So you have a pitch set up. Now what? Who should go? Who should speak? Who should do what? How did you get the pitch? What is the prospective client expecting to hear? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the people doing the pitch? What is the one question you really hope the team isn’t asked?
At most law firms, everyone looks at each other awkwardly. No one wants to hurt someone else’s feelings. If Toby is a brilliant lawyer but trips over his tongue at a pitch, maybe he should be keeping his mouth mostly shut — but who is going to tell Toby that?
Or if the big cheese — maybe the managing partner — is going to the pitch, should she dominate the discussion or keep quiet and let others speak to get air time? And who is going to tell the big cheese what her appropriate role should be?
There is a myriad of questions here and they are all personal to the people going to the pitch and the people who are going to be receiving the pitch.
But there is only one answer: everyone should check their egos at the door in figuring out who should do what. There should only be one single goal and that is making the right impression at the pitch.
This is easy to say — and I just said it — but it is difficult to do if there is an inherent awkwardness within the team in having this type of discussion. Let me delve into this important point.
Patrick Lencioni — in his incredible book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (affiliate link), puts forth the first dysfunction of a team as lack of “trust.” This doesn’t mean a concern that people will steal. Instead, he means that often Teammate A doesn’t “trust” Teammate B enough to be honest enough to say something like:
“Toby you really aren’t good at these pitches — you just babble too much — I am much better — let me do the talking.”
Yikes — that is awkward to say! Isn’t it? You could hurt Toby’s feelings. Yes, you could indeed. You could really upset Toby.
But what is your goal — preserving Toby’s feelings or doing a great pitch and landing a new client?
Do you “trust” Toby enough to tell him what he needs to hear and the team needs for success, or are you too afraid of honest confrontation?
Bottom line — teams that don’t “trust” each other enough to be honest about what each teammate is great at and what each teammate is poor at, are a lot less likely to have a successful pitch.