Perfect timing. I’ve just emerged, blinking, from a roller coaster pitch ride, ready to impart a snapshot of my recent learning. As a seasoned pitch veteran, what my experience has taught me is this: there is a holy trinity of successful pitch skills, namely leadership, talent and process.
Along the way, I’ve found that some things remain the same, yet each client, brand and agency team presents a series of unique and exciting challenges. The holy trinity is, however, a constant.
What remains the same? To a large degree, this is the process itself. We’re talking about nailing the schedule of events, the all-important ‘to-do’ list. It ranges from knowing and analysing the brief well enough to recite it in your sleep, to timetabling deadlines for all the deliverables- and sticking to them. For some, this is a learning curve, but once you’ve successfully navigated the curve, next time up, the journey should be smoother.
Talent – intellectual and creative, is embedded in an agency’s DNA. The fine art of pitching demands that this collective talent is applied to what is often a business issue not encountered before, and that insights are gleaned speedily which then inform strategic and creative solutions. It’s tough, it’s exhilarating, it’s time pressured. Managing this talent to create pitch-winning work is without doubt a skill in itself. Making this all happen? Enter the third and crucially important element of our holy trinity – leadership.
The quality of leadership is hugely important in determining the outcome of any collective effort seeking to achieve a specific goal. Raw talent alone, freewheeling and devoid of active decision-making, discipline, motivation, inspiration and strategy, is not enough. Manchester United after the departure of Alex Ferguson?
Successful pitch leaders are the embodiment of many well-honed skills. Chief amongst these is the ability to make decisions, often in the midst of competing points of view: decisions on strategy, creative work and finance, to name a few. Sometimes there is a fine balance to be struck between strong leadership and something more akin to tyranny. The mark of a good leader is to listen, provide feedback and make those tough calls, whilst continuing to motivate and inspire the team.
They need to demonstrate expertise, either drawing on their own knowledge, or rapidly absorbing the insights of others. Then the task is to communicate this understanding to both the agency and client teams, clearly and with authority.
Some say that great leaders are born, others that they are made. What is clear is that pitch leaders do have one great asset at their disposal – experience. They have been around the track, they have learnt from past pitches, they have honed their people management skills over time. We can all learn, build confidence and arguably become a skilled pitch leader. The challenge is then to marry this to pitch winning work.
If you’d like to learn how you can develop pitch-winning leadership skills, increasing your conversion rate, join us on our Pitch Skills Day on 18th September 2014. Book online here, or get in touch with Gina (firstname.lastname@example.org) to book your place.
Janine Abrahams, 5th August 2014