Those who win business are the ones who don't smother clients with a 'me, me ,me' attitude, says Microsoft's director of global agency, Adrian Cutler.
In this week's 'Ditch the Pitch', Cutler explains how clients would do better if they thought more about the information they share in RFI's and how agencies would be more successful if they stopped making pitches all about themselves.
What was the hardest pitch you have ever done, was it successful and what did your learn?
I've seen it from both the agency and client side. The hardest pitch I've ever had to sit through was where I put out a piece of business which was to create an ad for an online casino.
One agency gave us a case study that they clearly spent a lot of time on talking about themselves, why they're great, that sort of cred spec. I myself in pitches have done the same. Then then went into how, although they hadn't worked with a casino brand before, they absolutely understood our business because they'd worked with an alcohol/beverage company.
As I was siting through it I just thought this was borderline arrogant. What they were doing is saying look at us, we're amazing, it has nothing to do with your business but it's loosely connected because it has an 18 plus type of engagement to it.
When I've reflected back on the pitches that I've won versus the ones I've lost, it was when I took the time get to know clients, find out what drove and motivated them, really got to know their product, those were the times the pitches went well and we often won the business. The times we were case study heavy, what we think they want to hear, are the times we've lost.
Has the pitch process become far too complicated?
It's only as complicated as the people involved in the pitch make it. Just do the simplest thing, focus on what the client needs and take the time to understand what that really is. It might not be clear from the RFI, but what is the business trying to achieve? Sometimes agencies are guilty of not asking the right questions and sometimes clients are guilty of not putting the answers in the RFI or the RSP.
It's an industry wake up and it was for me. I spent many years in agency life to then go client side and see the reverse of it. The people that win business are the ones that open with not telling the client everything about their agency. They realised they were there to talk about the clients business and why they think they can add value.
Is it time to ditch ‘request for information’ documents (RFIs) or even the ‘chemistry meetings?
Clients would do better if they thought about what information they are sharing and why they are sharing it, opposed to being robotic and asking for the same thing all the time.
Where RFI's can work is if the agencies have the right questions to ask. We shouldn't get rid of them but I do think the clients need to take accountability for putting information in them that is useful.
Where they are asking something of the agency, they need to explain why they are asking that, because the chemistry meetings can often be a read out and things can be missed. The majority of the time, the RFI's are templated and it's on both parties then to get the real information out of that RFI.
Is taking part in a pitch always a logically financially viable process these days?
Definitely not. There are independent companies in this space that can often be in too much of a rush to go and pitch everything. It should be a case of do they really think that they are going to add value there, they're not just going after it because it's a good name or they can see the financial return. It's OK to turn around and say no every once in a while.
Often that no is because there's a compete situation or something like that. That's the wrong way to look at it. Think about if it's a pitch you really want to win and if so, are you really going to go at it? Then the cost implication that might be involved in pitching that piece of business shouldn't necessarily matter because they should be going into the pitch with eyes wide open.
As an industry are we guilty of pitching ourselves to the ground?
It's not necessarily that the industry is pitching itself to the ground but it really needs to think carefully about when a piece of business is put out for tender, what sort of agencies do I want involved in that pith process and from the agency perspective f when this piece of business as an opportunity lands in my lap, do I really want to go for it. It's not that bad, we're not pitching ourselves to the ground it just comes in waves.
Be more selective and make the commitment. If it is a pitch you really want to win, you've got to think about what it's going to cost really land this piece of business. Are you OK with that and is it something you really want that you can really add value? If the answer is yes to all of that, then you won't be guilty of pitching yourself to the ground.
Cutler will attend Pitch Perfect on 13 September where delegates can spend valuable and focussed time with four clients and ask them anything. Delegates will be split into groups, who will secure 15 minutes with each client.
This event focuses on helping agencies win new business. Check out the website for more information and to purchase tickets.
Partner of the event is BD100, with Digitas sponsoring.