We have seen a lot of pitches. Every agency brings their own unique style and personality to the process. The opportunity goes beyond “selling” your agency as this is the time to establish the building blocks of your relationship with your potential new client and for them to get a feel of what it is like to work with your agency. That said, below are some pitfalls we have noticed along with ideas on how to overcome some of these challenges:
- Being too salesy: Agencies can focus too much time on upfront creds, showboating their achievements in financial growth, flashy logo slides and the number of awards they’ve won. We have seen winning agencies say things like “Enough about us – let’s talk about you”, spending very little time on data and facts about their agency.
- Bringing an army of people but only a few people speak: Often times, the most senior person in the room does the majority of talking. All clients are well aware that after the “win” they will barely hear from the senior folks that did 90% of the talking. Trust your team enough to let them speak in the meeting. Empower your group to walk through a case study or have them share examples of campaigns they have worked on. Finally, make sure every person in the room has a speaking part. This gives your potential client an opportunity to get to know your agency better and builds stronger chemistry.
- Interrupting the client: You probably don’t think you’ve ever done this, but you likely have. Even if you’re on a role and have something important to say, if you notice that the client has a question, stop talking. We’ve sat through so many pitches where agencies lose a valuable chance for an authentic conversation with a client simply because they talk over the client. When you don’t take the time to listen to the client, they don’t feel respected and stop listening to you.
- Not asking the right questions: You’re not expected to walk into a pitch knowing everything about the brand. Ask questions. You’ll learn a lot from the client and build a deeper bond by opening up a fluid conversation. Get to know them - this builds trust. Clients like working with agencies they trust. However, don’t ask too many questions. We’ve seen agencies ask a stream of questions and not reacting to the answers a client provides which can be seen as a waste of time.
- Not enough research and insight into the client’s business challenge: You are the expert and you’ve likely made it to the pitch meeting through some type of vetting process. Now is the time to build rapport with a potential client through your knowledge of their business. This goes beyond case studies of how your organization solved a similar business challenge. This is the opportunity to personalize the approach for this particular client. Conduct some research: How do they compare to their competitors? What is the potential addressable market this client can tap into? Winning pitches have demonstrated the ability to focus solely on the client’s business challenge which builds immediate confidence between you and the potential client.
- Don’t rely on your deck: Although your deck has everything you need in guiding the conversation, sometimes “death by PowerPoint” can occur. Breakup the presentation flow by whiteboarding your ideas or sharing your case study in a brief two-minute video. Shifting from the presentation deck to a different format allows the client to “lean in” and stay engaged throughout your pitch.
- Not being able to read the room: The client is giving you feedback throughout your entire meeting. Read signs and pivot accordingly. Pan around the room and see which clients are reacting positively to your group. If a client starts to look less engage stop the flow and ask if there is something different they want to see. Agencies not being able to read the room effectively have typically not advanced to the next stage in pitches.
- Making promises that you can't realistically deliver: Let’s all just make a pact to stop doing this. It doesn’t benefit anyone. Everyone is eager to win but nothing is more frustrating to a client when an agency makes promises that they cannot deliver on. Saying “yes” to everything costs your company time, money and talent. Be honest, if your firm doesn’t have a certain capability, “At this time, we are not focusing on this but happy to look into this if it makes sense” or “Our focus as a business is to stay strong in what we are really good at before we make these other investments”. A client will appreciate and value
The pitch meeting is the time to connect with your potential client. Let them get to know your team, what your agency stands for and how you can help them. Make sure to be authentic, flexible and to listen to the client. Slow down a bit and let the client navigate the conversation so that you can dig into what’s most important to them. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. And, remember that you should also be getting to know the client to make sure that they are the right for your business.