How to lose pitches

Trainer and coach John Scarrott has spoken to clients to find out about all of the things that will get you kicked out of a pitch and stop you landing work.

How do you persuade a client to reject you as their agency? Do you find it relatively straightforward? Or do you struggle with it and find yourself winning pitch after pitch. I spoke with a number of clients about what helps them to not choose an agency. If you’d like to win less business, the following six ways to lose a pitch could be just what you need:

  • Mystify: Place your emphasis on the creative process. Take the basic principles and then re-describe them and add a TM and a name. Design is not complex enough. It requires more complexity. The more smoke and mirrors the better.
  • Play hide and seek: Disguise yourself. For example, when concerns are expressed about the size of your agency in relation to the job, resort to justification and persuasion of your ability to do the job.
  • Use names to sell: “We’ve worked for Coca Cola, etc”. Don’t mention that the team has changed completely since then. On both sides.
  • No need to ‘live it’: Don’t ever take your own advice. Talk about brand building but don’t show how you’ve built your brand. Talk about innovation, but no pressure to show when you’ve innovated for yourselves. Emphasise ‘segmenting your audience’ but never mind whether you’ve done it.
  • Ask the wrong questions: Ask the client if they have a brief. Go in with the mindset of ‘we can design your……’. Avoid thinking bigger to make sure you miss the bigger picture.
  • Expect to be liked and understood: Be immersed in your own world. Fail to show you understand your client and wait for them to understand you.

So how do you rate? Are these your techniques for losing pitches? Can you add to this list? What else would you say loses you work? For some ideas on the opposite side of the coin, you may find my top tips piece useful.

All of the clients I spoke to agreed that the power of design is amazing. But they also said that their experience of being sold design is not. In a competitive market with opportunities and threats, this is a wake-up call. It’s time to move on. Some already have. Far more could. The future belongs to those that will.

Thanks to the clients I spoke with for taking the time to talk with me and share their viewpoints.

John Scarrott is a Trainer and Coach working with design professionals on their approach to influential communication. Find him on Twitter @JohnDScarrott or check out his website where you can find other articles on the area of influential communication.

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