Pitches are exciting, addictive and bad for your health.

I recently read this great article about pitching that compares it to the destructive behaviour in abusive relationships.  Click here to read it. 

I also noted in Rory Sutherland’s book Wikiman that he quipped that people in agencies often prefer the excitement of the pitch over doing the work.  I had never thought of it like that.  That kind of rounds the circle for me.

Despite seeing the logic that competitive pitching isn’t good or even necessary or trying to position your agency so a pitch is deemed unnecessary or at least getting a pitch fee really why agencies do it is the buzz.  And it is exciting isn’t it? Add this to the habit itself we have a lethal addiction.

Well maybe this excerpt from the article will ween you of the pitch fix.

Mike Maddock says..

From my experience, the financial loss of a pitch is endurable, but the damage pitching does to a company’s culture is often irreparable.

What’s even worse is that it leads to a self-perpetuating cycle of false hope, accepted abuse and diminished confidence—and that’s where the cycle of abuse analogy fits in.

The cycle of abuse is a social theory developed by Lenore Walker, who taught at the Rutgers Medical School, to describe an often-predictable pattern in an abusive relationship. It goes like this:

1)   Tension builds. The victim feels fearful and feels the need to placate the abuser. It only works for so long. Eventually there is

2)   The incident. Verbal, emotional or physical abuse. After which comes

3)   Reconciliation. The abuser apologizes, makes excuses, denies that it was abuse at all, or says it wasn’t as bad as the victim claims. And finally

4)   Calm. The incident is forgotten until the cycle starts again.

According to Walker, abusive relationships have a predictable, repetitious pattern. She adds, sustained periods of living in such a cycle may lead tolearned helplessness and battered person syndrome—a pattern of symptoms, such as the inability to escape, that appear in people who are physically and mentally abused over an extended period.

In business, too many go through a similar cycle.

Instead of doing the real work of developing a truly unique offering, you hope that you can win with on-the-spot ideas, relationship building and showmanship. You accept that leaping through hurdles at the whim of our potential client is a sign of interest—they really like you—when it is really a sign that you have allowed your product, service or business to look just like everyone else’s. And in the end, after brainstorming, charming and entertaining as best you can, you’re told, “Wow, you almost won! Second place. Well done!”

Thank you, sir. May I have another?

A bit over the top or spot on?

There are solutions to this in my opinion and here are just a few.

a) Make sure you have a bold insight into the world of the prospect.  Your insight and thinking should set you so far apart that the prospect can see the difference between apples and oranges where as before a pitch was needed to separate apples from apples. See if you can get out of there being a need for a pitch at all. Yes, really.

b) Ask for a pitch fee. See how they react.  This will tell you where you are at.

c) Only join the pitch if you were referred onto to it.  85% of Marketing Directors buy from a referred agency.  The stronger the referral the better chance you will have. If you barged your way on you are likely to be cannon fodder to make procurement and the bean counter happy.

d) Be 100% certain that it is a piece of business that suits you in terms of budget, expectations, chemistry and potential longevity.

e) Avoid having new business people in place who get rewarded for getting you on pitches and avoid the overly competitive new business people who loves a challenge over the health of the business.  Everything looks like an opportunity to them and they love to believe in luck too. Teach them how to qualify opportunities that suits your business.

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