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How to find the best answers to client questions

Adrian CrockettAdrian Crockett
“Is there anything else I can help you with?”

How many of you conclude client meetings with this question?

If you don’t, you should—it gives the best excuse to speak to your client again and build your relationship further.

If you do, then you know that sometimes this can result in not only extra homework but left field queries you can’t easily answer.

So how do you answer oddball questions?

Three routes tend to be used:

1. Memento-style

Thinking back to a similar client request, mentally sifting through hours and hours of client meetings, pages of pitchbooks, and hundreds of emails until half a day later there is a vague lightbulb moment of, “Wait—didn’t that one guy that one time want something similar?” Turns out he didn’t, it was not similar at all and a day is wasted.

2. Phone a friend

The analyst covering the client receives an email (usually in the early hours of the morning) asking for a solution. But more than likely it’s something strategic that needs a smart, bank-wide response. This can be a challenge as client confidentially limits what can be discussed, leaving you up the proverbial creek with no paddle.

3. Good Will Hunting it

Literally turning to the drawing board for a new answer. This can be incredibly effective, but also time-consuming and mentally exhausting. Additionally, often what was thought to be the perfect solution, doesn’t line-up with the reality of the data once implemented, setting everything back to square one.

All these approaches place a heavy cognitive load on the banker; requiring difficult to spare brainpower and time. In fact, I estimate about 90% of a banker's time is spent pulling together materials and only 10% thinking about the story and solution.

Let’s flip this around.

Management consultants pitch knowledge management platforms as the answer. But, in my eyes, these lack the necessary functions that would elevate them from a conceptual solution to a successful one.

Visual exploration

It’s tough to problem solve from scratch, which is why exploring visual examples to be modified would offer a good start. A Pinterest-like board to share within groups could help disseminate ideas effectively.

Keyword search

We google everything, so there should be a similar function available to serve clients. A keyword search would surface the exact thing needed, quickly retrieving historical knowledge, instead of having to rely on archaic file structures.

Be modular

We need to build up rather than assume a completed document will work. The questions asked don't have perfect 50-page solutions and need more than a cookie-cutter approach. Any time someone presents a document repository as a knowledge management platform, kick them out of the meeting; they don’t understand the process. Think Lego pieces, not complete buildings.

Customer-centric

Populating the content with accurate client data is vital to see what actually works. Knowledge management platforms aren’t hooked up to client data so something that may look OK during exploration could fall apart when applied to real numbers—which would have taken a few days to populate. It needs to be easy to add client specific information without draining energy.

A knowledge management platform with these functions would replace reapplying old stuff, or needing to start from the very beginning, providing more time for bankers to absorb the material, think critically about the strategic analysis, and focus mental energy where it will generate the best return.

What’s is the weirdest question you’ve been asked by a client? How did you solve it? Let me know at adrian@pellucid.com.

Spend less time creating client materials and more time answering questions. Visit www.pellucid.com.

CEO & Co-Founder of Pellucid Analytics. Former Credit Suisse group head with nearly 20 years on Wall Street. Melding design, analytics, and tech to produce amazing client-ready content in minutes.

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