BD tips and insights

So you’ve been asked to provide a capability statement

The meeting with that prospective client went well, and the signs are pointing to yes for some work to head your way.

But, *groan* they’ve just asked you to ‘send over your capability statement’ so they can show a few colleagues before they make a decision.

You have the capability to deliver for this client; but how to articulate it?

You have the capability to deliver for this client; but how to articulate it?

What a capability statement is not

Firstly, let’s be clear, a capability statement is not a short cut to developing a trusted relationship, authentic rapport or winning work from prospective clients.

Over the years our research has shown time and again the most effective BD activities for professional services firms are in-person or face to face namely: referral relationships and networking.

Referral relationships and networking were consistently cited by respondents as the two most effective marketing and BD techniques to stimulate new business for their firm.

In the business development activity mix a capability statement acts as a ‘tangible’ in positioning you for work and backs up positive face to face interactions; high quality tangibles are important in the world of complex intangibles that is professional services.

So while important, a capability statement is unlikely to ‘close a sale’ on its own and should be treated as just one further interaction on the way to creating a client service relationship.

As one respondent noted in our 2015 research study:

I like to think of capability statements as a step up from providing a business card, and step back from providing a fully tailored proposal addressing specific needs.

Best practice for capability statements

What is this waffle I've been sent?

What is this waffle I’ve been sent?

What should appear on your capability statement?

Always consider your (time-poor) audience; brevity is the order of the day!

The best approach is to keep the topic or subject area tightly focused. Do not try to cite all the different types of work you do, every single team member or project ever completed.

Capability statement content should include:

  • A clear headline and snappy opening paragraph directed to a key client appeal, not something no one wants to buy: ‘General Commercial Litigation’. Instead, try something more targeted: ‘Small business dispute resolution’
  • Branding consistent with your other marketing communications (web, letterhead and so on)
  • Succinct and clear descriptions or punchy lists of your services
  • Facts and statistics on excellent outcomes
  • Copy that appeals to a targeted audience and avoids generalisations
  • Copy that focusses on the client’s perspective and frames your capabilities through:
    • The value that your work adds
    • Problems you are in demand to solve
    • The differences they’ll notice working with you, and your firm.
  • Third party evidence: client testimonials, awards, rankings, memberships, other accolades
  • Thumbnail bios of team leader/s
  • Clear contact details including web, LinkedIn and Twitter (you can ditch the fax number)
  • Optional extra: some sort of special offer, limited time enticement, or other call to action.

What format is best for a capability statement?

We recommend capability statements are between 2 – 8 pages in length.

A document that can be quickly and universally edited is usually most effective. Investing in a high quality and smart looking Word template can give you a high end designed look with the freedom and flexibility to update and lightly tailor content to each opportunity rather than always  having to involve a graphic designer.

Once you have a smart and up to date capability statement look you can then print on high quality paper and produce on demand if you must have hardcopies.

You can also consider creating variants – one pagers for each practice area or service line that can be interspersed with other material to act as a suite of selling documents e.g. if providing a bigger information pack to a prospective client or some takeaway material following a seminar.

Definitely do not mass produce with an off-set printer thousands of flyers that will become quickly dated and take up room while gathering dust.

You should also consider some of the other presentation tools and digital formats at your disposal these days like PowerPoint, Adobe Spark and Prezzi or even video as well as your website to introduce your team and services.

What next? How to follow up on a capability statement

We see a lot of professionals having sent a capability statement passively wait… many are actually terrified to pick up the phone.

Remember a capability statement can only do so much of the talking, rapport building and heavy lifting in relationship establishment.

Appropriate questions for your follow up phone call might include:

Did we send enough information…what’s the timing on your decision making process…can we get something in the diary for…what are some other ways we can keep in touch…

Effective follow up also offers further value, you might arrange a meeting or even better call it a ‘working session’ to:

  • demonstrate a tool or technology you have that is useful
  • workshop a business problem they have
  • perform a mini review of a problem area
  • walk through a high level strategic approach you can deliver.

All  are valuable and legitimate reasons for a prospective client and their team to spend more time with you.

Better than a capability statement:
shareable and engaging content to win hearts and minds over time

Enduring, relevant and valuable content with impact!

Enduring, relevant and valuable content with impact!

I often say:


So agonising over the development of a static piece of printed content like a capability statement is not the best approach to winning in a dynamic and digital world.

A better use of your team’s time would be to do some stand out thought leadership like:

  • research into a sector of interest to your clients that no one else will have
  • an annual white paper wrapping up the year’s developments with commentary and insights
  • producing semi-regular blogs or e-alerts with a particular industry, sector or issues focus (e.g. Franchising disputes – pitfalls to avoid or Everything you need to know about trusts for high net worth individuals)
  • creating an infographic distilling important facts and figures on a hot issue
  • writing a section of frequently asked questions with your answers that can appear on your website.

You’re far more likely to stay top of mind (on and off line) if you’re regularly sharing useful content with your audience (and handily positioning yourself as the expert in the meantime) than just sending out a capability statement that screams ‘me, me, me’ and doing it just the once then ‘hoping to hear’.

Once you have built up a repository of useful material online you’ll be web searchable and rank well in search results for that expertise, problem solving and value.

Even though our world is more digital sometimes professionals really do just need to look the ‘part on paper’. So if you really must produce a firm capability statement (or brochure or flyer) keep the above in mind (especially the follow up!) and you’ll find your efforts resonate better with your target markets.

Why not ask about JMA’s
capability statement services?

If you need help to articulate and present your capabilities or are after a new ‘look and feel’ for your capability statements why not get in touch to see if JMA can help or learn more about the benefits of JMA’s capability statement design and writing service here.

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