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21 October 2021    |    Blog

Pitch perfect

Pitching for work can be a stressful, time consuming and lonely business for specialist consultants like us. How do we strike that elusive balance to become pitch perfect?

Pitching for work can be a stressful,  time consuming and lonely business for specialist consultants like us. There have been moments recently where I sought out advice to see if I could be more effective when it comes to actually getting some work.

I’ve run my consultancy business since January 2018 and been part of Consultants for Good since the summer of 2019. I’ve always been a networker, I enjoy meeting people, can certainly can be relied upon to organise a decent party, so it probably comes as no surprise that throughout my consultancy career, I’ve sought out the opinions of others as I built my business. I have to say, my fellow consultants have always rallied to my call.

Recently, I posted on the Consultants for Good Facebook group to see what good practice could be shared when it comes to managing client expectations. I wanted to know how we, as consultants, can enable our clients to effectively manage their pitching or proposal processes.

In September, I was in the lucky position of being asked to quote for plenty of work and my immediate instinct was to respond in a timely and effective manner to each prospective client. But having been through these processes a number of times now, I know that ultimately there’s a fine balance to be struck between providing enough information to ascertain if you’re a good match and spending all your time quoting for work.

The Facebook Group discussion led to a lunch and learn networking session a few weeks later, hosted by Karen Morton and I, and these were some of the key findings:

  1. Set boundaries around timelines. This includes your own availability throughout the pitching process as well as during the contract if you’re successful. It is also imperative to ask the charity what their timelines are so you know if you can deliver what they need.
  2. Ask the charity what exactly they expect to see in pitching documents. It’s really important to gain a sense of how much they need to know about you and your approach. This enables to you work out the time needed to allocate to pitching, and subsequently if you actually want or are able to pitch.
  3. Don’t be afraid to talk money. Charities don’t always have a budget in mind so ask them to clarify that. You can then explain what you can offer for that amount.
  4. Find out if the charity is talking to any other supplier. Charities are of course perfectly entitled to seek tenders and proposals from several bidders, but having awareness of the level of competition may well help you mange your pipeline of work and assess the probability of getting the brief
  5. Providing pro-bono work or simply volunteering your time because you want to, is a matter of personal choice. Reflecting on how much time you can allocate to personal interest projects is be a useful task especially when it comes to finding the balance between professional satisfaction and paying your bills.
  6. Remember to diversify the way you get work. We held a poll at the lunch and learn session which listed a range of different routes for getting work from recommendation from existing contacts, new requests from previous clients, tendering/bidding alone or with others, or as sub-contractees of funders or bigger firms – most of us have tried everything!

I’m still learning my way as a consultant, and Karen has been a consultant for 18 years, but one thing we’re agreed on is that networking plays a vital role in helping us learn from our peers. Consultants for Good members are particularly generous with their time and support, so I hope to continue benefitting from your wisdom at future events and in our online chats.

Blog by CfG member Fidelis Navas