Improving The Odds

Published: Tuesday 18th March 2014

You win some, you lose some….

Pitches can be a hard lesson when you’re unsuccessful, so it’s important as New Business people to understand how we can improve our chances. There’s also nothing comforting about hearing the words ‘you came a close second’ – first of the losers then really, right?

Pitching for everything is a strategy, but not a great one. Playing the volume card means that whilst you may have more chances to win, it has a negative effect on your overall conversion rate. Taking on too much at the same time means that you cannot possibly be always fielding your A-team, and, if you are, then it won’t be long before they turn into the B-team (or worse) due to being completely overloaded and exhausted. Enthusiasm – crucial to the process – will be in short supply. It’s not just the pitch team that needs to be behind a pitch, but the whole agency.

The more pitches I do, the more I realise how like putting on a play they really are. Pitch theatre notwithstanding, pitches need to feel real and spontaneous, however this can only be achieved by thorough rehearsal and refinement – knowing exactly what role everyone is playing and the running order, from the moment the client steps over your threshold to the moment they leave. Everyone in the room must have a clearly defined role as a presenter and each client should be man-marked by someone from the team. Assume that everyone in that room has the power to make a yes or no decision about you as a partner. I once was involved in a pitch and, having researched the clients attending the chemistry, we were of the view that they were slightly more junior as the Group Marketing Directors were only set to be involved at the later stages. Therefore we fielded a similarly ranked team and excluded our group CEO. A huge mistake as it turned out. Feedback was that all the other agencies had fielded their most senior people and comparatively we didn’t match up. We were duly dispatched from the process, which only goes to prove the well documented theory that it is people that win pitches, not just ideas. What is it they say about assumptions..?!

On that note, post pitch feedback, when you have lost, is unpleasant but vital for knowing what worked and what didn’t. Clients seem more and more willing to offer this to pitching agencies, as indeed they should, given the amount of energy and resource invested. Win or lose, if the opportunity is offered, take it. If it isn’t, then demand it (nicely). If intermediaries are being used for the process there should be no excuse for not receiving any. If it can be done face to face then all the better. It may throw up some brutal truths but they will help you shape your pitch process for the future, for the better.


For more thoughts on improving the odds in pitches, join us on 24th April for our Pitch Skills Day


Amy Robinson – March 2014