Corporate Partner News Archives - The IFT

Fever Pitch – how to improve your success rate in selling conversations

Are you struggling with your success rate in selling conversations? Read on to find out about ‘Fever Pitch’ – a simple sales conversation process developed by Richard Farr, Managing Director at Cardano Advisory, focussing on the soft skills required to improve your conversion rate to circa 75%…

If you type in ‘improving pitch conversion rate’ into Google, you’ll be met with a seemingly endless stream of advice, techniques, and counselling. Although designed with the best of intentions in mind, there is a risk wading through it could have a counterproductive, confusing effect, and the material is often left on the bookshelf or folder and never referred to again.

What’s worse, you’ll lose sight of what’s important. Selling isn’t all about selling.

It’s about a state of mind. It’s about being yourself in twenty minutes.

Timing Is Everything

Why twenty minutes?

In a selling conversation scenario, you’ll be given the benefit of the doubt for the first few minutes but ultimately, you only have a certain window of (often polite) interest or opportunity to connect.

The audience that you will need to impress will be on a spectrum – ranging from the detail-orientated guru in their field who looks at their shoes more than yours, all the way through to those who use gut feel to make choices and to hell with the detail.

But, of course, where are you on the Spectrum also?

You must use a combination of effective timing and emotional intelligence to establish a personal connection with a view to ascertaining where your client sits on this Spectrum. The sooner you’ve found it, and connected, the sooner you can show who you really are.

Your audience will then be indifferent to your style, and you can be yourself. But you have only twenty minutes to do it.

The DNA Helix

Proceeding with an effective DNA helix is critical to keep your client engaged as you seek to connect and then build to the crescendo of your “pitch”. So, what is the DNA Helix?

  • Title: What does the title slide say? This slide will often get left on a desk or waiting on the screen, as you engage in pleasantries or typical Teams /Zoom chat (“what is that on your wall?”). As such, it is the slide that gets the most airtime – so invest time in its conception. It is an opportunity to reflect the key part of your passion to keep the client intrigued. Never use “Introduction to…”!
  • CV: This isn’t just to tell the client who you are. You can use your CV as a hook to get your client to tell you who they are, and to get them talking about themselves. This is a good opportunity to get onto the Indifference Curve.
  • Agenda: Pressure, politics and timing issues all impact the sales conversation and as such, impact the agenda. It’s vital to re-affirm the agenda and ensure it’s still correct as their situation evolves (not least in a competitive pitch process).
  • Key Messages: Tell your client why you’re there (“I’m going to tell that/why/who…”). Watch for any reaction – blank/surprise/indifference/alertness.
  • Background & Issues: Offering your experience is a great way to ensure you and your client are still on the same page in identifying the issues – get them to at least nod their heads in empathy.
  • Offer Free Advice: You’re not the only person in town pitching to the client. If your client hasn’t heard your advice before, you can zero in on this. If they have, at least you’ve confirmed the opposition is as good as you. (“Everyone will/should have told you this, and we are no exception…”

At every point in the conversation think about how you can use each component of the DNA helix to get your client talking. Once you get them talking, you’ve connected personally and you’re on your way to a successful conversion.

The Killer Slide

Having effectively delivered each component of the helix, you’re now ready to build to the crescendo of your conversation, and the most crucial and excitable slide.  If you can’t finally get a reaction here, then you’ve failed. After all, if you can’t get excited about your killer points, why should they?

This slide can even be one killer point that differentiates you – why would the client employ you compared to your competition? Ideally 3 or 4 killer points to allow flexibility in reaction.

Once you’ve delivered the killer slide you must re-affirm the key messages. Throughout the DNA helix, you’ve been building to re-delivery of these key messages – so now be passionate about why you’re there.

Then you must look for the reaction. You have now shot your bolt so even if it’s a negative reaction, you can ask the client why what you’ve said won’t help them arrive at their solution and have a last-ditch rescue conversation in those last few minutes (even as you walk to the door).

Think: you may have missed the (evolving) brief and you have one last chance to sell (again!).

So, what are the 10 Commandments of Fever Pitch?

Before you go into any sales conversation, keep in mind the 10 commandments that underpin Fever Pitch:

  1. They are only killer points if you understand the client issues (How well do you know them?)
  2. If you do nothing else, plan (and confirm the agenda). Try and expand the agenda to match your killer points
  3. You were given two ears and a mouth for a reason – get them talking as soon as possible.
  4. Pick the winning team (who will play the leader, sector expert, and (even) project manager) and make sure each has a speaking part
  5. If you can’t find their pain, no gain – keep looking and re-affirming.
  6. Know thy enemies – once, twice, thrice be warned. There are 3 ways to lose a sell – to a competitor, the client doing nothing or a client doing it themselves. Does your pitch cover all scenarios?
  7. Everybody likes a good experience story – you must litter the sales conversation with real life examples of you doing your job.
  8. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse – the more for the bigger opportunities.
  9. Take forward next steps like you mean it – Asking the client what needs to happen before the relationship begins is key. Watch out for acceptance or reluctance – if you sense reluctance, push for why this is the case – what else have you got to lose?
  10. Independent feedback is the only way to learn and improve. Make sure you ask the right questions!

Next Steps?

So, go out and fail! But get feedback as to why and go again, and again…

Channel your inner Malcolm Gladwell, after all there are 10,000 reasons…


Richard E Farr

Can Zero Based Budgeting fund your Growth Ambitions

This year’s PwC’s annual survey of CEOs showed a deterioration in business confidence. Tim Allen and Zena Alston speak to us about how companies can weather the storm and use Zero Based Budgeting (ZBB) to reduce costs and fund EBITDA growth.

The 2019 PwC CEO survey made for stark reading; 30% of CEOs projected a decline in global GDP growth, with confidence in their own organisational growth at the lowest level since the last recession. Whilst uncertainties may be temporary, the message is clear: organizations need to act now to drive EBITDA growth and understand what can come from within.

Successful ZBB programmes can drive out 15-30% of costs
ZBB has become a popular tool for companies to identify and drive operational efficiency. It is especially powerful when organisations have suffering operating margins within declining or slow growth industries. Traditional approaches to these issues has been to run autocratic top-down savings programmes. We caution against this, as it can lead to cutting in the wrong areas, meaning costs creep back in. It can also fail to establish a sustainable cost culture. However, ZBB views the budgeting process from a fresh angle, building future spend from the lowest possible level and addresses the spend culture in the process.

The three crucial pillars for when you are leading a ZBB programme

The first step in ZBB is visibility of costs, at the most granular level possible. Spend drivers then need to be justified at this level, rather than projecting spend using a top-down approach, relying on prior period results. Organisations need to review every transaction and classify these into cost categories, enabling better visibility of spend.

Recently, a European Postal Operator faced declining volumes and increased competition. They wanted to implement ZBB across their third party spend. Each category reviewed in turn against cost drivers (Specification, Demand, Price etc.) to identify savings. More on this is in the case study below.
One critical feature of ZBB is ensuring that owners are held accountable to their budget targets and any variations to plan are challenged. Clear reporting lines, roles and responsibilities ensure that employees understand their responsibilities for their spend areas. Organisations should also put in place performance plans linked to budget performance and to incentivise staff further.
Successful ZBB programmes also foster proactiveness through disciplined monitoring. Organisations can achieve this through standardised reporting – fixing the number of days after month closing, with each budget owner reporting up.
Jump-starting your ZBB culture
ZBB is an ongoing exercise, and employees need to be engaged in the process to encourage debate about the best use of resource in the organisation. However, instilling a ZBB-mindset requires buy-in up front. Typical change management strategies, such as clear communication about the purpose of the programme, sharing good examples of progress and strong leadership buy-in help create momentum.

Related articles:

Disruption in the automotive supply chain

The automotive industry is in the early stages of disruption events that will change the shape of the sector forever. This is being driven by numerous factors, most notably including:
• Decline of diesel. The impact of “dieselgate” continues to be felt across the sector, with European diesel sales expected to fall to 5.6 million in 2024 from a peak of 6.9 million in 2016. As a proportion of total vehicles sales this represents a drop from 52% to 37%.

• Changes in demand. More consumers are choosing alternative engines/power units, with petrol returning to the fore and, increasingly, hybrid electric and full electric powertrains. Whilst demand seems to be switching from diesel to petrol in the short term, the medium/long term outlook is that petrol vehicle volumes are likely to also decline. With forecasts of consumer demand remaining uncertain, anticipating future sales mix will prove challenging for both manufacturers and suppliers. In parallel new emissions standards in 2021 are emphasising the move towards power units other than petrol and diesel. This has the potential to cause significant under and over-supply. Unsurprisingly, capacity issues are already appearing as petrol engine component suppliers are reluctant to lay down new production lines knowing that volumes are in decline.

• Lifestyle changes. Younger generations are placing less importance in owning cars and indeed even having a driving licence. The transition towards Mobility-as-a-Service (Maas) has already commenced in major global cities, where policies such as congestion charging and car-free developments deter car ownership. The 2019 KPMG Global Automotive Executive Survey highlighted that 43% of automotive executives believe that half of today’s car owners will not want to own a car by 2025. The impact on the volumes and types of vehicles sold will be both significant and unpredictable.

Against the backdrop of these global industry challenges, consideration also needs to be given to where vehicles will be made in the future. Recent press announcements have demonstrated the risk that a significant proportion of vehicle production in the UK could move to mainland Europe, save for some specialist manufacturers with a strong British heritage.

Suppliers are facing an uncertain future

So what does this mean for suppliers? In short, this will lead to significant challenges, specifically around areas such as:
• Demand forecasting – can suppliers accurately forecast likely demand for components in the short/medium term?
• The need for a diversification strategy to change the product portfolios to those more appropriate to future requirements, e.g. electric vehicles.
• Cost reduction – can fixed costs and overheads be reduced sufficiently to match the likely reduction in volumes that many component manufacturers could experience, recognising that the many suppliers are highly operationally geared?
• Transport and relocation costs – can suppliers factor in additional freight or relocation costs if OEM manufacturing facilities move elsewhere?
• Funding accessibility – anecdotal evidence indicates bank funding for suppliers may be hardening as funders attempt to determine who the relative winners and losers will be.

Manufacturers are facing difficult decisions
There may also be significant issues for manufacturers as they manage their supply chains:
• How and when do they communicate intentions regarding plant closures or volume reductions?
• Which suppliers are likely to struggle as a result of the systemic market changes and the OEM specific changes in their portfolio?
For turnaround professionals these challenges create opportunities to support clients – from cash forecasting and control to stakeholder management and strategic change implementation. In addition, for those suppliers who experience medium/long term decline in volumes (e.g. diesel engine component suppliers) there is likely to be a need for more substantive solutions from key customers and/or M&A transactions to ensure distressed suppliers are able to reach the end of their supplier contract without further material risks.
What is clear is that conventional remedies such as bailments and changing payment terms are unlikely to be sufficient for some of these challenged supplier situations and we will see more radical and innovative solutions being effected. These could include OEM’s bringing suppliers in-house, the creation of run off platforms and turnaround professionals stepping in to support component manufacturers for prolonged periods.
Only time will tell what the extent of the impact will be of these disruption events but all the indications are that when it comes it will be significant.

Jo Wright leads Key NPQEL module for Education CEOs

The Department for Education has created a programme for Executive Leaders. One of its purposes is to develop the skills, knowledge and behaviours that a high-performing executive leader needs.

De Novo’s founder, Jo Wright, was approached to lead a session which formed part of the Managing Resources and Risks module of the programme. The workshop took place towards the end of last year and was well attended by aspiring and serving executive head teachers and multi-academy trust (MAT) chief executive officers (CEOs).

The main take away points for the attendees were:

Heightened awareness of why organisations fail and the warning signs
Importance of a more ‘business-like’ culture and thought process to identify and deal with issues promptly
The need for greater commerciality to achieve a better business model, operationally and financially
The significant impact a strong Finance Director with appropriate skill set can make
The tangible benefits of identifying and investing in talent, upskilling management and recruiting quality leaders
Importance of a diverse skills mix in Governors to support, challenge and hold leadership to account
The challenge of identifying and dealing with the vast amount of uncertainty – debated key risks, ways of mitigating them and the need to contingency plan
A focus shift is required from reporting on issues to actually resolving them – clearer roles / responsibilities and accountability are critical to speed up the process
The need to constantly embrace change to secure sustainability long term
How key the right cultural attitude is to evolving an organisation, and the amount of time and effort required before it embeds
War stories and case studies of both Colleges and Corporates, demonstrated where the timing of issues being addressed was the difference between success and failure

The lively session concluded with a discussion about ways of trying to future proof and secure long-term sustainability. Positive feedback from leading education services provider, Cognition Education, who organised the course included:

“Just want to say an enormous thank you for your time and input, I understand it was a really informative session, and very well received.”

“Just a word of thanks for your input today. It was really great, and the attendees really enjoyed the session. We kept drawing on it all day as we worked through the materials so thank you again.”

BTG Advisory strengthens national advisory offering with appointment of new partner



“Given the uncertainties faced by businesses from both the current economic conditions and the wider political debate, having the ability to effectively manage change will be key to the success, survival and growth of organisations as they move forward. I believe BTG Advisory is well-positioned to provide the skills required by businesses and look forward to working with the team to develop the firm’s advisory services regionally and nationally.”

The IFT appoints a new CEO

A seasoned PR and stakeholder management professional, she has worked within and advised membership organisations, focusing on member engagement, strategic partnerships and developing valued propositions.

Steve Swayne, Chairman of the IFT said: “Milly joins us as CEO at a time of good health and focus on value for our membership. She brings a wealth of experience in operational delivery, organisational strategy and stakeholder relations and is therefore well placed to ensure that we work with members and partners to grasp new opportunities and extend our member reach”.

Duff & Phelps

2019 set to bring further pain to struggling UK restaurant sector

The pressures of Brexit, economic uncertainty and declining consumer confidence pile up challenges for restaurant chains.