1. THE INITIAL CONTACT
2. RESEARCHING THE OPPORTUNITY
3. METHODICAL ANALYSIS
4. CRITERIA FOR PROCEEDING
5. VALUE OF THOROUGH PREPARATION
6. WARMING UP THE PROSPECT
7. GETTING THE TONE RIGHT
8. THE TEAM
10. THE PRESENTATION
• They know roughly who you are – or do they?
• Need to establish how much they know
• Take nothing for granted
• What stage are they at in their search for an
• What is their style like?
• What channel did they use to get in touch?
• What is the best channel through which to respond?
• How did they hear of the agency?
• Can you trace that trail back and piece other
interesting information together?
• The onus is on you to have something to say
• What exactly are you going to say?
• Rehearse your approach first
• Why should they listen to you?
• Why should they take a meeting?
• Do you really know anything about them?
• What is an issue for them at the moment?
• Be able to articulate yourself within thirty seconds
• Are they well known and respected?
• Are they viable?
• Do they have a history of commissioning good
• Are they time wasters?
• Are you basing your opinion on real information or
• Get informed before you recommend a course of
action or decide on one
• Do the desk research first
• Supplement the facts with qualitative detail – ring
round to ask for opinion
• Match the potential opportunity to agency
experience – what is the common ground?
• What do you do if there honestly isn’t much?
• Don’t get carried away and fool yourself that there is
an opportunity when there isn’t
Deciding whether to proceed
• Remember, at this stage, we are deciding whether
to meet and discuss, not whether to pitch
• Inspired and informed questions are as interesting
to clients as statements about the agency
• Discuss with colleagues
• Take a little time, if you have that luxury.
• The overnight test is desirable for a more balanced
Start with the sector
• Does it suit the agency?
• Do we know it?
• Could we get to know it?
• How quickly?
Look at the competition
• Is this the best brand in the category or can we do
Scrutinise the budget
• What have they spent over the last few years?
• Is that viable?
• Does this client or project have good potential for
• Will people enjoy working on it?
• Could it make an excellent case history?
• Does it have the potential to win an award?
Look at their people
• Are they our style?
• Would we get on well?
• What are their backgrounds?
Look at our people
• Will we gel with the above?
• Will our CVs do the trick?
• All new business prospects should be screened for
three criteria – good work, viability, and fun.
• Good work could mean highly creative, or brand
new to the industry, or award winning, or pioneering,
or a new subject matter for the agency, or an area
that the agency knows a lot about.
• Viable means profit making.
• Fun means everybody wants to work on it, or
somebody specific does.
The Golden Triangle
If you can tick two out of three of these criteria, the
business is worth having.
If you can tick all three, then you really want it.
• How long have you got?
• Cut your cloth according to timescale
• Write the plan now, and stick to it
• Allocate tasks: writers, creators, presenters, chasers,
• Remember, the pitch leader does not have to be the
most senior person
• Do we know a lot about this already, or do we need
• What do we know?
• What don’t we know?
• Do we need research?
• Do we need outside help?
• What is the team?
• What are the logistics?
• Plan the time
• Plan the money
• Plan the resource
• Assemble the relevant people in the first 24 hours
• Get a broad direction early on
• Write the logic chain
• Keep checking the logic chain
• What is their attitude to risk?
• What is the core of any product differentiation they
The Pitch Deadline
• Human nature to
delay, but don’t
• Convene decision
makers in first 24 hrs
• Set direction, brief
experts, course correct
The Bravery Scale
• How adventurous is
• What standards are
• How brave should targets
• Remind when you
Warming up prospects
• Draw up a proper contact strategy
• What will you communicate to whom, and how often,
before the day?
• Who are the people who will be making the
• Are there others that you haven’t been told about?
• How can you find out about them?
• What can you do to promote the agency before the
• Convey enthusiasm, without over-pestering
Warming up prospects
• What questions do you have? Get the balance right
• Remember that the level of intelligence conveyed in
your questions says a lot about the agency’s quality.
Do not leave questions to the last minute and collect
them as a random selection
• What is the culture of the prospect like?
• Will they appreciate hospitality or proof of rigorous
• Who knows who? Can you capitalise on a friendship
Warming up prospects
• Keep checking back on the contact strategy – are
you actually doing it, or are you off course?
• Try asking the prospect open-ended questions such
as How are we doing?
• Consider offering references so that the client can
call other clients and discover what it will be like
working with your agency
• Better still, pretend you have already won the
account and create the conditions in which they can
tell what it will be like working with you, because
they effectively already are
Getting the tone right
• What is the agency’s tone or culture?
• What is the prospect’s tone or culture?
• Are they compatible? Be honest.
• If there are significant differences, what steps can
you take to make the prospective relationship more
• Beware overclaim – they have heard it all before
• Work out what is helpful and appealing about the
way the agency does things, and capitalise on that
• Beware over-pestering – being keen is good, being
a pain in the neck isn’t
Getting the tone right
• Be hungry for the business, but do not stray into
• Beware of sycophancy – they know that you want
the business, or else you wouldn’t be pitching
• Be candid if you disagree with them or have different
opinions. If they had all the answers, they wouldn’t
be looking for a new agency.
• Remember, you are paid for your opinions and
advice, as individuals, and collectively.
Getting the tone right
• Appreciate the value of calmness and maturity –
harness an approach that conveys good
organisation, and lots of experience
• Don’t panic and generate inappropriate reactions
and behaviour in the agency that could jeopardise
the pitch outcome
• Make sure that it appears at all times that the
agency knows what it is doing. If this is not true, talk
to the people that matter and fix it quickly
• What is it?
• The importance of casting
• Allocate tasks: writers, creators, presenters,
• Appropriate marking is essential
• Find out who is coming from their side and match
their needs accordingly
• Depth of resource: demonstrate it, but don’t confuse
it with who should be in the room on the day
• Use imaginative ideas to show them the team who
will work on the business. Try to get all of this out of
the way before the day
• Consider a video or CD of all the characters,
including the backroom staff
• Don’t pack the room with people who won’t say
• Don’t confuse people who are great at client service
with great presenters. The former won’t win the
business, and the latter won’t keep it.
• Keep a close eye on viability. Don’t go mob-handed
or propose a team that will automatically lose the
• Who to field and when: think carefully about timing in
the run up and on the day. Play in the right people at
the right time.
• Avoid duplication of effort. Do not have scores of
people rushing about chasing the same ball like kids
playing football in the playground.
• If the team is not working, and you have time, change
• Pay attention to client comments about the team
before the day. Ask open-ended questions.
• Don’t pick the nearest people or those who happen
not to be busy or on holiday. Give it really careful
thought and match the people to the task based on
• Look very carefully at the agency’s credentials and
ask yourself a number of questions:
• Has the prospect seen all this already? In which
case, they should play no part on the day of the pitch
• How interesting are they? Freshen them up every
• How appropriate are they? Don’t just cut and paste
from a previous effort – the issues will always be
different, so the points relating to the agency and
their business will always be slightly different.
• Compare with your competitors. Do you know what
• Consider drawing up criteria that the prospect can
use for appointing an agency, and highlight your
rivals’ deficiencies by implication (but never by
• Delivery before the day. If they really do require
credentials as part of the pitch, send them
beforehand saying that you want to devote as much
time as possible on the day to discussing their
business, not yours.
• Remember that talking about their business is the
main point. You will rarely be criticised for this.
• Alternatively, select the main points from your
credentials (preferably no more than six), and weave
them in to your pitch.
• For example, choose specific moments to highlight
your strengths in a sector, international areas, a case
history, resource, and so on, as part of the strategic
story that you are telling.
I.S.S.U.E. PITCH SYSTEM
ISSUE: What’s the big issue? What problem needs
solving? First instincts?
SOLVE: How can we solve it? Can it be solved? Can we
fix it, or just improve it?
STATISTICS: What’s it worth? Where’s the evidence?
What proof is unique to us?
UNIFYING THEME: What ties all this together? What’s the
central idea? Pitch on a postcard?
EMOTION: Why should they like us? What makes us
different from the other agencies? Who is connected to
ESTABLISHING THE NEED
How the thought process becomes a brief (written or on
the hoof in a meeting)
STATED: What they said they wanted ("I want a mail
HIDDEN: What you think they actually need (Sales of x,
by whatever method). Now expand it into something
the agency is good at
IMPLIED: Any vague stuff that has also been mentioned
which may be relevant. ("I was a bit disappointed with
the last one”)
TRUE: Distillation of all the above (the brief). Re-express
the task and work out how to get them to agree
The Market Map
• Win the business with
• Plot any market
• Encapsulate strategy
• Try multiple variables
• Imply direction of
travel and success
The Whittling Wedge
• Tell an engaging
• Start broad, then
• Consider, then reject
• Exclude competitor
• Recommend with
The Motivational Dip
• Honeymoon period
• It never lasts
• Listen and learn phase
• Ends in success or
• Can almost always be
What if the people are negative?
• Use Three Good Three
• Draw out negatives first
• 3 worst and 3 best things
• Find common ground
• Offset bad with good
• Time limit & move on
What if our ideas are too random?
• Use Think Inside The Box
• Map out constraints
• Only work within those
• Bounded subject area
• Reject everything
• Think Apollo 13
What if our perspective is too
• Use Eyes Of Experts
• Choose experts in
• Or get attendees to do it
• View brief through the
eyes of different experts
• How would they do it?
• Consider those unrelated
What if everyone in our
market does the same thing?
• Use Category Stealing
• Identify other categories
(not your own)
• Define characteristics
• Name brands
• Identify approaches
• Apply to your brief
What if we have too little to go on?
• Use What’s Hot?
• Examine current trends
• Major events coming up
• Look at celebrities & issues
• Attach your issue to them
• Don’t force fit