Is winning without pitching really possible?

October 2, 2018

Regular readers of our blog may remember my blog from December last year, when I gave prospective clients some of my own thoughts around how to approach the new business process from an agency owner perspective....

Today, the boot was on the other foot to an extent, when we attended an insightful event hosted an event called ‘Win without pitching’ organised by Business Development specialists ‘Entourage’, to listen to Matt Dyment from Entourage and Blair Enns – agency pricing expert and CEO of ‘Win Without Pitching’.

Essentially the 2-hour event (which was attended by over 100 of our peers), was aimed at empowering agencies and advising those present how to approach new business in order to help our odds of winning a pitch and how our behaviour in the selection process sets up the pricing and working dynamic for the relationship once hired.

Matt Dyment kicked things off and made a number of valid points through his introduction. He reiterated the point that as business owners we have a responsibility to differentiate ourselves and better articulate the value of our respective agencies. Whilst this may seem obvious, it is true to say that many agencies struggle with elevating their proposition – that is focusing on the ‘why’ rather than ‘what’. Our experience aligns with this – we are in a highly competitive industry but probably don’t shout loud enough about what our value proposition is and why Navigate is so brilliant at what we do.

Blair Enns then took to the stage and successfully held the audience’s attention brilliantly for an hour as he ran through 12 of his key principles to work to when it comes to new business. There was a lot of head nodding amongst the audience throughout Blair’s presentation, which was a reassuring indication that the challenges we face when it comes to new business were shared amongst the audience.

Much of Blair’s keynote was focused on empowering agencies and encouraging us to try and swing the ‘power’ back into our favour, but in a positive and strategic way that focused on leveraging the agencies position amongst its competitors, which in turn would reduce the availability of substitutes (our competitors) to clients.

If many of the concepts discussed today were adopted by the agencies present, then it would certainly see many of them (including us) taken out of their comfort zone, which whilst challenging, would be a good thing and hopefully start to shift the traditional model of client-controlled pitches to more collaborative ones where the value of an agency was recognised.

In summary, the top six pieces of advice about how to approach new business from an agency perspective, that I took from this morning were

• To ensure you elevate your agency proposition and create greater value for clients
• To create a reason to engage with a client – become desirable and avoid being needy
• To be brave and say what you’re thinking (referred to as ‘kind ruthlessness’ by Enns) – you’d expect that from an expert practitioner, so why should we be any different?
• To embrace the ‘no’s’ – they are the second-best response you can get and you’ll know where you stand
• If you can’t disrupt the pitch process and have to go to pitch, go into it with confidence – say to yourself “we are the experts, we are the prize”

Much of the session was excellent and will certainly inspire our approach to new business going forward. I think Blair and Matt would certainly be the first to agree that it is all easier said than done, especially when procurement become involved – but if like us you’re confident in your proposition and approach to new business, and are prepared to be brave, then success should follow.

Can agencies really win without pitching? Yes, I think they can but there are clearly a number of boxes that need ticking first.

John Kimbell is joint Managing Partner @ Navigate


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