Presenting is not selling, it’s preventing you selling.

The creative agency world is addicted to pitching as I have blogged about before. And it shows no signs of abating, if anything the opposite.

And there is now even a recent case of BAA charging agencies to pitch, see PR Week . Pay to pitch !!!

Orwell couldn’t make it up.  As for reverse auctions, really, buying the cheapest bidder. As  a friend of mine who runs an agency once said, “Would they go to the cheapest hairdressers, they always want us to take them to the most expensive restaurants, they always have expensive tastes in jewellery and clothes but creative work….. pffft.”

I recently saw this quote on Brand Republic and it even made be double take.

Delegates heard how a 2010 IPA/ISBA survey found that only 8% of clients rated pitching as an efficient process. The same survey uncovered a discrepancy in perceptions about the cost of pitching. While clients believe agencies spend an average of £31,000 on a pitch, the reality is, say agencies, £178,000 when time is factored in. Brand Republic.

Couldn’t agencies use that survey when meeting prospects?

If you haven’t read Blair Enns manifesto – Win Without Pitching. I beg you, read it.

It will open your eyes like never before regarding pitching and the art of conversation.  And if you care about creative industries being manipulated into working for free then please do get a copy and pass it around. Mine’s done a few loops of London I’m sure.

However, pitching isn’t the only time agencies present their ‘stuff’, they do it in first creds meetings.  In fact agencies present an awful lot of things these days, largely on Powerpoint. I have sat through  months of this stuff over the last ten years. The presentation usually starts with the presenter admitting that “s/he is well aware of something called death by Powerpoint but please bear with me…”

So if you are aware that Powerpoint is boring and unnecessary why keep doing it? Usually it is used to show proprietary tools showing a virtuous circle diagram, a Venn diagram (see pic below created by David Brier) or a hierarchical triangle. Or to show the logos of your client base.  Not to mention when the agency started and how may people work there.  Death by boredom.  Stop it!  You know you want to. And you should. And you can. And you’ll feel better for it. I promise.

There is a time to present. And there are conditions when to present. Here are some of the things that will prevent you presenting when there is no need.

The time is when you are 100% sure what the prospect issue is.  100% I say.  No guessing, no assumptions.

And you are 100% sure you can solve that issue.

Tick thee boxes along the way – How long have they had this issue? How comes it won’t go away? Are you taking on an impossible task?

How much does this issue(s) costs them?

How will they know if your ‘idea’ solves the issue?

Are they able to fix it in-house or with their current agency? Why not?

Are you talking with the people who can decide to work with you? You sure? Have you asked if there are other concerned parties? 65% of decisions need the MD or CEO sign off – you met them yet?

Do they have budget sufficient for you to solve their issue? Can they get more?

How did the prospect find out about you, be very wary of people who found your agency on google or on a listing site – you are most likely, yes most likely, being used to make up numbers.  If however you are referred  to the prospect your chances have just jumped from 16% to 85% on average to win .  That’s a big jump.  And is the reason I bang on so much about getting referrals. And of course doing outstanding work!

So before you present, my advice is always start with a conversation. Peer to peer, grown up conversation that will lead both parties to decide if there really is a need to present ideas or not.

And if there is, shouldn’t they pay for it?  Or give you the work without a need to present at all. Blair Enns has reminded me that the answer is’yes’.  And if only 8% of client think that pitching is effective, then surely it is win-win.


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