In my last post, I discussed why it is occasionally beneficial to turn down opportunities to pitch for new clients.
If you recall, I looked at the need for growing agencies to become more selective over which contracts they bid for, so that they can properly prioritise time resources to those deals that are likely to reap the greatest rewards.
If you need to catch up on just how to make that decision, go ahead and read Should you say ‘no’ next time you are invited to pitch?
Preparing to pitch
But even though you may decide to turn down some pitch opportunities, the reality is that you will end up accepting many others. The time and money that you spend on pitching as your business grows will be substantial. So maximising the ‘win’ ratio is something which really deserves attention.
The old saying is that the pitch is usually decided and won before the pitch actually happens. In other words, your potential client will have a clear favourite or perhaps a couple of favourites before the process is even past the first stage.
This situation can be the result of many factors. A client might have worked with a consultancy or agency in a previous job. They will certainly be influenced about what they have read and heard about you and your competitors.
However, in addition they will be heavily influenced by what you say and do from the very first moment they contact you.
So there must be a relentless focus on developing your relationship with the potential client from the start. People buy people. Demonstrating passion, attention to detail and a keen interest in their business will get you off to a good start.
Try to meet them face-to-face before the pitch. Ask to go on a tour of their offices or plant and try to meet a range of stakeholders in the business.
In addition it is obviously vital to undertake as much research as possible.
At the broadest level, you should be fully immersing yourself in the client’s industry and culture, gaining valuable insights into trends, the competitive environment and business challenges.
From there, hone in to focus on the company itself, and also the previous agency. Examining this relationship will help determine if something went wrong. To do this, continue to ask probing questions that will help inform your pitch, and invest time and energy in building relationships with the client. Use your wider networking capability to gain greater understanding too. I value my network of contacts more than almost any other asset, as invariably someone will know someone ‘in the know’.
Next, understand who the decision makers in the pitch process are, as some may not have been involved in the initial briefing. Try to meet with them but if you cannot, at least invite them to connect on Linkedin and other social media platforms. Demonstrate a real interest in what makes them tick, and show a dedication to helping them by sharing their content, including insightful comments. Think of this as a person-to-person interaction, not a brand-to-brand one.
You also need to dig beyond the brief and ask difficult questions. What has brought about the pitch? Have they had a bad experience in the past that has undermined their trust in the previous agency relationship? Have they recently changed business focus and need to redistribute their budget accordingly? Was it a lack of chemistry with their old agency?
These questions are unlikely to be answered voluntarily, so we need to become entirely focused on uncovering the real answers to give us the best chance to understand the dynamics at play. It is too easy to accept that they just want ‘a fresh approach’, and if you focus on providing this, you will most likely sound exactly the same as every other team pitching.
I often find that my clients benefit the most from in-depth advice about pitching when that advice is delivered in a face-to-face setting. If you are interested in learning more about building a successful pitch in an interactive workshop, get in touch using firstname.lastname@example.org.