We invited Ken Kelling (previously Communications Director at Visit London) and Chris Wood (previously Managing Director at Cake Group) to talk us through how to waste less time pitching and win more business.
With over 20 years at Director level on both the client and agency side respectively, Ken and Chris were in a prime position to offer their thoughts.
The talk focused primarily on how agencies can be strategic about the pitching process, as well as what the people on the other side of the table are really thinking.
Some key thoughts from Chris were:
- Only go for pitches you have a realistic chance of winning – look at the type of pitch your agency tends to win, and focus on those.
- During the pitching process, add another senior agency head into the pitch team. This extra person should attend all of the client meetings, and within the agency should act as the voice of the client. They should oversee that the key client questions are being responded to.
- Start at the end and plan accordingly – if your average pitch is 45 minutes, take away 5 minutes at the beginning and at the end, and you are left with 35 minutes. Your presentation can be no more than 40 slides!
- Follow a process, but know when to ditch it – If your pitching process is a mess, then create a structure for your team to follow. But after a while this may become constrictive, so know when to free their creativity.
Meanwhile, Ken had the following insights to share:
- Get rid of the ‘us and them’ theatrics – if you treat a pitch as a performance rather than a dialogue, clients are more likely to sit back and be judgmental.
- The perfect pitch concept will be ‘portable’. This means that the ideas can be quickly and easily shared with any stakeholders who weren’t in the room on the day of the pitch.
- Human qualities win pitches – clients notice the collective draw of breath when a junior team member speaks, and can spot self-interest a mile off.
- It’s not always the best idea that wins the pitch – Ken pointed to the recent Future Factory survey, which showed that the number one reason for a client selecting an agency was chemistry.
- Trust is the key to keeping a client – if an agency is credible and reliable, a client is less likely to look to pitch. Ken recommended that all agency teams involved in business development should read the book The Trusted Advisor.
- What information should you share about your agency in an initial meeting with a potential client? Imagine you’re pitching to a father the reasons why you should marry his daughter. (A deck of ex-wives and what you did for them is not the strongest introduction.) Better to show empathy for the client’s position, and share how you can help take their ideas to the next level.