Leverage proposal management solutions to improve pitches

A woman points at a monitor and shows her colleagues graphs and other data

Creating successful, personalized pitches for clients is challenging for many professional services firms — especially if they don’t have the proper technology and processes in place. Intapp and QorusDocs recently hosted a panel discussion, “The Impact of Technology on Pitching in Professional Services,” that focused on this common firm challenge. Sunny Bane, Director of Knowledge Technology at DLA Piper; Brian Conway, Solutions Lead for Marketing and Business Development at Intapp; and Nora Navin, a business development leader, discussed how technology can increase productivity and get more pursuits across the finish line.

Create better content faster with technology

During the panel discussion, Navin polled attendees on their organizations’ adoption and use of technology to aid the pitch and pursuit process. Attendees were asked to select all that apply, and the poll results showed significant technology usage:

  • 54% — Currently using an experience or CRM platform
  • 43% — Getting the content and process organized
  • 43% — Currently using a proposal software solution
  • 36% — Considering implementing technology

Although the majority of attendees were using various technologies to support their pursuit processes, Conway noted that many firms have yet to invest in dedicated proposal management solutions — and that at most, these firms may have only a platform to store content that they can reuse for future pitches. As the 2022 QorusDocs Benchmark Research shows, professional services firms reuse, on average, more than 60% of content when responding to requests, and create less than 40% of content from scratch.

Reusing content can be a good way to save time, but it carries risk as well: Data and other information can quickly become outdated and stale, and your pitches can appear impersonal to your clients. What’s more, finding the right content to reuse can be difficult without a proper proposal management solution. Conway recalled speaking with a representative from an Am Law 50 firm who spent around 50% of his time looking for content for pitches, finding answers for lawyers, and reformatting proposal documents.

“Imagine if you could redeploy all those resources back to more strategic areas that are actually going to help you win more business,” Conway said.

Your professional services firm needs a solution that both stores and tags content so you can easily find the information you need, update it as necessary, and tailor it for your various clients. You’ll be able to create better quality pitches at a faster rate and stay ahead of your competition.

Increase visibility and generate smarter outputs

Professional services firms can’t create quality pitches without first gathering key data. Bane shared how DLA Piper created a custom pitch-intake questionnaire to gather as much crucial information upfront as possible, such as a client’s practice and sector, whether the client is an existing client, and whether the firm is currently working on any other pitch work for that client. The form then goes into DLA Piper’s CRM, which immediately tracks the data.

“We also had that form automatically submit to our conflicts team so it can go through a preliminary conflicts check,” Bane added. “[That way,] we’re not wasting our time pitching to someone [whose business we can’t accept]. … It makes the whole process far more efficient right up front.”

Having visibility into this data not only helps firms make decisions at the onset; it also lets firms examine past pitches to determine which ones were successful for which clients. Firms can then build better pitches in the future and improve their pricing strategies.

Proposal management solutions can also analyze tagged data to reveal various connections between other deals, matters, representative clients, and experts. This is especially beneficial for lawyers who are constantly searching for new connections and opportunities.

Of course, some of your professionals may be hesitant to adopt a new management solution, which is why Navin advises firm leaders to enlist the help of champions and early adopters of the system. These advocates can highlight the benefits and values of the new technology to encourage firmwide adoption.

Be selective when presenting experience-related content

When pitching to clients, you’re selling much more than a product or service. “Pitching in professionals services is selling your partners and their experience,” explained Navin. For that reason, professional services firms often include lengthy bios and CVs in their pitches to prove that their partners are the right people for the job.

Unfortunately, very few clients actually read these bios and CVs; instead, they prefer to read information around methodology, pricing, and the executive summary. Rather than spending time writing and rewriting your many verbose partner bios, your firm should focus on providing as much information as possible on the topics that matter most to your clients.

Additionally, be sure your pitch focuses on the lawyers and team members who are best suited to work on the client’s specific matter. You should try to tailor their bios to show how their experience relates to the matter — as opposed to providing a generic CV. To ensure all experience information and metadata is up to date and easily accessible, Bane advises implementing an experience database.

Evaluate processes and past pitches to complete more pursuits

Navin revealed that 10% to 20% of pitches are turned in late or not completed at all — and most firms are unsure as to why. Bane suggests that firms conduct process mapping and evaluate their workflow to determine what is stopping their pitches from crossing the finish line.

“Is it because the partners are nonresponsive?” Bane asked. “How can you mitigate that? Or is it because communication isn’t clear on what the deadlines are? Or are you not getting a heads up about [the deadline] early enough in the process? Every firm is going to have a different answer.”

“Having feedback loops is really important,” added Conway, since business development teams often don’t learn of the results of their pitches. Instead, firms tend to focus on the number of wins and losses, rather than which content helped make a pitch successful. Without this information, teams can’t learn from their experiences and improve future pitches.

By investing in content management technology, you can help your teams better understand what makes a successful pitch and move your pursuits across the finish line. You’ll be able to track content, usage, and engagement to determine what information is most important to your clients.

Improve productivity without sacrificing personalization

Firms want to take on as many opportunities as quickly as possible, and having a database can help by giving users easy access to the information they need to create pitches. At the same time, though, firms also need to ensure that they don’t sacrifice the quality of their pitches for quantity.

“Tech can absolutely move the needle on productivity,” Conway said. “But it’s important that you don’t lose the personalization factor.” He explained that firms need to combine their data with creativity: Rather than using the same data and content for each pitch, tailor your templates or wording so you can present the data to the client in a more personalized way. Clients will be more likely to do business with you if they believe your firm truly understands their goals.

Watch the full panel discussion to learn more about leveraging proposal management software.