The Art of the Pitch: competing for new clients through professional relationship building

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If your clients and prospective clients want to meet you, how should you tailor your approach? While banking online and through mobile apps has become ‘the norm’ in the 2020s, some segments still need a personal approach. This is more noticeable in sectors where a standard offering does not go far enough for some client needs, such as wealth management and in handling unusual client requirements.

My work with wealth managers has revealed that their world,  which used to be a stream of ‘beauty parades’ (disgusting phrase, their words),  is still people focused. They still need to present themselves to new clients, possibly alongside competitors, and naturally this can happen online or face to face.

Hard data in this area is difficult to come by, not least because of the need for client confidentiality and also that some institutions have different approaches.  Yet my work in training and coaching financial services professionals in sales, presentations and pitching reveals a number of common areas for improvement: attention to how you present yourself, what you say, and how it comes across.

The thread running through them is ensuring your behaviour is tilted towards building trust and relationship, through which you will land more business

Here are some key areas to focus on when preparing and presenting your pitch.

  • It’s about the client, not you. Coming across client focused claims on marketing material and websites is easy enough, yet the client contact reality may fall short. While a brief – one line – introduction about your firm might be acceptable, a pack of PowerPoint about how many millions/billions you manage, how many staff you have, how smart your offices are looks out of date. It is also the same type of information your competitors can transmit, and most clients do not care about. Such ‘hard facts ‘are not where the competitive edge lies.
    Instead tailor your approach to the client, what you think their needs are, and involve them in a conversation with questions to test their exact requirements. This is not just KYC but managing your approach to match your offer to the client, while demonstrating -not just saying – your client focus. One test for this: have you used your PowerPoint deck with another client? Second test: can you do it without the slides?
  • Where’s your difference? If you view the websites of a selection of wealth managers and financial services firms, you will notice similar language, subtly altered through an intersection with uplifting images courtesy of someone creative in marketing. Yet the reason you will be pitching is because the client is looking at the people in your firm and the relationship they want to build, summarised into the short but crucial ‘fit’. Most experienced financial services professionals can do great research, active investment management and discretionary management. Even suggesting ‘it depends on the client’ may not mark you out positively from your competitors. Remember too that reliance on ‘star managers’ is different post Woodford. Demonstrating differences in intangible services will always present a challenge, and the challenge is to show what you do or how you do it works for the client in front of you. One option is through case studies of portfolios managed – fully anonymised of course – focusing on the outcomes for the client, not just portfolio performance.
  • It may be more than just money – among the wealth managers I have worked with over the last year all reported that clients are at least aware, and a majority interested in, elements of Environmental Social & Governance (ESG) issues when investing. This provides an opportunity for differentiation as not every client is necessarily interested in all of ESG: they may favour the E or the S more than other factors. With some charity clients the G element can demand more attention too. Part of the ‘art’ here is using your client meetings to actively listen to what is most important to them, and professionally question their approach to help them find their priorities. A consultative approach as a part of a presentation or pitch
  • What is value to the client? As a professional you will easily work out the value of the client to you, but repositioning this as where you add value to the client will be more successful in a pitch. Once more this requires an enquiring approach rather than emphasising what firm you are: this enables you then to connect how you can help the client more precisely.
  • How do they want to see you? – even if some consider us post pandemic, do not be surprised by a last-minute switch of face-to-face meeting to go online. In my experience it is rarely the other way round. When pitching online resist the temptation to use your laptop on the kitchen table, or even the conference facilities in the board room. Some of the latter can position you too far from the camera so that your board room may be seen – but not your eyes and face. Technologically a good-sized screen with separate camera at eye level and separate microphone remains the optimal online approach, and in a ‘team ‘situation ensure all have a similar set up. The ABC (Appearance, Behaviour, Communication) of first impressions stays relevant: which is also good reason for the next point….
  • Practice – if fellow professionals in sports and arts practice and rehearse, take that as a clue about your own approach. A practice session need not take longer than a normal meeting but combined with feedback from your peers and can enable you to come across more confidently because you already know where you expect the meeting to go. Inevitably the reality will be different but running an important pitch in advance prevents nerves and helps you look professional, not least because in practicing you have behaved like a professional.

These points will help you progress you pitch and client approach. The thread running through them is ensuring your behaviour is tilted towards building trust and relationship, through which you will land more business. Your clients know that too – which is why they may hate your slides, but still love you and your firm.

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I help businesses to develop and grow by delivering high quality, interactive and tailored training workshops that give managers & business leaders the knowledge, skills and confidence to build their services, brands and people to achieve greater success.

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