Pitching is fundamental to the business that agencies run in the 21st Century – whether we like it or not. However, pitches are increasingly becoming a bigger strain on resource and for a small agency team there isn’t any to be wasted. At the BD Club on the 7th September, we invited Owen Catto, a consultant and pitch guru, Jeremy Hemmings, founder of Hurley Burley and another pitch guru, and Katie Street, founder of Street Agency, a legend in winning pitches, to discuss the current state of agency pitching and, fundamentally, how to pitch better.
How to begin?
Qualifying the right opportunities. “Qualifying the right opportunities right at the start has to be top of your list” says Katie. It’s about asking the right questions. List the top 10 questions that you need to ask every prospect to qualify whether it’s a good fit for you or not. There aren’t a standard set of questions because the questions are not the same for every agency. The agency/client relationships for every agency are unique. However, questions might be around timescales, budget, tech, culture, process etc.
Pulling together a tight team. Owen mentions that agencies lose pitches very often when there are too many cooks. “It’s much better to have a triumvirate of probably someone strategic, someone account management and someone creative.”
Every interaction with a client is a show. Studies have shown that the majority of clients have made up their mind way before you’re in that pitch room. Every single interaction that you’re having on the days, weeks and sometimes months up until you’re winning that pitch, you are on show. So at every touchpoint, online or offline, you have to be showing up as the best version of yourself and always asking the right questions.
Challenging the pitch process. You’re increasing your chance of winning if you challenge the pitch process. There’s so many things that you can do that can add more value. If you don’t believe the brief is right, you’ve got to be able to qualify that, and explain to the client why you think your approach will add more value and might give them more. Maybe it’s your unique approach they will like the most.
Equal opportunities for every team member. It is useful to have different views and approaches from across the team with everyone working towards one big goal. All of them – strategist, creative, the managing director, account team – they’re on equal terms, running it together. Work together as a team, adding value with unique creative and commercial perspectives.
Creativity. As with many things in this industry, it comes down to storytelling. Your story (and the way in which you tell it) is the most important thing. Owen says “Creativity is not just the creative bit at the end, creativity is the whole presentation”. There are countless ways that creativity can be woven into the pitch; when it comes down to it, creativity is woven into the very thread of the culture in your agency which shines through when you pitch.
Understand who you’re pitching to. It’s really important to remember that very often, those individuals that you’re pitching to, are going to have to go and sell the decision they’ve made to other people inside their business. Make sure that what you’re recommending is packaged and resellable by themselves inside the business. Understand the problems of the core stakeholders. And things that are going to make them look good and that are going to help them do their job more easily.
- Break the process.
- Pick the right battles, don’t pitch for everything.
- Don’t feel obliged to throw a million ideas into the mix. Lead with the things that you think are right. And believe in them.
- Always probe the brief.
- Never think you’ve got the right answer before you’ve asked all the right questions.
Thanks again to our speakers for sharing their thoughts and advice.
If you missed this particular event, you can watch it here.
If you have any queries, please do get in touch.
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