Clear those red flags when pitching

by Barry on April 15, 2010

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One of the necessary evils of our business is pitching new work. Unless you have figured out how to have infinite resources and infinite time, it is essential to qualify all leads before you assign a pitch team. Any red flags needs to be resolved. You don’t want to spend your agency’s limited resources on opportunities where you are unlikely to win and the revenue potential is small. The advantages of a diligent qualification process are:

  • More resources are available to help on pitches that you can actually win
  • Protects your team from wasting their time
  • Maintains morale as no one likes working on losing pitches.
  • Improves your win rate
  • Lowers costs as you will need to pull in less freelancers to either work on the pitch or the backfill for other people who were pulled into the pitch


The qualification questions that you need to ask yourself are:

  1. Does this opportunity fit into your core service offering? Does it develop your people? Will it make a good case study? Is this something that you can do well with?
  2. Do you have the right talent? Do you have the right team with the right skills available in the right location to win this pitch and deliver the project or will you need to pull in a team of freelancers? If you don’t bring your “A” team to the table, then don’t bother participating.
  3. Is there an incumbent? If so, what is the problem with the incumbent that is prompting the client to look for another agency? Is this just a fishing expedition to put pressure on the incumbent? You can be sure that the incumbent is doing everything that they can to retain this account. Make sure that the client has a real need to switch agencies or you may be wasting your time.
  4. What is your relationship to the decision makers? Are you working through a gatekeeper?  Not having direct access to the decision makers is a yellow flag. You need to speak with them to truly understand their concerns. Frequently RFPs are also procurement-led, which means that they are tightly-controlled. Having “C” level or other senior-level client relationships can help navigate past the gatekeeper.
  5. Have you met the decision makers in-person? In-person is highly preferred because it allows you pick up visual clues and interact with the client at a level far more than could possibly be done over the phone. Building a relationship with the client is essential and can give you an advantage over your competitors. Plus you can bet that your competitors are trying to do the same.
  6. Is there chemistry between your team and the client’s team? Without it, don’t proceed.
  7. Is the right budget in-place? The client needs to have a budget approved that fits the scope. If the client still needs to get board approval, this is a yellow flag. Also if the budget is not enough, you will need to determine quickly if you can reduce the scope to fit their budget (not always possible!), find another solution,  or the client needs to find more money.  Find out early by asking tough questions (but in a nice way!) like “”Do you have a budget?” or “In our experience, other companies in similar situations trying to get the results you’ve been talking about tend to invest between X and Y. Can you see yourself falling somewhere in that range?” If the budget is completely out of the ballpark, then walk away before you waste valuable time and resources.
  8. What is your gut feeling? Listen to your inner self. Have the courage to walk if your gut is telling you to do so.
  9. What are your chances of winning? Do you have a real opportunity of winning this? How many others are pitching?

Now go win those pitches!

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

jeff April 20, 2010 at 2:58 pm

Nicely put. Straight forward and invaluable.

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