Win Without Pitching®: Thinking

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At the highest level (and level of success), selling expertise is about disrupting the client’s own ideas of his problem and therefore possible solutions. Such an approach is vital to derailing a pitch or RFP process.

The game begins with the client issuing the call, stating their problem as they see it and briefing on the type of solutions they’re looking for. But things only get interesting when you can get them to see that perhaps the problem isn’t what they think. Do this and you will render any solutions presented by your competitors as null and void.

Almost anybody in the creative professions would read this, nod their head and say, “Yes, we do that.” Most, however, do it too late.

Win Without Pitching firms initiate disruption in the sales cycle – in the conversations that happen well before everyone is lobbying ideas in a submitted document or from behind a PowerPoint presentation. If you’re waiting for your turn to dance in the client-driven talent show before you disrupt then you’re prone to someone else having already rendered the RFP or brief obsolete. You risk trying to disrupt something that was already disrupted.

If you’ve been in this business just two or three years then you’ve already seen how someone can get in ahead of you and render the strategy and creative you’re presenting as obsolete. You pitch to the brief or pitch your disruption in the room then hear back afterward that they’ve chosen to go in a completely different direction. You’re flummoxed. Outraged even. How dare they brief you and then change everything (while you're recommending in your pitch that they change everything.)

Fun stuff.

Quick refresher on the WWP Four Priorities of winning new business:
1. Win Without Pitching
2. Derail the pitch
3. Gain the inside track
4. Walk away

The highest level of fun and success for a business development person in the creative professions is not in the first priority where you get the gig handed to you without a pitch based on the firm's reputation. No, the the highest level of personal achievement is the second one – when you are able to derail an established pitch process.

Hiring for the business development role is tricky. Some people have a good track record on paper – they were in the role at firm X during a three-year winning streak – but they can’t replicate their success elsewhere. They may have been a part of the success but not a large enough part to merit the massive pay they extracted from you.

The elite, the Jedis, are the ones that can take a $100k RFP from a large client with established procurement processes and turn it into a $500k engagement for something else while their competitors are still pitching to the $100k brief. That’s fun. Yes, it takes some skill but mostly it takes courage and a willingness to disrupt far earlier than others.

There’s a lot of bluster in this business, especially from firms that are larger, closer to New York and more rooted in traditional advertising. Most of that bold confidence gets unleashed from the podium though, when it’s too late.

The sooner you can harness your confidence and bring that disruption, the more likely you are to disrupt the pitch entirely and change the rules of the game to your advantage.

Blair Enns
Blair Enns is the Win Without Pitching founder and CEO and the author of The Win Without Pitching Manifesto and Pricing Creativity: A guide to Profit Beyond the Billable Hour.
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