I’ve sat on the client-side of a variety of agency pitches over the last few years and it’s been fascinating to see how each agency approaches the pitch – before, during and after – and what actually wins the business.
I may not have the final say on who wins the account but I’ve had an influence on the decision, and then been a main point of contact day to day with the agencies we’ve selected. I’ve seen the outcome of the decision and have been a part of how it plays out from there.
From that experience and viewpoint, as well as speaking to agencies and freelancers who pitch frequently for business to see the perspective from the other side, I’ve gathered the vital dos and don’ts for how to pitch for business and win…
Before the pitch
1. Ask a LOT of questions
The agencies which gave the best pitches asked a lot of questions upfront and scrutinised the brief thoroughly. They showed interest and genuine curiosity to help solve our problem. Don’t make any assumptions, instead ask a lot of questions to figure out exactly what the client is looking for. Pay attention to the things they’re not saying, or even the flippant, throw-away comments.
Everything is up for grabs at this point and you need to gleam as much information as possible now to make your pitch on the money.
2. Pinpoint the decision-maker, and whose opinion they care about
You’ll likely speak to and meet a few people during your initial conversations about the work. Be sure to identify exactly who will make the final decision and who that person listens to. Winning them over and answering their biggest needs are key.
Now you have the information you need, it’s time to prepare your business proposal. Keep it to the point – answer the brief, answer their needs and show them that you really get their business and the project and can deliver the results. And, make sure you run through your pitch fully at least once to get timings down and cut anything surplus or add anything you’ve missed.
During the pitch
4. Demonstrate you understand their business
Take the advice of Col Skinner from ProFoundry and make sure you really showcase your understanding of the client: “It always comes down to being able to demonstrate your understanding of their business, the value you bring them and putting across your experience. If you can do that then it will be hard for any CEO, Marketing Manager or owner will find it hard to say no.” This could be acknowledging their bestselling products or services or a customer segment and how you’d tailor your work to suit. Or maybe referencing some industry news that could impact the work or might need to be considered. It shows you’re looking at the bigger picture and see their place in it.
5. Prove you can deliver
You have to be confident you can get your client the results they’re after and prove that you can deliver. You can do that with testimonials, stats from previous work and brief case studies.
Adding recommendations is what freelance writer, James Devonshire, says clinches the deal: “On several occasions, I have thrown my hat into the ring when someone has put a call out for a freelancer to produce content. I am in a fortunate position, living in a third-world country, that I only need to charge just enough for my services. Therefore, I can usually beat my competition on price. Add a strong portfolio and glowing recommendations to this and I’ve got a winning formula.”
6. Share you and YOUR approach
“I have an honest, genuine approach. No gimmicks. No empty promises. No icky sales tactics. I bring my real self, candidly tell them where things were going wrong and how I can help. The clients I work with really appreciate the breath of fresh air. No-one likes a try-hard,” says Jen Eastwood of Rock Rose Digital. And she’s right, your personality is an important part of the pitch, so make sure you weave what makes you and your business unique into your pitch.
7. Be enthusiastic
Communications consultant, Liz Loly, says the pitches she won “come mainly down to my honesty, speed of communication and genuine enthusiasm.” It might sound obvious but I’ve sat in too many pitches where it just doesn’t feel like the people pitching really care. It was the dealbreaker with one pitch I sat in and lost that agency the business.
8. Be clear about who they’ll be working with
If there’s a clash of personalities between you, any of your team members and the client team it could jeopardise everything. Be upfront about who is involved in delivering the work, and who their main contact will be. If you’re a big enough company, it’s worth reassuring the client that you’ll make sure the team fit is right – after all you need to get along well enough to work together.