As T-Pain once said: “All I do is win.” Well, nobody can win every new business pitch, but it can’t hurt to follow the advice that three agency business development veterans shared during a recent PR Club panel.
For starters, before you hit the ground running on responding to a new business opportunity that comes your way, pause and take a moment to qualify the opportunity. Alissa Lew, Head of Business Development at M Booth Health, shared some questions that agency teams should ask themselves to determine whether the opportunity is a good fit:
- Who is this prospect?
- What are they hoping to do?
- Is this an expertise that we have?
- What is the size and scope of the work?
- Can we get it done within the amount of time required?
- What are the odds of us winning?
And perhaps most importantly: Is this work that’s really interesting and exciting to us?
As Lew says: “As much as [agency leadership] needs to be generating revenue, we also owe it to our talent to be working on business that they get excited about. When your talent is excited to pitch the business and dig in, that energy really comes out in the process.”
Let’s say the opportunity checks all the boxes, and you decide to proceed. There’s often an assignment component to pitching a new client. How do you strike the balance between giving them enough ideas to get excited about working with you, and not giving away all your ideas for free?
According to Nick Sneath, VP and Head of US New Business at LEWIS Global Communications, the amount of work put in should correlate to how important the potential business is to the agency. Says Sneath: “When we feel that it’s a business imperative for us to do everything that we can to win, we’ll invest a substantial amount of money and resources to make it happen, doing everything from custom creative work to focus groups and surveys. If it’s free work, well, that’s ultimately a risk that you take when you’re trying to win professional services business, because you have to assure [the prospect] that your people can do the work.”
The pandemic upended the pitch process by making it virtual, eliminating opportunities for agencies and prospective clients to connect in-person. Three years later, many agency reviews continue to be conducted virtually. So how can agencies stand out when presenting their ideas over Zoom?
Rachel Huff, President and Founder of Victoire & Co, an agency search consultancy, says you’re actually missing out by waiting to connect through the final pitch presentation: “You have the Q&A, whether it’s a call or you send in the questions, that’s an opportunity to start to connect with the prospect through the questions you’re asking. Finding excuses to thoughtfully follow-up is one of the best things you can do—maybe sharing something you saw in the news about a competitor or a relevant trend.”
The panelists agreed that thinking outside of the parameters of the RFP can be a great way to stand out from the competition.
This blog post was written by Rachel Huff, president and founder of Victoire & Co, a consultancy that connects companies with the right agency partners.