Winning a new business pitch – Play along or dare to be different?

So there we were, one of seven insurance brokers invited to pitch for the insurance broking appointment of a leading asset management company.  The company had been with the same insurance broker for donkeys’ years and were, by their own admission, ‘looking to see what was out there’.  We didn’t think they were terribly serious.

Our thoughts were fairly well justified when we received their Request for Proposal (RFP) document.  The accompanying data they supplied provided very minimal information on which to provide a knockout account winning response and yet they required all participating insurance brokers to go into very granular detail about insurance programme design, wordings and cost etc. 

At the time we very respectfully petitioned the client about possibly modifying the process and the outcomes they were looking for.  We even asked for more information, only to be met by the stock response ‘in the name of fairness and equity we can’t share any additional information with just one firm’.

The feeling in the office was one of frustration.  Here was a real quality business that we were certain we could help, however the nature of the process was a real turn off – six other insurance brokers indeed!  This fact alone was usually enough for us to walk away.

I for one have never subscribed to the belief held in some broking quarters that ‘you’ve got to be in it to win it’.  This National Lottery approach to successful new business acquisition was just too hit and miss and most of all too costly for my liking.

Anyway after some soul searching and inspiration courtesy of Sauvignon Blanc, my team and I decided to participate and go hell for leather to win the account. To do this we determined that our approach would be bold (or as bold as you can be in insurance), not consume lots of our time (treat this as an experiment) and be very straightforward.  Here’s what we did…

We made a calculated guess that the other insurance brokers pitching for the account would be, as is sometimes the situation, so flattered by the invitation to pitch for the clients business (there was the scent of blood in the water after all) that they simply would participate without challenging the client over their RFP process.

Now assumptions are always dangerous things to make, but thankfully, all of the other brokers participating acted true to form, didn’t question the process, and jumped straight to talking about detail, layers, wordings, indicative costs etc (without having the hard data to do so).

Fireside style conversational presentation:  In order to win we knew we were going to have to build trust and confidence and do it very quickly.  It was like a form of insurance ‘speed dating’.  We had met the CFO just once before and had been denied access to his three other colleagues on the decision making panel.

Against this backdrop we decided to ditch the often overused insurance presentation weapon de jour, PowerPoint, in favour of three pieces of paper containing bullet points. Our presentation was all about having a chat, talking, listening and responding to the client (minimal work). 

We pitched first:  For our plan to work, we had to go first.  I always preferred this anyway as it potentially would give the people on the buying panel some ideas for questions to ask subsequent presenters (hopefully difficult ones).  Think of those reality singing shows on the telly, generally the contestants at the beginning and the end are the most remembered.  We shared a very simple message(s) with the client:

  • Insurance purchase or to put it another way, transferring risk from your balance sheet to an insurers, should be the final part of a much wider examination of risk within your business.
  • Developing a clear understanding of risk and how it operates within your business is essential in terms of informing any risk retention/insurance programme design strategy
  • Our starting point is not to simply sell you insurance products and anyone talking to you in those narrow terms is not doing their job correctly as they do not have enough information about your business on which to base their conclusions.
  • Hire us to work with you to thoroughly examine risk in your business and we will deliver insurance arrangements that fit your business optimally.

Ask for the business:

We forgot the newspeak words and the myriad of sales closing techniques learnt many years ago at sales training events held in soulless hotel conference rooms.  Our proposition was logical, honest and straightforward, so we simply let all of the people on the panel know that we wanted their business by asking for it.

We were on first at 9am and the presentations were concluded by the afternoon. At 5pm we got ‘The Call’, to let us know we were successful and in answer to the question ‘why did you choose us’, the client responded that ours was the most considered and logical presentation. Not bad, bearing in mind we hadn’t spent hours fashioning co-branded marketing material and sexy slideshows.  

Now this story isn’t intended to be a template on how to win new clients, each case should obviously be considered on its own merits. What it does illustrate is the all too often overlooked approach, which is ‘ask different questions to get different answers’.

 And remember, and I never thought I would find myself quoting Only Fools and Horses ‘He who dares wins Rodders’.



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