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Top ten tips for successful pitching

It’s exciting for us, but less so for our clients. It can be boring, it’s usually tricky and risky. Try to put yourself in the client’s shoes. We don’t matter. Her boss and her internal clients matter a lot.

‘Track record’ only means what we can tell our prospective client about competitors and issues – anything that she or he doesn’t know. If we do enough research our lack of a ‘track record’ is no impediment.

Experienced clients discount the senior people in the room and focus on the account managers and account executives. They are looking for people who will eat, breathe and dream their brand. It makes sense to give ‘juniors’ the lion’s share of the presentation.

Decisions are normally dressed up as rational choices, but it’s really chemistry that sorts out the winner from the rest. ‘I hired them because I liked them’. ‘We just clicked’. You don’t often hear clients say this, but it’s usually what happens.

‘We may think we’re fabulous, but to clients we all look the same’ says Helen Calcraft of Lucky Generals. How are we going to stand out? It makes sense to decide in advance, then design our presentation around the one thing they must remember about us.

Don’t waste time talking about the agency and its experience. You’ve passed that test already. Use the time you’ve got (which isn’t much) to give the client panel a sense of what it might be like to work with you. They’ve got to like the idea of seeing you every other day for a year.

The leave- behind is traditionally a copy of the presentation. They won’t read it. It will stay in a pile on the radiator, curling in the heat. Instead, leave something they will read – a White Paper about their industry, perhaps, or a long-form version of your media perceptions audit.

Keep visual aids very simple. Clients can’t look at slides and you at the same time. Slides should just be cues for what you are going to say next. Keep their focus on you and your team-members. ‘I don’t hire an agency: I hire a small team from a department within a firm – the agency is just a portal’.

Don’t waste time presenting a detailed budget. Clients know that everything is negotiable once they’ve decided who they want to hire. Instead, talk about your quality control system, how you source and manage third-party suppliers, how you will look after the client’s money more carefully than they do.

Rehearsals! Most agencies skimp on rehearsals and it shows. ‘A well-rehearsed team makes a very strong impression – probably because it’s so rare’.