Here’s how agencies can leverage some lessons learned from the dating world to win their next pitch:
Treat the brief as sacrosanct
Like a carefully crafted dating profile, the brief should be your go-to cipher for what a potential partner is looking for. The people that wrote it should be treated as the vital partners they are. Time, effort and several meetings went into crafting the brief so if it’s in there, it’s in there for a reason.
And remember, there are always aspects of the client's needs that don’t make it into the brief so take advantage of any opportunity you can to get additional context. Just like with dating, it’s important to read the subtext, too.
Zoom can help you (or hurt you)
After two years of remote work, we should all have mastered the art of Zoom. Winning agencies focus on using technology to their advantage, rather than as a scapegoat; and that means curating everything a potential client sees or experiences within that glowing green window.
Just like with dating, people want to work with agencies that show up correctly. A few tips to keep in mind: Don’t go on camera visibly sick, distracted or working from a non-work-appropriate space; and be as mindful of body language as you would be in the room. Present from one deck. Practice handing off with skill (no awkward silences or interrupting).
Cast to win—or cancel your plans
Give your team members a client-side counterpart to connect with and “cast” your pitch based off talent who can speak to the client category, your proposed work, and your demonstrated passion for the brief. You wouldn’t waste your time showing up for a date if you didn’t plan to put any effort into the experience. So don’t show up for a pitch unless you’re ready to show up.
If you sell yourself as an integrated agency, your team should feel unified (clients can sense when your pitch team are essentially strangers to each other). And be sure to give every person a speaking role—unless someone is playing an administrative, note-taking or technology role, in which case they should be mute and off-camera.
Build trust before you build intrigue
Winning agencies focus on building trust from moment one, rather than putting their energy into one-sided gimmicks or presentation theater.
Just like on a first date, smart ice breakers can help get the conversation flowing. In a pitch, they can help you set the expectation that the presentation is more dialogue than monologue. And remember: You don’t have permission to solve a client’s challenge until you’ve sufficiently credentialized yourself.
Actually, there are stupid questions
A winning agency does extensive desk research and comes prepared to actively listen—and to ask the right questions, not the obvious ones. That doesn’t mean you need to create an entirely custom presentation, but you should be curating an entirely custom conversation, with your standard creds slides as springboards.
And don’t get caught off guard by a surprise question: commit to a confident answer based on your understanding.
Show up with something to say
This may feel like a given, but too many agencies are showing up without a point of view. What would you do with the brief? Given all the background research you’ve done, what do you see as the right path forward? Even if clients disagree on a small point of your approach, they will give you credit for coming to an educated POV and committing to it.
Make them feel like the only one
A successful pitch is a lot like a successful first date: it leaves both sides feeling engaged, understood, confident and a little curious. A winning agency leaves the client with a deeper understanding of their capabilities, experience and talent — but also their hunger to answer the brief in an entirely original way.
Winning agencies focus on matchmaking more than pitching. They devote their energy toward building relationships, getting to know their potential clients more deeply, and positioning themselves as efficient, effective partners. So, if you’re hoping to make a lasting impression at your next pitch (or your next date), lead with your partner’s needs and interests—instead of pushing your own agenda.
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