Professional Services... The Truth

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Have you ever sat down in front of your computer, with an electronic request for proposal (RFP) or template open on your monitor? The cursor blinking as you try to draft a methodology in 250 words.

The methodology you are expected to have developed on the basis of:

  • A tender alert received in your inbox every morning, shiny with the promise of opportunity…as long as you can login to the relevant tender system and download 900 zip files. The files which may or may not provide you with any insight into what the client is actually trying to achieve. In the mean time the IT department have rung to let you know you have breached your data limits again.

  • A RFP or request for tender (RFT) which appears to have been written by a committee of ‘experts’ who may or may not have been the original inspiration for Utopia.

  • A conversation with a procurement professional, ‘you are one of three organisations we have invited from the panel to submit a response’. Hey don’t knock procurement professionals, once upon a time I was one!

  • A tender briefing session with all your competitors. With all the business development directors who managed to get their Partners to attend, looking like peacocks, as surely the client will understand that getting along the ‘name’ Partner to the briefing session will demonstrate our commitment! Our desire! Our willingness to do anything to win said piece of work! 

NB in the professional services world there is a well known look amongst Business Development Directors as we nod slightly at each other (like the cartoon morning Ralph, morning Sam). A silent dialogue that is transmitted:

 "Nice work, you got the Partner here."

"Tell me about it, do you know what I had to do to make that happen?"

"Yeah, I hear you. I would have got mine here but you know we won the x project and so they are at the kick off…"

I see you and I raise you.

But wait! It’s not all doom and gloom! 

The adrenaline, the thrill of watching the blue circle of death spin as the files upload into the painfully archaic government tender system and then YES! YES! YES! A submission RECEIPT date stamped 1:58 p.m. for the tender that closes at 2.00 p.m. Oh yes, no of course we would love to submit earlier than that, but you know in professional services the Principal/Partner just had to review one more time…

Fabulous! Well done! Now please rinse and repeat while you wait for a good length of time to hear whether you’ve been invited to do a pitch. Of course if the call does come after the better part of ooooh let’s say six weeks, you will be given (if you are lucky) 2-3 days notice to assemble your team. 

You may or may not be told the names of the people who are evaluating you. You may or may not be given a choice of a time slot (we have three times available, but two have been taken already. No we don’t have any flexibility. Oh, the Partner is in far Mongolia…can you get them to fly back for it?’

I could go on and on and on. Because I lived and breathed this world. 

I know every business development trick in the book, every weasel word combination you could imagine, I have the eyesight of someone who has worked late into the night smoothing, cajoling, editing and wrestling content into coherent language in the hope the evaluation team will see how carefully we have constructed our response to address the selection criteria.

What if I told you there is a better way? A way that doesn’t require you to trawl through your credentials or knowledge library, expend ridiculous amounts of time and resources, or bemoan the fact the ‘big guys’ always win because they have whole TEAMS of pursuit teams and proposal writers. 

Well there is. 

In less than four weeks I will be co-hosting Leading Edge Value Creation Blair Enns Blair is the world’s foremost expert on consultative sales techniques and value pricing. Blair’s approach has already revolutionised the creative services world, and now through a joint venture with First Follower, the revolution is coming to the professional services universe

Revolutionised? Come on Ceinwen, I can hear you thinking, really? 

Yes, revolutionised!  Can you hear the people sing…?

If you are tired of the proposals, tenders, losing jobs because you were $5000 more expensive than the successful vendor, then join the revolution. Take control and learn how to stop acting like a vendor, and start behaving like the expert practitioner you are. 

Blair and I will teach you to

  • Stop acting like a vendor;

  • Adopt the Jedi Mindset;

  • Behave like an expert practitioner;

  • How to become a Value Conversation through the Four Conversations Framework.

Come and join the revolution. You’ll never look back. The professional services industry will never be the same again. Trust me, I’m an expert. Book now.

Ceinwen McNeil is the founder and managing director of First Follower, an international strategy consulting firm which designs and executes growth strategies for professional services. Drawing on over twenty years of business development and client management experience in both the public and private sectors, she founded First Follower to enable businesses to successfully navigate step growth change. Ceinwen’s direct approach, commercial acumen and exemplary stakeholder engagement skills make her a highly sought-after adviser. Visit for more information.

Tune in to Ceinwen’s podcast, the Frank and Fearless, which provides insights for leaders who are interested in growing their businesses and leaning into the wind. Listen to Frank and Fearless here.

Ceinwen McNeil