Make client retention your number one priority.
Keeping client partners is more important than acquiring them.
Old business can be a source of new business, and it is easier to get new business
from existing client partners.
If you are winning new client partnerships, but loosing the old ones, your revenue
remains static, and your reputation eventually suffers.
Therefore – New business is number 2 priority.
New Business is all too often only left to those hired to generate it, but the reality is that New
Business is, and always has to be, a team effort.
Client wants a team – not an individual.
The company that thinks and acts as a team, that works as a team, is the one that will win
business. One that sees New Business as a separate discipline, an offshoot of the core business,
It is vital to create a New Business Culture. The more that NB is integrated into the whole
company’s awareness and efforts, the more likely you are to achieve your NB goals.
• Conduct regular meetings at which New Business is discussed.
• Assign NB responsibilities to a large number of people. Most effective in team resourcing & it
makes NB a team effort.
• Repeatedly emphasise NB goals and targets so that everyone has a clear sense of purpose and
• Make NB a discussion point at all internal meetings. It is out there and you should be
anticipating ways of grabbing it.
• It is everybody’s business.
Imagine you’re at a drinks reception. You meet a potential prospect. They ask a
‘So what makes your company different ?’
You’ve got 30 seconds to make an impression.
If you don’t have a brief but forceful summary of what makes your company different
and interesting, you’ll fail to make an impression.
This is your first line of offence – a mini pitch – and it should be as carefully worded
as any presentation. Sit down and compose it. Avoid bland, abstract, jargon-filled
formulations. Make it short, sharp and attention grabbing. Consider your local
markets and highlight your agency’s supreme advantages, then link these to a global
If you are not clear what makes your agency number one, you can’t communicate it
You NEVER get a second chance to make a first impression.
Unless you have a particularly bizarre attitude to ‘retail therapy’, you don’t go shopping for a washing
machine until the old one breaks down or you move to a new home.
It’s the same with prospective client partners. If their agency relationship breaks down, or they have
a new product to launch or market to conquer, they’re interested. The rest of the time their
commitment to you will be disinterested and non-committal.
Washing machine manufacturers recognise this crucial distinction and act accordingly. They don’t
bombard consumers with advertising, relying instead on approaching those ‘customers ready for
change’ with offers etc.
Deploy the most time and effort when client are looking to ‘buy’ and less when you are presenting
The agency that wins the most business wins.
It’s simple. It’s obvious. But, in the euphoria of a pitch won,
it’s easy to forget you lost the last three, or didn’t even
make it to the long list. With every New Business you
compete for, the conversion ratio must be the first and most
We work is some of the most oversupplied markets in the
So, first ask yourself:
‘How often did we make it to the long list?’
If you don’t get in the game, you can’t compete.
Industry Average Jigsaw Second, ask yourself:
‘When we made the short list how often did we win the
Long list => Pitch 25% 71% Reaching the final is no good if you don’t cross the line first.
Conversion ratios maximise the efficiency of financial &
Pitch => Win 33% 63% human resources. If you’re getting on a healthy percentage
of short lists but never winning the pitch, then it’s clear the
pitch needs improvement, and that’s where money and
resources can be directed. If the pitch win rate is 100% but
it came out of a low long list pitch rate of 10% - you won
one pitch but never made another long list – that’s a
different problem that needs attention.
Conversion ratios are one of the best diagnostic tools for
determining an agency’s effectiveness when it comes to
business development. They should always be foremost in
your mind, After all, what counts is what you’ve won – not
how much prospecting you’ve done.
Stand in the New Business Office. Close your eyes.
What do you hear?
The sound of a phone constantly ringing-or the sound of silence?
If it’s not ringing, it should be!
An agency where the phone rings of its own accord is an agency with a reputation and a high profile that
prospective client partners are hungry to bite into.
If it is ringing, your New Business efforts must focus on improving your hit rate,
Ask yourself a new question: ‘Are inbound calls actually leading to wins ? ‘
You can’t hit a target if it isn’t there!
Clear & precise goals gives everyone something to
aim for & a drive to hit the target.
As any great sportsman knows, thinking ahead puts you ahead of your
rivals. Focusing on the future makes it more likely to happen the way
you want it.
Don’t wait it, generate it!
This is the way to think ahead & go for New Business.
Compile a list of companies & targets, communicate them to the team
as someone might have contacts or connections that provide a way to
reach a target company.
Keep your list updated.
Keep the companies in mind & seek out opportunities to establish a
relationship with them.
Remember that New Business is long-term business & finding
prospective clients takes months.
Goals need to be realistic: chase every prospect & you’ll end up with none.
Use the following criteria to streamline you prospect list & so focus resources to
Prospect is :-
In a growing industry/sector
A creative opportunity
A big spender
Not a significant conflict
Goals need to realistic therefore don’t see the pitch as an all-or-nothing deal.
Don’t dismiss the ‘Trojan Horse’ approach.
Get part of the business on offer-however small-and you’ve got a foot in the door.
Do you job well & more doors will open.
Approaching prospective clients can be compared to dating.
You need to make a big impression quickly & you need to make
them feel unique.
It is no good sending the same mailing to each of your prospective
Clients as they will begin to recognize it as the stale chat up line it is.
Your first approach must be second to none so make it individual,
Eye catching & by far original.
Getting new business can seem an impossibly difficult task-like pushing water uphill.
Canal builders solve this problem by constructing a series of stages to get to the top.
To get to the top in New Business, adopt the ‘Canal System’. Hence you can ensure that your
Pipeline of New Business potential keeps flowing in the right direction: from target company to
Meaningful contact to potential client partner to new account.
The canal system is the method of keeping track of new business leads by converting leads from
Possibilities to probabilities as example below will show:
CODE STATUS NUMBER
Target Identified as real contact 30
Contact Made meaningful contact 15
Potential Held meeting begin selection 6
Win Won assignment 1
The Canal System is about making your New Business leads part of a
process. It’s about follow-up. Establish & monitor the status of you leads &
take appropriate action to take them to the next stage.
Keep them moving up be it sending a Christmas card or presenting
credentials to client.
‘There are no problems, only solutions’
Every company has limitations. Don’t waste time
finding a solution. Instead of laying blame at
someone else’s door, find a window of
Complaining focuses your thinking on what can’t
But the client is only interested in what can be
Make New Business the art of the possible
This should be a slogan, a question, a mantra you ask yourself each day.
Make it part of your routine as checking your emails every morning.
A company that is alert to New Business possibilities, and shapes each day around
finding & fulfilling them, is one that will succeed.
The importance of plans & preparation for a pitch can’t be overestimated. But in the
end it’s how they translate into a few hour’s pitching that counts.
Every agency will bring their resources to bear on exploring the prospective clients
brief- it’s what they do with what they learn that sorts out the winner from the lose.
Keep sight of that end result.
Have the continual consideration of how your team’s research & ideas are going to
shape into an event-a package of powerful persuasion.
The eventual result will be to put into effect if you want to have an effect.
Adopt the ‘Just Do It’ attitude!
Pitching is about team work. However every pitch needs a
senior member of staff who will drive that pitch home.
Effective delegation & co-ordination are only achieved if
one person is in the diving seat.
Putting the right person in charge is an essential part of
the pitch and the bigger the pitch the more you will need
someone with a proven track record of New Business to
head and energize every aspect of the pitch.
Each prospective client is different especially when phrases like
‘target audiences’ are mentioned.
You will have to consider how the individual client likes being sold
Each style will need a different approach. Do some basic
personality profiling and get to know the culture of your prospective
Always avoid the generic approach-remember that prospective
clients are people too!
Experienced clients know what they are looking for.
They expect excellence but they will also have a clear idea of the single
most important thing that they want to want from an agency.
When it is time to make their final decision this factor will be the decider
of the winner.
To find out what that very fact is , get the client to tell you what the key
thing is that will make them choose one agency over another.
The knowledge should shape your pitch & therefore highlight the
agency’s strengths that are important in the eye of the client.
You can’t beat the competition unless you know who the
Asking the prospective client is your first touch point. If they
don’t reveal this info then refer to your competitor analysis
findings to see who might market themselves to this
Your strategy depends on matching opponents strengths &
going one better.
Recognizing who & what you’ve got to beat lets you make
the best & most effective use of resources.
‘Know thy enemy’
Prospective clients use a score sheet to make
Competing without knowing the criteria you’re
going to be judged on puts you at a huge
Do some research & find out how the marks are
As every political party knows, knowing who is
doing the pitch is crucial to success. A pitch is no
Will the prospective client’s decision be the
result of a team decision or a single member.
‘There is nothing more transparently awful than
seeing agency people addressing only the
senior, ignoring the real decision-makers-the 25-
28 year old’ (Andrew Melsom in Market Leader)
Impress all but impress the decision –makers
most of all.
The style of credential meetings has changed.
Prospective clients don’t want display only but debate.
They see the meeting as an opportunity to try out how
you’ll work together.
The agency that ignores this & aggressively presents its
way through the credential meeting is unlikely to be
Set up an environment that promotes discussion, debate
& work shopping:
•Highlight case studies that are especially relevant to the
•Decorate the meeting room with relevant material:
Boards with competitive work.
Photographs from previous campaigns/activations done.
Don’t monopolies the credential meeting. Reason being is
that prospective clients complain that agencies hijack the
meetings & focus on themselves rather than the potential
Don’t treat the prospective client with kid gloves!
If you don’t challenge, if you don’t ask forthright questions,
you won’t get the answer you need.
The period between the brief & the pitch is at least as important as the pitch itself.
How you handle it can determine whether you win or lose.
Managed properly is an opportunity to show the prospective client that you are keen,
committed & hungry- these factors time & time again prove the decider in a pitch.
Ask relevant elated questions with regards to their business & internal structures as this
will promote confidence in & involve the prospective client.
How you use you time shows them how you would use theirs so plan your interaction with
them from the start:
•The New Business team should always decide on a contact strategy for keeping in
touch with the prospective client.
•There is a fine line between involvement & intrusiveness. Establish with the prospective
client what level of exchange they want at this stage.
From brief to pitch is a short distance. The prospective client know their product better
than you do. Tapping into that knowledge can give you a huge advantage over your
Utilize this period between brief & pitch not only to gather information but to establish a
relationship with the prospective client.
It’s a lot easier to do in 3 weeks than 3 hours.
In the end its all about the chemistry. Prospective clients hire the
people they like. The agency that remembers that and establishes
a personal dimension will win the business.
Make a connection with you prospective clients.
Show respect & empathy for them. Understand their work ethic
and ask questions to get them involved. Be supportive.
Take every opportunity to let the personalities of the pitch team
Having a ‘fiend’ on the inside, even if you’ve only just met them,
can provide invaluable help.
Prospective clients are looking for an agency they’ll enjoy working
Show them you’re a team- and show them that they’re part of a
The prospective client wants to know if you can work together with
them and work together well. (see Tip 22)
Don’t leave this until the pitch and don’t believe it is not a vital factor
towards winning a client.
Find out what kind of involvement they want & then decide on a
If the prospective client seems interested to team up with you, find a
productive way to make regular contact.
Use you initiative to initiate a relationship.
Always develop some form of contact strategy as part of you pitch
process from the start.
Of course there will often be late nights in the days leading up to the
pitch. But breaking out the deadline mentality yields results.
Clocking up hours at the beginning of the period between brief &
pitch gives you a head start. The team gains confidence from the
sense that they are already covering ground.
Hence a more powerful & polished presentation is created due to
less rush & ‘last minute dot com’ occurrences.
So work smart!
If you’re talking, you’re not listening. ‘Not listening’ is one of the top ten
complaints by prospective clients about agencies.
Allow the prospective client to lead which is the best way of understanding
the people you are dealing with and to fully understand the brief (tip 16).
The only way to find out what the prospective client really want is to ask
From asking the right questions you’ll both learn & look eager-= a
consistent pitch-winning combination!
Before the pitch, prospective clients don’t want presentation, they want
They want to hear not about you but your track record.
They want questions & answers. They want debate.
Above all they want to see how you and they can work together.
We have two eyes, two ears but only one mouth. Our bodies are built like that
because, when it comes to getting information, watching & listening are more
important than talking.
When meeting with the prospective client you should watch & listen twice as much
as you speak (see tip 26).
Don’t tell them what they want-find out what they want.
Think about which questions will really reveal how the prospective clients think &
need i.e.: What has been the downfall of other agencies in the past? How will you
decide on the winning agency?
The first meeting are about gathering key info which will define the pitch.
The agency that looks & listens will learn a lot more than the one that doesn’t.
They’ll have the competitive edge that is the starting point.
The client briefs your agency. Your team comes up with
brilliant solution to every part of the brief. And so you WIN
the pitch or DO you?
Prospective clients are experts in their band, but they’re not
experts in communications. You are!
That’s why they want to hire you.
So, after the brief go back to basics. Think hard about the
true nature of the prospective client’s business problem &
whether their brief really is the solution.
If not then explore the alternatives.
Your company has not only communication insight but a
wealth of business insight- if you act as a business partner
for your prospective client they’ll value you more.
Added Value = added win pitches
‘What is my main competitor going to do next?’
That’s the question that keeps your prospective clients awake at night.
Coming up with the answer won’t only give them an easeful sleep, it
can win you the pitch.
Explore their competitions strategies, options & intentions.
It will establish the empathy that prospective clients increasingly look
for in agencies.
The worst case scenarios can be used to devastating effect in a pitch-if
you can present a way to counteract them.
Prospective clients are looking for an agency that understands them
and their problems.
Thinking through what keeps them awake is the key to understanding.
This seems like obvious advice.
Due to the obvious nature of the above statement
pitch history is full of tales of agencies that
forget this simple tip & hence lose the pitch.
The following 4 points will ensue you stay focused
on the question with the right answers:
1. Read and make sure that you answer the
2. If you don’t agree with the brief, discuss with the
prospective client. Don’t avoid the brief or
answer the brief you think they should have
presented. Despite the special circumstances
outline in tip 29, not doing what the
prospective client asks is the quickest way to
3. Re-read the brief before the first Question-and –
Answer session. Asking the prospective
client’s questions that are answered in the
brief makes you look foolish & under-prepared.
4. Re-read the brief the night before the pitch and at
the start you’ll know he brief all too well.
Make sure that its fresh in your mind. Re-read it
to remind you of the contents & renew the
“Genius is 99% perspiration & 1% inspiration”
(Inventor Thomas Edison)
It’s easy-often fatal- to forget that the inspiration of the pitch
comes from weeks of perspiration leading up to it.
A pitch is only as strong as the team working on it.
Do you have the right team?
Do you have enough people working on the pitch?
And a pitch is only as strong as the work that has gone into it in
the preceding few weeks.
Recognize the vital importance of preparation, do your own
research & above all engage with the prospective clients-spend
time with them, share your ideas with them and ask insightful
Hunger wins New Business.
Time & time again, prospective clients identify energy, commitment &
eagerness as winners of New Business.
The question of ‘Does this agency really want my business ?’ will be on their
Consider every aspect of every stage of the pitch process-is it really better
than your competitors.
Have you done all you can concerning:
Caliber of presentation
Meeting room set-up
Research into the market place
If the answer if ‘yes’ then you are far more likely to succeed.
Go Beyond the prospective client’s expectations.
Go the extra mile & you are halfway to success.
There may not be a stage but a pitch is a performance.
The agency that recognizes this & shapes their presentation as close to a theatre
production with capture the moment & create an experience that makes a
phenomenal & memorable pitch.
The elements involved weather play o presentation remain the same.
“Will the audience will get it?”
A pitch must be an experience for the prospective client.
It’ll only be one if it’
The pitch is a form of theatre.
The Presentation Pitch Doctor (PPD) gives the equivalent of the director’s notes at the
The pitch dress rehearsal is the time for a fresh eye.
The PPD should be someone outside of the team who is able to put themselves in the
shoes of the prospective client who has been apart of 6 other presentations before yours.
He will pick out the strengths & weaknesses of the pitch, how the entire message comes
across to the prospective client.
The PPD is the last test of what you pitch will actually look like to the prospective client.
Make sure that they are seeing what you want them to see.
Teamwork thrives on enthusiasm & sometimes this
can blind you to drawbacks in you strategy.
Don’t let the prospective clients be the first test of
your big idea.
Appoint a Strategy Pitch Doctor (SPD) who will
check that your train of thought is convincing &
heading in the right direction.
Appoint a SPD earlier on so they can stop you
wasting time on an idea that doesn’t work and their
comments could change the entire thrust of your
pitch in the right direction.
Casting can make or break a pitch no less than a film.
Prospective client insist that chemistry is almost what decides the
winner. They want to see a team that works well-both with prospective
clients and with each other.
Agencies tend to pick the pitch team from who’s available.
This is practical consideration but should never be the only one:
•Make sure the team members bond, if they work convincingly as a
team you’ll convince the prospective client.
•Give the right role to the right person. Their role in the company
doesn’t necessarily make them a great presenter.
•Understand your target audience (Tip 16).
Have you ever been to a dinner party where someone stays silent throughout the
meal? Unnerving, isn’t it?
It’s no different for prospective clients during a pitch.
A team member with no obvious role will only distract and should not be sat in during
the presentation to prospective client.
Each member of the team should perform part of the presentation & be able to add to
‘ A room full of silent nods sends a very bad signal about an agency’
The pitch is a piece of stagecraft and your creative & strategic idea must take
It needs the spotlight.
A good idea won’t sell itself standing alone.
So spend time crafting your strategic proposition so that on the day it’s easy
for the prospective client to understand.
Packaging your thinking ensures that it’s delivered.
Yes it sounds obvious, but we’ve all done it- we’ve allowed
for ourselves to cover the whole brief through adequate
Bear in mind that your competitors are at least as good as
Every agency that makes a pitch in the process will
produce excellent material.
Be ruthless with yours- only first rate will be first choice.
Don’t let a zeal for complacency tempt you to put into a
presentation strategy o creative that is weaker than yours
Poor wok steal attention from your best material.
It will be remembered and it is better to tell the prospective
client that you haven’t yet solved a problem rather than let
them believe that you solved it badly.
A New Business presentation is one of the most
valuable tests of the company’s strengths.
This has to be analyzed effectively in Case Studies:
•Use everyday language
•Write a success story, not a debrief
•Focus on the agency’s biggest contribution
•Highlight all of the campaigns achievements
The aim is to provide a library of experience that any
part of the company can understand & use to win New
Prospective clients like debate but they want a
Don’t offer options as they can give an impression of
indecision. Prospective clients want their chosen agency to
have a point of view.
Make sure you make a recommendation.
Make sue that its clear.
Make sure that the prospective client know the
recommendation and why you chose it over other options
that you have discussed.
Power point is a great way to pass on a lot of
But don’t use it as your only medium.
Multimedia is the key. Let power point do what it
does well, but find other means of presenting to
the prospective client too.
Packaging you info in a variety of ways is far more
stimulating than staring at 100 slides.
Rehearsal is what makes a pitch powerful and
Knowing what you are going to say & how long it takes
Confidence=inspiration to the prospective client.
Rehearsal smoothes out the glitches & pitfalls so that
the final performance is polished & professional.
Rehearse your presentation, this is not the death of
spontaneity, as it can make or break the difference
between a good pitch & a winning pitch.
‘ At no time ever in the history of making presentations
has any prospect come out and said that they wished the
meeting had taken longer’
(Andew Melsom in Market Leader)
No matter how brilliant your presentation, if it overruns it
will under perform.
Prospective clients have a schedule hence if your
presentation overruns it will upset their schedule.
The pitch is the show case of an agency’s ability and if
you can’t deliver during the presentation the prospective
client won’t believe that you can deliver what they want,
when they want it.
KEEP TO TIME!
How you handle the closing questions can make or break the pitch.
You will find yourselves under fire with purpose driven questions from the prospective
Be prepared and anticipate what they might think & ask through your answers.
Make sure that only one person answers as when many do it confuses more than
A prospective client who asks questions is interested so see the questions as
‘The only people who are remembered are the winners’
(Sprinter Linford Christie)
You work in a competitive industry so expect that your
competitors will produce the best possible creative &
strategy- Because they will.
Being very good won’t be good enough.
To come first you need to take more risks & be experimental
unlike your competitors as there are no prizes for coming
Choosing an agency is a tough decision for prospective
If they can find an easy reason exclude you, they will.
Don’t let the search for the big idea mean you neglect the
Prospective clients remember mistakes !
They remember disorganization & discomfort.
Brief reception before their arrival & never keep them
Make sure that the presentation room is the right size &
The prospective client is on the look out for anything that
might trip you up and then look for the one you’ve missed.
Prospective clients will forget most of what you
presented to them so leave-behinds are your best
defense against amnesia.
They will take this away & use as a reminder of what
Leave-behinds need to capture the magic & excitement
of the pitch and they need to get the same message
across with absolute clarity.
The leave-behinds are about reminding not informing.
Don’t expect the prospective clients to get form leave-
behinds something that wasn’t in the pitch.
Make them as professional as possible, your hunger for
the prospective client business is reflected in their
Imagine your prospective clients leaving the building after the pitch. They climb into the taxi & discuss what
they’ve just seen & heard.
They’re not going to remember all the details & subtleties of your presentation- they’ve seen 5 agencies already
& are deep into pitch-fatigue.
Their impression of you to boil down to a single point that you stood out for.
Don’t fail the taxi test.
Make sure you present one thing that you’ll be remembered for.
Emphasize this one throughout so it won’t be forgotten
The end of the pitch is not the end- it’s the prospective client final
decision that’s final.
Leaving no stone unturned means using the time between pitch &
decision to further demonstrate your commitment & keenness
towards the prospective client.
Follow up whether there were any queries with regards to the
Remember that the prospective client’s decision is rarely clear cut &
Continuing the momentum & excitement of your pitch can sway the
scales in your favor.
‘It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up’
‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat’
(Philosopher George Santanya)
Nobody wins every pitch but what you learn from your loss
determines whether you win the next.
Make the pitch post-mortem an essential part of your pitch process.
Perhaps send them a post-pitch questionnaire.
If possible arrange to go and see them to discuss & dissect the
They might even want to deal with the pitch doctor as an
No experience is wasted if you gain insight from it:
Turn loss into lesson
When recruiting staff, Napoleon’s final question was always:
‘Do you consider yourself to be a lucky person?’
There’s an element of luck in any business.
By reading & acting on the tips in this book, you’ve stacked
the dice as far as possible in you favor.
Once you’ve left nothing to chance, all you can do
Is hope chance smiles on you.