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Bulletproof Your Sales Pitch (for Investment Bankers)

Preparation of Pitch Books

A pitch book is a sales presentation sent to a client with the objective of beginning the sales process. Investment banks and companies involved in the financial services sector provide a whole host of services to businesses and governments. In order to do so they need to communicate their expertise, capabilities and product offerings clearly and concisely. Pitch books allow them to do so by bridging the gap between their capabilities, and how those capabilities would be useful in providing solutions to their client’s problems. In this article we will discuss the ways to craft deal-winning sales presentations or pitch books.

Pitch books are usually prepared in the form of slides. They are usually accompanied by an in-person presentation, where a representative from a financial services company would present the slides to the prospective client, and provide the client the opportunity to ask questions to elaborate or clarify the content of the presentation. The sales presentations are usually done by client-facing or sales-focused employees. We typically refer to these types of employees as being front-office employees. As an aside: Middle-office employees would typically be focused on the analytical aspects of a business, making sure that company policies were being followed in all business practices of the company (risk, operations etc.). Back-office roles typically involve record keeping and making sure the system infrastructure of a company is well maintained and performing optimally.

Key Ingredients of an Effective Pitch Book

1. The Disclaimer

This is an important section of the pitch book and is put upfront. It covers vital points, which if not addressed could open the financial services company up to liability issues for the content contained in the pitch book. It should address the following:

  • Confidentiality: It is important to let the potential client know that the contents of the pitch book are not to be disseminated without the prior permission of the bank. This avoids proprietary knowledge, structural ideas, and other company-specific intellectual property falling into the hands of the bank’s competitors.

  • Purpose of Pitch Book: it should be clarified that the pitch book in itself would not constitute a promise from the bank to provide the products or services discussed to the prospective client. The pitch book would merely be for discussion purposes. It should be made clear to the client that the bank would only be able to provide the products or services contemplated, after performing suitable due diligence. The last thing a bank would want, would be for its potential client to undertake certain actions based upon a misunderstood premise of the presentation. For example, a client enters into a non-refundable purchase order based on a misunderstanding that the bank was prepared to provide it with unconditional funding, after listening to a sales presentation by the bank on its debt-funding capabilities. If, upon further due diligence the bank was to find fatal flaws in the client’s business model, and was unable to provide the client with funding, the relationship between the client and the bank could potentially be ruined, as the client would potentially suffer loss in trying to pull out of their purchase order. Banks would seek to avoid such situations, by making sure the premise of the pitch book was well documented in the disclaimer.

  • Information Contained: If the information contained was derived from a preliminary assessment of the client’s financial statements or from financial models, it should be made clear that the assumptions and information contained in the pitch book would be subject to change, following deeper analysis and due diligence. It should also be made clear to the client that the information and assumptions of the bank would have a limited shelf life, and would also be subject to change as time passes. This would avoid a situation where client would use an expired presentation to negotiate a new deal today, when material market movements could have occurred in the interim, thereby affecting the conclusions previously made in the presentation.

2. The Executive Summary

The executive summary sets the tone for the presentation. A good executive summary should start with a brief background as to why the presentation is being given in the first place. It should summarize any previous discussions held with the client, and explain how this presentation would move the discussions forward.

The executive summary should be short, and concise. It should highlight the problems faced by the client, and state briefly how the presentation would address these problems.

3. Building Context

The body of the pitch book should begin by setting the scene of where the client finds itself today. The building of context is vital in ensuring that the solutions proposed by the bank are shown to be applicable to the client in today’s world. i.e. that the solutions to be proposed in the remainder of the presentation would not just be boiler-plate solutions invented by the bank to generate more profits for the bank. Setting the scene should demonstrate the bank’s extensive knowledge and research capabilities in understanding the present-day world, and the direction in which the world is moving. Building context is key in building rapport with the client. It shows that the bank is aware of the times, and has deep insights that would be of use to the client even if the client were not to buy any of the services or products being proposed.

A valuable tip would be to offer a client regular economic briefings, where the latest forecasts and consensus of the bank would be presented to the client free of charge. The client would see the value of this, as usually banks would have larger resources to devote to research than the client would. The client would then view these meetings with the bank as a value adding exercise. From the bank’s standpoint, these meetings could be used to gather valuable intelligence on the client, and identify potential ways for the bank to add further value to the client by means of the bank’s product and service offering.

4. Financial Analysis

This is the most important section of the pitch book, as it demonstrates the bank’s understanding of the client. In the financial analysis section the bank would analyze the client’s financial statements or financial model, and identify the problems that the client currently faces in their business. The findings in this section must be thoroughly checked to ensure accuracy. There is nothing more embarrassing or rapport-destroying than having a sales pitch interrupted very early by the client, pointing out material errors in the bank’s understanding of their business. Material errors in the bank’s analysis of the client’s model or financial results would discredit the remainder of the findings of the client pitch, even if they were still true despite the errors.

Once the client’s problems are identified, they should be summarized concisely in bullet form.

5. The Solutions

Having previously identified the problems faced by the client, it is then necessary to present solutions to each of the problems identified. This can be another section involving deep financial analysis of the each of the proposed solutions, and demonstrating their benefits to the client. It is best to propose more than one possible solution to the client’s problems, then to do an evaluation of each of the proposed solutions, and then to rank the solutions from best to worst.

After building rapport in the “Building Context” section, and in the “Financial Analysis” section, the client would be more open to the solutions proposed in the "Solutions" section. Thus, the importance of the previous two sections cannot be overstated.

6. Recommendations and Way Forward

This is a subtle way of progressing the sales process. The bank has demonstrated a clear understanding of the client’s problems, and has also demonstrated its capacity to provide solutions to such problems. The recommendations should be clear and unambiguous. They should link the solutions proposed earlier to the intention of the bank of being a service provider of those solutions. It should be crystal clear that the bank would be offering to provide such services to the client, and that the relationship going forward would be one of customer and supplier.

This section should be subtly and respectfully worded so as not to push the client into an immediate decision, but to open the door for further discussions to take place under the clear customer-supplier premise going forward, with the end goal of implementing the solutions proposed.

7. Brag Sheet and Tombstones

To wrap up the presentation, a brief overview of the capabilities and competence of the bank, and of the front-office individuals concerned should be given.

Deal tombstones and accolades are small captions of recent successes and deals successfully closed by the bank. A brief biography of the deal team should also be given demonstrating their expertise in the area concerning the pitch at hand.

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