Bending The Rules In A New Business Pitch Without Being Disqualified

When you are invited to participate in a new business pitch, whether the client is facilitating it directly or it is through a search consultant, do you ask yourself, “how does my agency break through the clutter?” “How far can I bend the rules to stand out and get noticed?”

There is a delicate balance between playing by the rules and bending them because the last thing you want is to be disqualified for not adhering to the process.

After an entire career on the agency side and now running a consultancy, I have conducted over a dozen media reviews and being on the other side of the table, I have gained much insight. So, this is the first in a series of key takeaways for you to consider:

Make a strong impression.

While clients will read submissions and sit through presentations, they may not regroup for a good week or so to review everything. This could create confusion over which agency did what. Clients are busy and have many other pressing priorities. While we all use detailed scorecards, it can be difficult to track everything and recall who presented what. This is where gentle follow up touch points can come in handy to reinforce your proposal and remind them of the great work your agency presented, not to mention the talented team. During that interim stage, throw out a proactive idea or send the latest news about your agency. You will not be disqualified for gentle assertiveness.



Do not rely solely on scheduled Q&A sessions to address your questions.

I learned firsthand that you will not be disqualified by coming back with additional, smart questions. In some cases, not everything will get addressed during the allotted Q&A session. As your work progresses, new questions will arise. You need to get any additional questions answered thoroughly to ensure you are going down the right path, so don’t be shy. I always believed that coming back with additional questions meant I wasn’t being thorough in the initial Q&A session but that is not true. This additional touchpoint will also help to build chemistry.

Offer up an interim work session.

As you start preparing your response, you may want to suggest an interim work session with the client team. Even if there is one on the schedule, find a way to get in front of the clients to get an additional temperature read on your direction. This too gives you another chance to build chemistry and clients will appreciate the proactivity.

There is a perception by clients and search consultants that if you lean back and follow the rules, you might be perceived as less passionate or disinterested in the review. If you lean into the review and dial up your engagement by asking questions or requesting additional touch points, all in a constructive way, you will come across as more passionate than the other agencies. This will give you a definite edge over your competition. 

Also, it is perfectly acceptable to maintain a close dialogue with the search consultant. Search consultants are not the decision makers so you will not be disqualified simply by badgering them, in a constructive way, of course! Again, they too will perceive your assertiveness as being more engaged and passionate about the opportunity. That will not go unnoticed, and it will be shared back to the client.

Agency reviews are so difficult and time consuming. The stakes are high, and you want to have the best possible shot at the business. So, you must find ways to tactfully bend the rules to ensure your agency stands out from the pack.

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