, the better. Need we say more?
     
  9. Give them a long, comprehensive overview of your company. The client really needs to understand who you are, as a company, before anything else. You’ll get extra points if they fall asleep.
     
  10. Don’t demonstrate an understanding of the scope and goals. Go directly to the pricing section. That’s what really matters to the client.
     
  11. Offer them the moon. Sure, you know that you can’t actually deliver the customer a 500% return on their investment in the first 6 months, but hey, the customer is really excited about that guarantee.

Okay. So, you get the idea. This list could go on and on, but these points are starting to sound like variations on a theme. (Speaking of variations, if you have never listened to the Paul Simon song this post is parodying, enjoy.)

In truth, these points are guaranteed ways to start a bad consulting relationship and probable ways to never start one. Some of them are even possible causes for litigation. The best way to avoid them is to do these 5 simple things: ­

  • Customize ­your presentation for each client. Every time.
  • Work on the form ­of your presentation. People are visual, visuals do matter.
  • Be clear on how you will do the work. Definitions and roles give everyone guidelines on how to move forward.
  • Be transparent about the pricing. Customers really don’t like hidden prices, and it’s not like an easter egg hunt.
  • Start working the relationship with the client. Communicate, listen, ask questions, and understand that this is their business. Your job is to help their business succeed.

Do these five simple tasks and you can avoid any number of ways people ruin their proposals.

What Is the Right Size for Your Consulting Team?

What Is the Right Size for Your Consulting Team?

A consulting firm is a dynamic organization that is vulnerable to the fluctuations of the business cycle. New projects come and go, and the people who staff your firm tend to change over time. While you may not have current problems with recruitment, finding the appropriate level of staffing is tricky. A major economic event could shift the entire market, meaning that your company might quickly lose or gain projects that affect your staffing scheme. Whether you have too many staff on hand or not enough, firms rarely end up in the middle with the perfect number of consultants.

Due to unpredictable economic changes, it’s important to have a flexible staffing plan that accounts for factors affecting your firm’s optimal size, taking into account the structure of the business and the market demand. The appropriate level of staffing is not an issue that will go away. With too many consultants, you could lose profitability in the case of headwinds. Without enough consultants, your firm could miss important opportunities to grow and profit. In addition, having excess staff could mean that your firm accepts projects for which it isn’t qualified, which creates the risk of damaging your credibility. In a consulting firm, delivering great value and return on investment for your clients is a must have, but the key to profitability is finding the size and cost structure that works for you.

Optimizing the risk rewards equation

The driver for profitability, in all asset intensive businesses, is optimizing the utilization of the assets. Consulting, despite being asset light from a tangible asset standpoint carries the bulk of its costs through salaries and follows the same rule as consultants on the payroll also generate the value. This means that you need to find the right trade off to get the maximum economical performance results from the utilization of each employee, without overextending your human capital budget.

Besides sizing, finding the right equilibrium between base salary and bonus Is very often an underestimated lever. Many consultancies consider the total compensation as a fixed cost and link the bonuses to the quality of delivery without taking advantage of the flexibility it could provide.

Tying part of the bonus calculation to the economic profitability of the firm can not only mitigate partially the risk of the downturn but also drive the right behaviors from your consulting staff.

Another lever can be, to change the ratio between base salary and bonus to lower the guaranteed amount but grant higher rewards if the firm is doing well. This is a deal that many young consultants are more than willing to take as it mimics the classical partner structure the aspire to.

Sizing for the Unexpected

Just like staffing for any business, maintaining the right number of employees directly affects your profitability. Keep in mind that, once you have people on the payroll, you measure profitability by what remains after their checks clear your company bank account.

Your firm makes a financial obligation to employees, at least in the short term, by offering ongoing employment and perhaps benefits and perquisites. When you extend your budget for a certain number of staff, financial issues and downsizing might threaten your ability to keep them on the payroll. Or worse, the pressure to keep up with your payroll needs could lead you to unscrupulous or deviant behaviors to capture new business.

You cannot always predict an economic downturn. Because of this, your firm should add new employees in stages, so as not to overextend the payroll budget. It’s always easier to hire new consultants than it is to fire them, so be prudent. If you do have to begin downsizing, you run the risk of blemishing your firm’s reputation and damaging relationships with your consultants.

Investing in Non  Production activities

When reviewing you sizing assumptions it is important to anticipate that not all days will be productive. First by design as assignments usually don’t align themselves to optimize your own schedule. Second as you need to dedicate some time to other activities that are key for the sustainability of your company. Those activities will range from commercial and networking to more knowledge related tasks on research, capitalization, thought leadership and knowledge sharing. This layer in your resource planning is extremely important as it will condition your ability to bring something fresh to your clients and also your flexibility to move from one contract to another.

Preparing for good news

Once you have defined the minimum size and added some resources to handle other activities, choosing the right size for a consulting firm is still not an exact science. As it turns out, with a sizing like this you might be unable to take additional projects and therefore to grow your business.

The secret formula lies somewhere in the ideal balance between internal and external resources. This means that you have enough full-time consultants on staff to provide stability and to inspire client confidence. While at the same time, you have successful partnerships with external organizations and individuals to meet the requirements of special projects on schedule.

You want the size of the staff to meet the level of projected demand. You also want your company to build a network of value partners and qualified subcontractors. This enables your firm to augment consulting staff when the demand for all projects exceeds your internal capacity. When you accept new projects, you can temporarily take on extra consultants. Later, you can scale down to the usual team size, especially after those extra projects are completed. Unless in the frame of a deliberate strategic move, none of your projects should extend your firm too far beyond its core competencies.

Partnering With Qualified Staff

While you may rely on external consultants, you must also ensure that each of these resources possesses the right skillset for the job. Not every consultant will have the appropriate qualifications for each new project. You may need a diverse recruitment strategy to attract subcontractors who can augment your operations.

Beyond the optimization of your cost base and the proper management of your company’s risk profile, working with external partners creates new business opportunities. When you expand your professional network, you can pitch new business. Your additional partners can bring capabilities that are complimentary to your core business. At first, this may seem like conflicting advice, but your firm should begin by adding partners with capabilities that closely relate to your core competencies.

While you could augment your staff through relationships with other firms around the world, it’s important to choose those located in countries or regions that offer your company the biggest competitive advantage. The intent is to win new business. This occurs, in part, by attracting the interest of the companies that are familiar with your new business partners.

Finally Answering the Question: What is the Right Size for Your Consulting Team?

Your firm will eventually adjust the number of staff, hopefully to include more consultants. This will mean that the pessimistic scenario is improving and that you are actually growing your activities in a sustainable way. Even though financial challenges may arise, you will agree that the best time to add more human assets is when things are going well. When your company is successfully completing its current projects and attracting more projects and your worst case scenario in term of planning can cover your internal staff it may be time to consider adding at least a few consultants to your team. In essence, you are scaling up to prepare for future growth while managing risks. Looking at your teams and discussing the capabilities needed for new opportunities, as well as factoring in the use of qualified partners and subcontractors, will help you to optimize your consulting set-up.

Balancing your current resources, while leveraging partnerships, doesn’t mean you need to fundamentally change your recruitment plan but those adjustments can make all the difference on your balance sheet, reduce risk, provide higher rewards to your employees and open up new opportunities to fuel your growth

How to Step Up Your Commercial and Delivery Performance: A Key Lesson from the Big Guys

How to Step Up Your Commercial and Delivery Performance: A Key Lesson from the Big Guys

What is it that truly differentiates the commercial and delivery performance of consulting firms and that of the “big guys,” the large consulting firms?

It isn’t expertise. Your firm likely was founded by a former corporate senior partner or experienced corporate executive who has the skillset, experience, and seniority to offer high quality deliverables to clients. That background already confers on your founder and your firm all the credibility clients seek.

So what’s missing?

In addition to front-line expertise, the largest firms have a back office depth that provides a greater commercial edge. That back office support boosts the quality and speed of the firms’ deliverables by providing consultants and partners with a whole host of immediate, simultaneous functions:

  • research on prospective clients
  • the ability to improve slides overnight
  • checking and proofing documents
  • running online surveys and research
  • liaising with experts to investigate specific topics

If those support functions and their associated fixed costs seem out of reach for your consulting firm, we have great news: there are now specialized firms geared towards helping you step up your commercial and delivery performance by supplying the immediate back office services that will enable you to level the playing field and gain that competitive edge at a practical cost.

After all, you help your clients optimize their ROI by more efficient and effective alignment of costs and time. You now are able to do the same for your consulting firm by outsourcing cost-effective back office functions—which enables the optimal alignment of costs and time of your senior consultants.

 

The Juggling Act

 

It is a given that managing a successful consulting firm is a veritable juggling act, requiring a versatile skill-set that begins with deep expertise in your field, of course, but that is not sufficient.

  • Your proficiency needs to extend to both production and commercial activities.
  • You need to consistently maintain the highest standards in the quality of your deliverables.
  • At the same time, you need to juggle handling the high value-added work and the basic, elementary tasks of running your business, while keeping up with all the texts, calls, tweets, and emails.

All that juggling now takes place in a global business environment that drives client enterprises to squeeze more efficiency out of each work day, comply with evolving regulatory targets, get innovative, outsource more, and in general, work harder and faster to stay competitive. All that translates into more and more exciting and lucrative opportunities for consulting firms.

Unfortunately, as you no doubt have noticed, there is no magic wand to increase the number of hours in a consulting day. Finding ways to maximize your commercial and delivery performance, while imperative, is not easy—but it can be done by taking a page out of the big guys’ playbook.

 

Optimizing Productivity the Smart Way

 

Large consulting firms have found the formula that works to optimize the productivity of their partners and consultants: they free their frontline consultants from getting bogged down in handling all the basic and repetitive back office tasks. That freedom enables the consultants and partners to concentrate their time and effort on the high value-added activities, which optimizes productivity the smart way.

Here are just a few of the numerous tasks that the large firms transfer to their back office support team:

  • Enhancing the quality of the firm’s deliverables: accessing the slide template library, sending the slide deck overnight for a makeover in India, checking and proofreading documents for clients, and procuring translation services for documents and slides to be distributed multi-nationally.
  • Research activities: Verbatim analysis of computer-assisted interviews, proprietary online surveys, interviews and focus groups, accessing the network of experts; and reviewing breaking news in the client’s field.
  • Commercial tasks: review media related to client work, check recent stock price trends for the client and competitors, review analysts’ evaluations of the client and the field, and (a key one) prepare a new complete slide deck for a critical next-day meeting.

Stop for one moment and imagine what a boost your commercial and delivery performance would get from delegating many of these tasks. The result? The optimum alignment of cost and time in your consulting firm.

 

Outsourcing Your Back Office Tasks

 

Let’s say that you are on the verge of deciding to pivot to outsourcing your back office tasks to the right partner. Your immediate questions at this point are: who to turn to, and can your firm afford to do it?

Good questions. First, it is important to note that several firms are out there proposing to cover your support tasks for you. Identifying the one that meshes with your value proposition, your timeframes, your culture, and your vision will require a significant initial output of time, cost, and lost assignment opportunities during the vetting and start-up process.

There is a way to manage the outsourcing, however, that will make the pivot more attractive to boutique firms: pooling the back office task needs of multiple medium size consulting firms.

Pooling enables you to access those support services at an affordable price—which also enables you to control your budget and manage your financial risk.

 

Get Your Competitive Edge On

 

By leveraging this specialization of tasks, large consulting firms have achieved a significant competitive advantage. But those services are now within reach of firms like yours—and would offer you the boost you need to step up your game, differentiate your firm from the crowd, and get your competitive edge on.

So the only question left is…what are you waiting for?

Should Management Consultants Measure Their Performance

Should Management Consultants Measure Their Performance

In God we trust; all others must bring data:

As consultants hammer home to their clients, the only way to prove that you are good is to bring the proof, the data. Paradoxically, however, they don’t apply that sound principle to their own shops. Management consulting has always been something of an informal business when it comes to measuring and proving its own impact.  Daniel McGinn, a senior editor of Harvard Business Review writing in the magazine’s September 2013 issue, described consulting as a “black box.” And because there is no widely accepted, objective methodology for measuring consulting, the management consulting firms that attempt to create measures are inventing their own recipe.

Most firms measure their performance through the volume of sales and re-sales per consultant. Partners thus are encouraged to bring in more revenue and conduct projects which, instead of fully meeting the client’s needs at the outset, lead to further projects without necessarily cultivating good long-term relationships with the clients.  And then there are the Attila-the-Hun type of consultants who pursue a scorched-earth policy, wringing as much revenue from the client as quickly as possible and then moving to the next target while being handsomely compensated for it. Some firms attempt a cross-partner evaluation, whereby a partner surveys a colleague’s clients to gauge their satisfaction.  The result is often a quid pro quo in which the evaluator returns a favorable report on the colleague’s performance in hopes of being included in the colleague’s next big project. In addition, many consulting firms are organized as partnerships, which encourages individualistic and short-term behavior that works against long-term relationships, specialized expertise, and team play.

Measure what is measurable, and make measurable what is not

Even though production in management consulting appears to be mostly intangible, there are still dimensions that can be measured based on the expectations of the clients.  Those dimensions include:

Commercial Approach. Was the client convinced by your proposal? Your pitch? Was your proposal in line with the client’s expectations?

Relationship. How well do your consultants do with the clients and their teams? What image do clients have of your company? Collegial? Honest? Trustworthy?

Expertise. How is your expertise perceived by the client? What were their expectations?

Delivery posture. How does the client perceive your posture? Are you available? Flexible?

Project Management. How did you perform on the traditional triad: scope, time, and cost?

Impact. What impact did you work have on your client’s organization in terms of savings, ROI, change, and the like?

Client satisfaction. Is the client satisfied overall with your company?

But evaluation shouldn’t stop there.  You need to assess performance at the right degree of granularity. Evaluating the company performance as a whole won’t allow you to identify the partners’ blind spots and to surface best practices. And going down to the consultant level will be very hard to organize (and consequently very costly) in exchange for little in the way of extra value.

However, if you are evaluated using the same methodology used on similar firms offering the same range of services, then you can benchmark yourself internally and against the competition.  Such benchmarking is invaluable in terms of positioning and strategy.  All that is required is an independent organization that can conduct your evaluations.  Such independence provides the objectivity and the confidentiality needed to get candid feedback from your clients, a fair assessment of your partners, and an accurate comparison with your competitors.

To measure is to know

Once all of the relevant dimensions have been measured, you will have a wealth of inputs that your firm can use to:

Understand. One key element of the business is to understand your client expectations and whether your work met their needs.  Sometimes client expectations may be explicit, like a specific type of expertise.  Or they can be implicit expectations like trustworthiness, ethical behavior, or active listening on your part.  The ability to hone in on those expectations, both explicit and implicit, confers significant competitive advantage.

Strategize. Evaluation will give you greater insight into your strengths and weaknesses and help you evaluate the effectiveness of your value proposition and your strategy. You can also gauge your performance in each of the various segments you serve. 

Learn. Identifying best practices and capitalizing on experience can spur innovation. Evaluation can also help you identify your partners’ blind spots and gain a better understanding of your firm’s ecosystem.

Improve. Assessment also provides a better understanding of how you perform in each of the different steps of your process: matching the right partner or team with the project, the proposal, delivery posture, project management, team composition, and impact. You then have the keys to improving on the dimensions important to your clients.

Manage. Knowing your clients’ specific needs enables you to continuously improve your performance, build better offerings and teams, and increase your success rate. But evaluation can also be a key tool for talent management, giving you valuable insights into your employees and enabling you to better manage their development and compensation in an industry where attracting and retaining talent is essential.

By changing nothing, nothing changes

Used wisely, performance evaluation can help you capitalize on strengths and mitigate weaknesses.  And it could be easier to implement than you think.

Why?

It doesn’t cost a thing.  The cost of evaluating a client engagement represents only a negligible percentage of the engagement’s revenue.

It’s already there. You are already evaluated by your client (informally), and your clients are familiar with evaluation processes.

Think ROI. Your return on investment is highly positive.

You can use an objective evaluation to build your reputation, enhance your credibility, strengthen your relationship with existing clients, and enlarge your portfolio.

In a nutshell, evaluating your performance will enable you to guarantee a certain level of performance, build loyalty, and improve your success rate.

So what are you waiting for?

To discuss further, contact Hélène Laffitte, helene.laffitte@consultingquest.com

7 Impactful Strategies For Pitching Your Team’s Proposal

7 Impactful Strategies For Pitching Your Team’s Proposal

Your proposal is ready. Your team has researched, brainstormed, written, and designed the proposal to perfection.  And you’re pretty sure that you can do an amazing job on the project you’re writing about. Once the client has read your proposal, they’ll see that you’re the consulting team for the job.

Unfortunately, just sending a proposal doesn’t guarantee that it’ll be read. Proposals tend to be hefty things and most people have a lot to do with their time. They may not get the chance to read the whole proposal cover to cover. In fact, they may just skim through it, skip to the pricing section, or only read half of it, if other obligations arise.

In order to make sure that you get your ideas through to your audience, you can’t rely only on the written material. It’s also a good idea to make a verbal pitch. Before you make the pitch, keep these pointers in mind:

  • Present the members of your team to spark the interest of your client and really build your credibility.

  • If you’ve misunderstood the needs of your client—that’s OK. You can always re-evaluate and get back on track.

While most of us are more comfortable sending out written material than we are standing in front of an audience and presenting our ideas, having your team pitch its proposal can be incredibly effective.  Here are our top five tips to present your proposal and to impact your audience:

1. Don’t forget that it’s all about the client.

It’s tempting to devote time to talking about your background and your achievements—don’t. Take advantage of the time you have with the client to ask questions and provide further clarifications about your proposal.

If you feel that the proposal went slightly off-track, don’t be afraid to adjust and take it in a different direction. These meetings are great opportunities to co-construct with your client, according to her requirements. Take advantage of the time and to really home in on the client’s needs and create the buy-in.

2. Be mindful of the selection process.

Every company will define its own criteria to select the best consultant for its unique needs. During your proposal, you must make sure that you fulfill as many of those criteria as possible. If you do, you’ll maximize your chances of earning the project. There are several key points that almost every client will want to hear about, so make sure that you address them:

  • Deliverables: Be clear about what you will deliver to the client.

  • Impact: What will your impact be? Will your impact be made on the bottom line? On the teams?

  • Differentiation: What makes you the right consultant for the project?

Ask your contact or procurement beforehand if there are other important points you should address.

3. Know your proposal inside and out.  

This may seem like a given, but the better your team knows its main talking points, the more confident you’ll be when you’re actually in the pitch. Before the actual pitch, try going over all of the main points out loud, so you can find any areas that could be better clarified.

Make sure that you know your parts, and that every team member knows his parts, too. Take reassurance in the fact that this is a collaborative effort, and that your teammates wil be there to field questions with you.

The bottom line is that the better everyone knows all parts of the proposal, the more confident you’ll all feel while you’re making your presentation.

4. Tell a story.  

People are always more interested in stories than they are in facts and figures. Even if the facts and figures are impressive, a story is much more likely to grab an audience’s attention and keep it.  

 

Stories work because at the heart of every story is the main character. A story involves people who look, think, and act like us. We’re always curious about what other people are like and what they’re thinking and feeling. So if you can make a point with a story, your team is sure to grab the audience.  

 

The story can be a simple one about how you went about implementing your ideas at a company, or it can be taken from historical and news sources. In general, if you find the story interesting, your audience will, too. A pitch is your team’s chance to impress and interest the audience with a story they can relate to.

 

5. Remember that a picture is worth a thousand words.  

Whether you believe in this saying or not, there’s no harm in using a few pictures along with all the written words in your proposal. This is easily done nowadays with the help of programs like PowerPoint.

 

Choose your pictures carefully. As per this article from Sitepoint, it’s possible to put your audience to sleep with too many charts and graphs. Of course, if your chart or graph makes an important, dramatic point, such as how changes like the one you’re suggesting have greatly increased revenue for other organizations in the past, you need to show your audience this.  

 

Overall, the images that work the best are the ones that people can easily relate to. If you’re suggesting a human-resources overhaul, you can use a couple of images of happy, smiling employees. This might seem too simple, but people respond positively to smiling faces and images depicting health and happiness.

 

6. Be humorous—but cautious.

Making people laugh can also help you to pitch your proposal. Make sure that none of your jokes are made at anyone’s expense. It’s hard to stay politically correct when it comes to humor, but a verbal presentation of a proposal is no place to challenge people’s norms!  So keep your jokes as harmless as possible.  

 

At the same time, there’s not much point in using a joke unless it is actually funny, and maybe even a little edgy. Have your team test out the jokes with friends and colleagues before you use them in your pitch. You don’t want your audience groaning when your punch line comes around.

 

7. Keep it short.  

This is a good rule to follow both for pitching proposals, and for writing them. Most good writers will tell you that writing concisely is the most difficult task. Delete everything that’s not necessary. Of course, this can be hard to do, because everyone falls in love with their own writing.

 

Make your pitch exciting, dramatic, informative, and short.  Pour as much as you can into the time you’ve allotted yourselves. Choose the points you’re going to emphasize with care and explain them fully. If your audience wants to know more, they can always read the proposal.

 

Try to think about your pitch from someone else’s point of view, so that you can remove any unnecessary talking points. No one wants to listen to an hour-long monologue. In short, your pitching material is different from your detailed proposal.