All clients report that it’s sad how poorly many agencies present for their business.

ad agency new business pitch sandman

How your new business pitch is presented will define the way the prospect reacts to it.

“I’m looking for the Sandman.

He’s somewhere ’round ’tis said;

But as I’m rather sleepy,

I think I’ll go to bed.”

Susan Holton’s “I’m Looking for the Sandman”

The New Business Pitch

It’s always shocking when we watch agencies present. It’s shocking at just how BAD so many of these highly creative, outstanding agencies really are when presenting. The really sad part, however, is that so many agencies think they’re doing a great job!

The only reason we can think of for this disconnect is that most agencies focus almost exclusively on developing the perfect content; the perfect word, the right image, the turn of a phrase, all to show how smart they are. Think of the hours spent arguing over trying to find the most powerful word or image. The simple fact is any agency’s content is the least important part of any presentation and the most easily forgotten.

Prospects will remember long after the presentation how you looked, what you wore, how charming your presenters were to one another, how well prepared the entire show was, and whether or not you entertained them. Your perfect line, your break-through strategy recommendation, or the neat way you executed some new digital plan is usually forgotten within an hour.

We have helped agencies win new business presentations around the world, sometimes acting as presentation advisers or strategy sounding boards, often as producers, directors, and even script writers. We understand how important the show is to prospects, and how a great strategy poorly presented will lose every time to a weak strategy presented in a highly professional yet entertaining manner.

Our Winning the Pitch Presentation Rules:

  1. Understand the Difference Between Advertising and New Business
  2. Take the Lead Right from the Start
  3. Quickly Decide if You Want the Account
  4. Know How the Agency Will Be Selected
  5. Agree Early on the Presentation Make-up
  6. Decide on the Agency “Hero”
  7. Use Profiling to Win on Chemistry
  8. Establish the Presentation Chunks Early
  9. Present the Right Way
  10. Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse

The fully expanded list of 12 rules, with some more explanation and detail, is here: 12 Winning the Pitch Presentation Rules

More Pitch Advice

When pitching, lose the slides that only show one concept or thought, as these may well be forgotten when the next slide appears. Use mind maps, logic trails and emotion signs to help clients first understand and then accept the agency’s point of view. Put the emphasis up front; help clients grasp the strategic thinking behind the recommendation. Integrate media, marketing, planning and creative all together in one strategic sweep clients easily appreciate.

Mapping techniques encourage prospects to use both their logical side and their emotional side to evaluate the agency’s position. This blending encourages acceptance that moves the agency into a position of trusted advisor rather than creative vendor – a strategic partner that prospects are more willing to hire.

If done well, the agency’s presentation style will impact client retention as well. When an agency changes to a more visual style, moving away from just PowerPoint presentations, fewer recommendations get rejected because when clients understand, they buy. The agency spends less time on rework and staff morale zooms. Productivity soars. Write offs drop. And the agency’s creative reputation improves because more daring work gets produced.

What separates a great creative agency from all the others isn’t necessarily better ideas. It’s the ability of those agencies to sell their ideas better. And great work won’t sell if it’s not presented properly.

More Tips on How to Improve the Pitch:


Photo credit: © Dmitriy Shironosov |