A Huge Flaw in the Pitch Process
“Customer experience” is recognized as a huge part of marketing. Once a brand knows what it wants to be, every touchpoint with potential and loyal customers has to reinforce that perception.
It’s become a huge part of differentiation and purchase preference, too. Brands know that sales and market share are easily lost as soon as the customer experience doesn’t meet expectations.
So here’s my question: Since we know that customer experience is crucial to purchase decisions, why do some many pitches prevent prospects from having this experience?
In so many tightly controlled pitches, conditions are set up that quite specifically prevent the prospect from really feeling what it will be like to be a customer of any of the competing agencies or firms.
Lessons from Retail
The challenges that brick-and-mortar stores have faced gives us some great insights into the value of real touchpoints with customers. The title of this HBR article – “Shoppers Need a Reason to Go to Your Store — Other Than Buying Stuff” – is a strong setup. When a shopper comes to a brick-and-mortar store, they should walk away feeling it was “time well spent” or “time well saved.” Doesn’t matter if they bought anything on that trip.
For the agency or professional services firm in a new business pitch, these perceptions would come from the following:
- An enlightening or stimulating exposure to how the firm thinks and works
- A collaborative approach that’s meaningful, maybe even fun, and generates real outputs
- A strong sense that the pitching firm is passionate about the prospect’s business
- A sustained exposure to how the agency works, the professionalism and expertise of it people, and the culture of the organization
Again, the prospect hasn’t yet bought your proposal or signed your contract. But they’ve become more convinced that you’re a firm they want to work with.
Yet many conditions prevent this from happening.
Getting to Know You
The highly orchestrated pitch tries to level the playing field by limiting how much exposure the prospect’s decision makers get to each competitor. In doing so, these pitches specifically prevent the prospect from having a true “customer experience” with each agency until AFTER the decision is made and the business is awarded.
No wonder there’s a significant risk that the prospect will make a decision they – and the winning agency – will eventually regret.
Here’s my counsel:
If invited into one of these pitches that will prevent your prospect from true customer experience with you, don’t accept. Instead, pursue new business by putting your customer experience right at the front end of the pursuit process. This might mean less pitching via the RFP route. And more proactive new business activity.
By being proactive – seeing prospects before the RFP is issued – you can get in front of prospects without being subject to pitch rules. Prospects can get a real customer experience. You get an uneven playing field with you as the clear favorite. Pitches are less frustrating. And win rates are higher.
Many firms are pitch-addicted. They don’t look closely at the process or rules of the pitch. They pursue because they are focused on the upside of winning. They’s optimists, and that’s understandable.
But a lot of pitch addiction is the result of not having an effective, proactive outreach plan. You respond to inbound RFPs because that’s your only way of winning new business.
WCG helps our clients take an objective look at their business development process. We work closely with agency and sales leaders to identify suitable outbound targets. Then we look at cases and assets to create the content for outreach. Finally, we can train and support those people responsible for this proactive sales approach to be effective at every touchpoint.
The result is a new business program that’s forward thinking, assertive, and creates opportunities well ahead of an RFP.