Pitching: How To Play Hardball

If you work at an agency, you know that new clients don’t just come banging on your door. At least not all the time. Pitching for business is a huge part of agency life, and according to Adage.com, agencies typically only win 25% of they business they pitch, on average.

Pitching new business, or even a new program to an existing client, is a nerve-wracking experience.  Coming up with something that’s fresh, aligns properly with the brand, lives within their budget, and guarantees an ROI, are considerations that are taken into account when fleshing out a concept.

You begin with internal brainstorming. What does the client have, what does the client need, and how can we give this to them?

After you’ve come up with a killer idea comes the task of communicating this plan in an interesting, concise, and clever way.  And herein lies the greatest challenge of all.

Most clients expect a song and dance, but before you dust off your tap shoes and practice your scales, have a look at these five tips for better pitching.

1. If You’re Not Sure About It, How Can They Be?
Yep, you’ve got butterflies in your stomach and your palms are sweaty, you’re first to bat, and the idea? Well, you’d be lying if you didn’t admit it was primarily yours. Modesty’s about moderation, after all. If the client loves it, expect pats on the back from the bigwigs. If the client hates it… let’s just say you’ll eat McDonalds, but you’d really rather not work there. In spite of the pressure you may be feeling, be confident. Your confidence level can make or break a deal. Not only should you be confident in yourself, but you should be confident in your idea. Don’t EVER start off with “Now, this could be a long shot…,” or “We totally get if you don’t like this at first…” Sell your idea with some pride. You don’t THINK this is best for the brand, you KNOW it is. You’re the expert. So own it.

2. You’re A Team, So Act Like A Team!
You wouldn’t go to a meeting with a bunch of stuffed animals, seat them in chairs around the boardroom table, and try to speak to clients. That would just make you look, well, nucking futs. So, don’t treat your teammates like stuffed animals. They’re not there to sit in silence and make the room look full, they’re there to contribute, and add to the collective enthusiasm and excitement of the room. If only one person speaks in a pitch, it may appear to the client that your crew (a) cannot work together, (b) isn’t in agreement, or (c) not everyone present understands the concept you’re pitching. Clients want to know that they’re getting an army of thinkers and creatives when they partner with an agency, so make sure that’s what you give them. No one wants to collaborate with just the drill sergeant.

3. Facts Are Your Friends
So, you think you know their target demographic? Prove it. Simply saying that ‘Facebook advertising appeals to the youth of today,’ is not enough to close a deal. Bring stats, charts, and infographics, anything to back up your point. Not only will this show that you know your stuff, but it also shows that you took the time to do research in preparation for the pitch. Be prepared with hard facts, especially when pitching a concept that is totally foreign to the client.

4. Get To The Point, Will Ya?
In this business, time is money. You may have set aside two hours to share your idea with a potential client, but they may not have done the same. When they’re seeing more than one agency, sometimes all in one day, you would hate to lose the business simply because time ran up before you could drive the concept home. Be mindful of their schedules, be concise, and to the point when you pitch.  If you bag the business, you’ll have plenty of time to schmooze with your new clients in the future. Perhaps over celebratory drinks, because your campaign was so kick ass?

5. Leave Em’ Something to Remember You By
Sure, more and more agencies are opting to go paperless. However, leave-behinds are essential to a good pitch. After listening to four or five other agencies pitch their ideas, it’s tough to remember which agency suggested what. Also, know that leave-behinds should not only contain all of the information touched on in the meeting, they should also be visually appealing, extremely well written, and packaged in a way that’s both creative and memorable. Then, once the contenders have all gone back to their respective offices, and the client is left to make a choice, your leave-behind stands out among a sea of white paper and boring coil bindings.

What do you think? Were these tips helpful? Send us your pitching tips in the comment section below!

 

  • Rocko

    Great points. I got one to add. Practice but not too much. It is good for the team to rally around the material…go through it several times to link the sections and various presenters and make sure you are distilling to the essence what makes your idea and recommendation so exciting and amazing. And then REHEARSE as a team but do it only once. I have seen countless times where the team tries to be fully prepared and goes through several formal rehearsals. It is dismal. The presenters become more nervous than they would be during the pitch itself – it is somehow harder to present to colleagues and peers who already know the stuff, OR it just comes off as dry and dispassionate. Too many rehearsals and you beat the life out of it and really mess with team confidence. Go through the material a lot, rehearse it once and then go home and make it your own.

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