“We don’t pitch!”. Yeah you do.

We sometimes meet agencies who tell us that they “don’t pitch”. They’ve read their Blair Enns book and decided that they’re not going to pitch anymore. There are some flaws in this thinking (not Blair’s thinking – he’s making plenty of money “not pitching”. It doesn’t mean you should unilaterally ditch the pitch).

1) Whether you’re pitching or not isn’t something you define…

…it’s how the prospect perceives you. I understand that you might not be keen to take part in a formal pitch. It can be expensive, inefficient and frustrating. If however a prospect has met three of your competitors and wants to meet you, then that’s a pitch. Even if it’s a “chemistry meeting”, whereby you’ll all just get to know each other. Fine, you don’t have to actively pitch with slides and ideas, but you’re there to leave the prospect knowing what they’ll have if the work with you, compared to if they don’t. You have permission to sell.

2) Just because you’re not selling at them, doesn’t mean you’re not pitching.

Adversarial selling is a messy, unproductive and damaging thing to undertake. But having a normal conversation about something the prospect wants to get done it very different to the kind of sales that is taught in too many courses. It’s important to remember that you’re selling when you speak to anyone who might buy what you have to offer. It’s also important not to put on a show. Being your normal self, whether that’s reserved and measured or enthusiastic and loose, is the only way to sell. Every sales course I’ve been on has given me at least one horrible trait that I’ve then had to shake off. People buy capability, then personability (in that order). The first is to make a long-list into a shortlist. The second is to pick the successful supplier/partner.

3) Why wouldn’t you want to pitch?

I set up my company fifteen years ago and the most fun part is pitching. It’s when I’m answering and asking questions, learning about prospects and their companies and thinking on my feet. I pitch alongside my colleague Matt. We treat every meeting as a pitch. We’re careful to be honest (even when it hurts our chances of winning), interested and ourselves. It’s selling, but only by offering clarity and truth.


Enjoy the chase

You’re selling the thing you love.

4) Your competitors are pitching.

It’s not a level playing field. The other guys are meeting, video-calling and networking with every prospect they can get their hands on. When they use us to do this, we’re making every effort to do these things in a way that impresses the prospect, even when it’s not the way our clients might have gone about it. You can only sell in the way that a prospect buys.

5) 80% of wins go to a referral.

Four out of five of the meetings you attend where there’s something on the table to win, will be won by someone who got a referral. This 80% is the toughest bit of the market to take a slice out of (though we have some ways to help). Your opportunity is to get as much of the remaining 20% as you can. If there’s an referral in a pitch, alongside three cold-channel approaches, then this is a pitch that you might win 6-7% of the time. If the other guys understand that every conversation with this opportunity’s decision-maker is a pitch then they’ll win.

There are caveats. Knowing when to pass on a pitch is a skill. Or an art. There are plenty of over-sized pitch lists, ego-maniacal Marketing decision-makers and over-keen business development people. This post isn’t about that. Just know that by doing your homework, being willing to go to qualified meetings and making any meeting about the prospect rather than you, is pitching. Whether you think so or not.