Recently we were hired to assist a small regional agency with a tough formal presentation challenge – a new business pitch. A defining moment. A must win.

plan to win your next pitch

In new business there can only be one winner. Plan to win.

The account in review was an economic development council; in other words a government driven, business supported, lots of chiefs with no leadership, a monster account. With procurement driving the process to boot. To make matters worse, they were the last agency going in, the smallest, and considered by everyone to be a long shot. As in not a chance in hell of winning. Out of desperation the agency president called us. Frankly he needed a win and didn’t know what else to do.

After three days of working with us they went in with something completely different then what they were originally thinking. They zigged when everyone else zagged. Based on findings from our proprietary brand research protocol, the little agency went in with the bold statement that the problem wasn’t marketing, the problem was branding – and until they got the branding figured out the council shouldn’t waste any time on marketing. With sweeping recommendations to the leadership to rename the council, change key identity brand elements, adopt a new advertising theme, and switch to a totally different PR strategy. In the end all recommendations were adopted without any changes even though the process was highly charged with put-us-first agendas.

We call this a winning new business presentation. The agency called it the most incredible experience in their history.

Some FAQs on Pitch Training:

1. Question: What type of pitch training does Sanders Consulting Group offer?

Sanders: We have a day-long program that helps agencies design successful presentations. It’s called Presenting To Win and one of our senior consultants comes to the agency to present it. The focus is on helping the total agency win, not just help one or two people at the agency present better. Over time our clients have overwhelmingly preferred this approach.

2. Question: What’s covered in training?

Sanders: We start with an evaluation of the agency’s recent pitch successes and failures. We try to determine where the problems are. Is it a lack of knowledge or skills or procedures or techniques? Then we show the agency the proper way to design a successful presentation and encourage the agency to adopt these procedures. When they do, the wins really go up.

3. Question: Do you get into pitch structure, the so-called organization of the pitch?

Sanders: Yes. In fact you touched on one of the most important parts to winning and a part of custom pitches that’s rarely understood. In the training we show the agency how to set up the “chunks” of the presentation, meaning its structure. This should be done promptly, even on the day the decision is made to compete. That seems impossible to those agencies that rush to put on pitches without a clear pattern of presenting but this way of organizing the chunks in the very beginning is much better and increases the wins.

4. Question: What else goes into the pitch structure?

Sanders: We first show the agency how to divide the time given by the prospect into sections, usually three or four including questions at the end. Then we focus our effort on winning in the first section, usually the first 45-55 minutes. We show the agency how to end the first section strong. And then how to break for a change of pace in sections two and three. We treat the pitch as a series of one-act plays with each one building on a strong first act. And each act must really end strong. We like our agencies to get a lot of applause during the presentations.

5. Question: What about casting?

Sanders: This is another important part covered in the training. We cast to win, not cast to show. We focus on larger numbers of presenters than most agencies typically use. We create an event. Most of the time, when the agency adopts this process, we will cast young people from the agency who have never been in a presentation before. The effect is electric. They give the best presentations because we work with them to present well.

6. Question: What else is included?

Sanders: Chemistry is a big issue that needs to be understood by the agency. The tactics of the presentation are set by the personalities of the people in the room. That too sounds impossible in today’s search-consultant-directed reviews, but we show you how to structure the presentation to achieve great chemistry. And time and again that’s the most important factor but it’s never discussed. But chemistry usually determines the final winner.

7. Question: Anything else?

Sanders: There’s a lot more, but one element that surprises agencies is how to take control of the presentation room. We show the different layouts you’ll face and how to modify each one to match the agency’s own style of presenting.

8. Question: What’s been the reaction to the training?

Sanders: It’s been stunned silence at first. A number of senior executives from major agency holding companies have become incensed that no one has handed them this information before. Truthfully they are embarrassed. Here they are way up in their careers and no one has shared with them how to win at these pitches until they walk into our training. There is a lot of insight. A lot of light bulbs go off. It’s very powerful stuff.

9. Question: You cover all this in one day?

Sanders: There’s no standing around. We work off a 100-page manual and that speeds things up a lot. But don’t think it’s all us talking to the agency. The learning session has lots of give and take because we want the agency to win. And each agency has unique needs and style that must be addressed.

10. Question: Is the Presenting to Win training the only way you help agencies with pitches?

Sanders: No. Most of our pitch work is more consulting and not training, meaning our time is focused on helping an agency win a specific account. But it’s much easier when the agency has taken a day to go through the training to learn how to do it from top to bottom as the Presenting to Win course shows.

11. Question: What should an agency do if they feel they need help and can’t decide?

Sanders: Call us. We’re easy to talk to.

12. Question: How does an agency know this will work?

Sanders: Last year we consulted on pitches that we helped agencies win nearly $600 million. Some were as small as $75,000. Others were nearly 100 times that. All were very important to the agencies that won. During one stretch we had 26 straight wins in a row. We can help you win.


Photo by Bokor