The Atlanta Falcons gave us a perfect illustration about how to win or lose. It doesn’t matter that they were playing football and in the agency world we are trying to win new business. They broke what may be the most important rule in the new business game.
--- Rule #1 in winning pitches: Make sure you don’t lose ---
While New England played a truly heroic game and did everything that they could to notch a win, they never should have been given the opportunity. Atlanta didn’t just shoot themselves in the foot by passing and getting sacked with 4:30 left in the game, an eight point lead and the ball at the New England twenty yard line. They then proceed to blow their entire foot off with a holding penalty on the next play. Had they simply ran the ball three times from the twenty yard line, ran down some time and kicked a field goal, they would have given the ball back to New England with about three minutes left and an eleven point lead.
Think about times where your agency has done the same thing. Think about times where your agency didn’t just not win…you actually lost the pitch. Part of winning pitches is making sure that you make no mistakes. That does not mean that you need a perfect strategy or perfect creative. It means that you need to execute flawlessly. Make sure that you are not only providing reasons for the prospect to hire you. You also need to make sure that you are not making any mistakes that cause them not to hire you.
Some mistakes that could give the prospect a reason not to hire you, in spite of some terrific work:
- A lack of cohesion on the team which is evidenced by people talking over each other during Q and A
- Presenting two different strategies (because you want to be safe) which makes you look like you have no point of view
- Making creative recommendations that are so strong they make you look difficult to work with
- Running over on time which gives the impression that you would rather talk at the client than listen to them
These are just a few example but you get where I am going. Sometimes you win a pitch because the other agencies simply lose the pitch.
New England is a tremendous team and they did everything necessary to win. But did Atlanta simply give the game away. Did Seattle do the same thing last year by passing on first and goal only to get intercepted?
As you create your pitch deck, look at from two perspectives. First, am I doing everything that I need to do to bring home a win? Second, am I doing anything that could cause me to give the pitch away to another agency?
Mark Schnurman is President of Filament Inc., a communication training and new business consulting firm that works exclusively with both consumer and pharma agencies.