Banking Pitches - The Challenge of Differentiation.


You've probably heard the stories: pitching to a burger-business dressed in a Mc-Uniform, or a transport sector IPO as a train driver. It’s possible you might demonstrate you have a sense of humour, and at a stretch, that you'll go the extra mile, but trivialising a defining moment in a management team's career can be a difficult start to establishing credibility.




So, what is the secret to differentiating yourself in a competitive pitch? Unfortunately, unless you have a devastatingly insightful proprietary idea, often many bankers come to the same conclusions on their advantages... and even their proposed solution. Worse, as people leave one bank and take their experiences to the next, consensus approaches form. Couple this with the understandable ‘cut and paste’ effect; clients can have difficulty telling pitches from one another. “You’re a great business / M&A perspectives / recommended process / valuation drivers / our experience”… this may be familiar to you.


Really, differentiating yourself is 99% perspiration, and 1% inspiration, to paraphrase Thomas Edison. It’s far better to focus on the aggregation of small gains, than a knock-out gimmick. Fortunately, much of that ‘perspiration’ is already complete, because it’s your day-to-day business. Most bankers have built good relationships with the clients that they hope to win, and know a great deal about their business, situation, and market. But – that’s not enough – several others will have equal and maybe better knowledge and relationships.


The difference between a 'cookie-cutter' pitch and great pitch, is whether you spend at least some time applying your understanding of your client’s point of view to the words you actually say. Even better, you consider the likely arguments of your competitors, and set your strengths in that context. Thinking through your pitch with a rigorous focus on ‘what’s in it for my client’, and then making sure that’s the first thing you say when you present it, is a discipline that is surprisingly easy once you look at it in a methodical way. It’s amazing how a pitch that has been consistently solved for this consideration stands out.


Finally, that elusive 1% inspiration. Although distracting from the business of having a disciplined approach, it's what can win the occasional pitch that you shouldn’t have won. When you decide to take a more radical approach, you're pitching to win, rather than to avoid being eliminated. But it rarely comes from a gimmick, rather from understanding precisely what the wants and fears of each individual on the buying team are, and then finding a fresh way to make them think about them. Aim to create the ‘what else don’t I know’ effect. It often feels uncomfortable to challenge their perspective, and it isn’t easy to get right. However by good planning, that gem is often somewhere in the ‘little grey cells’ – it remains just to find it.