New Business Bites: Getting your pitch over the winning line

The marketing sector can be a complicated place as new marketing tools and techniques are launched, almost on a weekly basis. Powered by The Drum Network, this regular column invites The Drum Network's members to demystify the marketing trade and offer expert insight and opinion on what is happening in the marketing industry today that can help your business tomorrow.

Chriss Wood and Ken Kelling of KellingWood Associates

The Drum Network’s new business bites series, aims to divulge bite sized pieces of wisdom for agencies in gaining new business. New business is always at the top of the agenda for most of the 30,000 agencies in the UK, but is there enough new business for all of them? New Business Bites is here for small to medium sized agencies to gain some tips in winning new clients and building their pipeline. Bites are provided by new business connoisseurs. This week, Ken Kelling, ex-communications director at Visit London and Chris Wood, ex-managing director of Cake PR, who now form KellingWood Associates, discuss how best to approach a pitch for business.

Winning new business is simply a question of who has the best creative idea, right?

82% of clients say the reason they call a pitch is because they are looking for “new and exciting ideas”, according to research carried out by The Future Factory. But like all people, clients are complicated creatures and the reality is that getting an agency over the winning line takes a complex mix of preparation and emotional intelligence - it’s not just about who has the best idea.

Here are five questions that anyone involved in winning new business may want to ask themselves to put themselves at the front of the queue for clients.

Is everyone clear on the first thing to do when a brief lands?

Time is frequently of the essence, especially if you are to allow yourself the time to rehearse that your hard work will deserve. But if the brief has sat in someone’s inbox for three days until the next senior management meeting, you’re already behind.

Make sure you have a well-structured, universally adopted and well-understood process that can be adapted to any timeline – whether you’ve got six weeks or ten days.

How well does the pitch team work together?

Is everyone clear on their role in the process? Confident? Empowered to think on their feet? Enthusiastic? Everything about the team will come across in a pitch environment and the client will pick up on emotional cues. If you are unprepared, divided, disinterested, flustered or bossed around – it will show in the pitch room.

How much have you really put yourself in the shoes of the client?

Your job isn’t to show how clever you are but to demonstrate how much you empathise with the client. Any chemistry meetings should follow the 80/20 rule of 80% listening and 20% asking questions. Putting a senior director in charge of keeping the client view live in internal discussions will help to make sure you don’t lose perspective and make it all about you as an agency.

Are you high or low self-orientated?

Clients will sometimes assume the worst of agencies either because of a bad experience in the past or they’re simply sceptical about your motives – you’re out to rip them off, pull the wool over their eyes or you just don’t “get” them.

A high level of self-oriented behaviour will increase that scepticism. A low level of self-orientation will help to overcome suspicion.

If you spend most of any client contact time talking about yourself and how many awards you’ve won, you’re high self-oriented. If you go out of your way to imagine what it’s like to be in the client’s shoes and how challenging their job must be, you’re showing low self-orientation.

Are you proactively building trust?

Building trust is perhaps the single biggest factor in winning new business. But what if there’s no existing relationship between the client and your agency? How can you even begin to get on their radar?

Make sure that you build a reputation and great working practices, so that when those opportunities do arise you immediately give a good impression. Always be on the lookout for small steps that can raise you up the trust ladder – returning phone calls quickly, sticking to deadlines, doing what you said you’d do, directly asking people to recommend you and keeping up a public profile.

Winning new business takes more hard work than luck but with the right processes in place and the ability to look below the surface of the client’s brief into what it’s really like to be them, you can immensely improve your chances.

Alongside The Future Factory, Ken and Chris will be holding a half-day workshop on June 7th on Winning More Pitches. To book or for more details email Kimi.Gilbert@thefuturefactory.co.uk or visit the training section of the website.

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