Jun 25, 2009 at 05:17 PM
written by Kevin Hanft

New Business Pitch - Tough Times Require Fundamentals

I recently participated in a new business pitch for a major branded sports property. The agency team pulled together and did a great job, developing a thorough presentation and exciting creative. It’d be a great account to have on agency roster, in any economic environment.

It struck me that we should approach more of our professional lives like a new biz pitch. For those in agency or consulting businesses, you are constantly in this mode so it may be old hat. But folks in other corporate roles who lead projects or have responsibility for matrix management, you too are pitching. Clearly, anyone in career transition, every interaction is a new biz pitch.

During an earlier fact finding conference call, the client commented on how other agencies had ‘missed the point’ and did not seem to be in synch. Given the tough markets, it’s hard to believe that they were not all over it. Now, more than ever you must be sure to absolutely nail the basics and pay attention to details, regardless of the business you are in.

Listen to the Client/Customer. Usually, they will provide you with the answers or at least the kernel of an idea. Read the brief and be sure you understand it, fully and thoroughly. Be sure to ask insightful questions about the business, organization, customers and environment. Observe everything in their offices, people and mood. Don’t forget to pay attention to all that is not written or spoken.

Do the bookwork. There is no excuse for not being fully versed in the client business and market. The internet provides so much information and affords access to ideas, people and input. Shame on anyone with huge gaps in their knowledge and command of it.

Prepare well and have your credentials ready. Your business case, creative, facts or presentation has to be well conceived, though out and clearly communicated. Be sure to have summarized your experience, expertise and knowledge that provide your authority. Be sure to practice, especially when many folks are part of the presentation. The interaction of your team must seem natural, confident and genuine.

It may come down to chemistry equation – 1+1=3. Creating an appropriate emotional connection is generally the tie breaker between winning and losing a pitch. Credentials, client references and team experience all matter, but ultimately they will be adding you to their team. Both must be comfortable that style, approach and philosophy are a good match. There are no magic bullets for this; my advice is to be honest and true to your identity. A veneer front to win the business won’t last long.

Sell yourself. You cannot be shy about pointing out your skills and accomplishments; just don’t overdo it and assume your past will carry the day. You still have to close the deal based on what you can do in the future. Be sure you make the client know you sincerely want the business and will work hard on their behalf; but don’t fawn or sell past the close.

Kevin Hanft is principal at Marketing Leverage LLC and has 20+ years experience practicing strategic marketing and communications for brands such as AT&T, Avaya, Johnson & Johnson, Lucent and Mayo Clinic. Most recently, Hanft was VP Global Account Director at IMG developing and executing global marketing programs for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Hanft's insights can be regularly found at http://kevinhanft.blogspot.com.