Win Without Pitching®: Thinking

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Before you’ve finished your first cup of coffee in the morning, are you already thinking about feeding the machine?

Are you continuously haunted by the question: where will I find the work, and the revenue, to keep everything and everyone going another day, another week, another month?

Are you thinking about meeting the needs of the hungry beast so often and for so long now that you just accept that feeling like you’re always behind, you’re constantly at the mercy of others and you’re always running just to catch up financially is normal?

Do you see this condition as the part of the price of running a business? Because, as common as the condition might be, it’s not normal and it’s not the price entrepreneurs must pay.

Of course the machine needs to be fed—the lease or mortgage needs to be paid, payroll needs to be met and equipment must be replaced—that’s a given. The issue, the question, is: does your preoccupation with meeting all these obligations keep you from building a great firm – one that creates incredible value for its clients, provides fulfilling careers for its employees and creates freedom and economic reward for its owners? If your priority is feeding the machine then of course you’re not achieving these things. And you’re paying other prices too.

When the machine is hungry you feed it anything, like smaller sized jobs and less sophisticated clients who don’t value your thinking. The work becomes increasingly tactical and price sensitive. You put up with poor client behaviour and lower profit margins all because the voracious monster demands sustenance.

With each new business compromise your firm slips further from great clients, from real value creation, from meaningful careers for your employees and from freedom and financial reward for yourself. You become what you eat.

Your Alternate Reality

Principals of other firms have been in this place before you and have broken free. There is a reality where you are in command of the business development function – a reality where clients seek you out, where you and your people are recognized and paid for the knowledge in your heads and the creativity in your souls instead of what you can do with your hands in 60-minute increments.

There are clients who value strategic contributions to design and advertising problems. There are firms that attract a steady stream of these clients and that get paid for the value they create for them. In these firms the owners wake up in the morning excited by the possibilities of the day. In these firms feeding the machine happens easily as a byproduct of pursuing greatness.

Let’s Change This. Today.

I’m going to offer you a path to be one of those firms that can break out of this gradual downward spiral, but first permit me one more tough-love-of-lumber across your forehead: you will not be freed from the anxiety of feeding the machine by doing the same things better. Winning the next pitch (or even the next three) will not get you there. A focus on increasing your utilization will not get you there. Selling more low margin work to under-appreciative, unsophisticated clients will not get you there.

Only revenue will free you and create the conditions for greatness in your firm again. Not just revenue but high-margin revenue. More than that, a consistent stream of high-margin revenue from high-quality clients who value and pay you for your strategic contributions to their businesses.

A Machine to Feed the Machine

Sound simple? It isn’t, of course. Generating such a steady stream of high-margin revenue from high-quality clients requires that you build a machine. A business development machine that all but runs itself, that generates interesting, rewarding work for your people, that drives innovation and value for your clients and that finally brings to you the elusive rewards of ownership.

That’s really your choice: you will worry about feeding the machine until your last day in the job OR until you decide to get ahead of the problem and build a sustainable revenue-producing business development machine. You will serve one machine until you build another that serves you.

Building such a machine requires a dramatic break from past practices. And it requires an investment in time, money and psychic energy (change). Most people in your position won’t make the investment. They will cite the time – there isn’t enough or this isn’t the right time, but time only appears once you make the commitment. Waiting for it to appear or waiting for the “right” time is ridiculous.

They will cite the money, but the financial investment here is insignificant. It’s a small fraction of a salary of a junior employee.

They will say the last form of investment – the psychic energy of letting go of old ways and embracing new ones – is the easy one, but the opposite is true. Time and money are the excuses but fear of change or of the unknown is the real reason people don’t invest in building a machine and spend professional eternity serving another. It’s hard to jump into the unknown; easier to serve the monster that you know.

It’s Time to Invest

I can’t save you from the investment but I can show you the way. I can offer a framework, the tools and some seasoned guides. I can bring to you the infrastructure you need to make the transformation. You just need to make the investment.

The time I’m asking for is just 2–4 hours a week. For how long? Forever. It’s your job to create time for these things.

The money is about a thousand dollars a month. For how long? One year.

The psychic energy is the willingness to do things the Win Without Pitching way. To be disruptive where you used to be compliant. To say no where you used to say yes. To be discerning. To make difficult decisions about what you will do and will not do moving forward. To build new tools that bring a depth to your expertise and shift the power in the buy sell relationship away from the client to you and your firm. To learn new skills. To let go of the crutches of the pitch, the presentation and the written proposal. To be more ruthless in your behaviour while still being kind in your words. To unlearn all of the bad “best” practices of agency business development.

Yours is supposed to be an innovation business. No true innovation business exists without investing in R&D. Stop right now and count the time, money and psychic energy you have invested in R&D in your firm in the last five years. Have you invested any?

What I’m offering you is a framework to make the necessary investments in assets, infrastructure, lead generation systems, business development processes, sales skills and intellectual property – the R&D that builds the business development machine that frees you up to build and manage a great firm.

Your firm should:

  • Drive a steady stream of high quality leads
  • Close new business without pitching free ideas or writing lengthy proposals
  • Incur almost no (zero) cost of sale
  • Command the high ground in your relationships with clients and prospects
  • Be seen by the client as the expert even before you’re hired
  • Win more business at higher margin by getting paid for what you know on top of what you do
  • Create greater value for clients and capture more of it for your firm
  • Create a high performance culture where good people are challenged and thrive
  • Generate the profit deserving of the risk of ownership
  • Free you from the machine and allow you to focus on your people and your culture

Join The Growing Revolution

We launched the Win Without Pitching program in late 2012 and since then we’ve helped free dozens of firm principals from the trap of feeding the machine. The Win Without Pitching program IS the framework for the R&D, for the transformation. It is where you start. If you’re going to do this however you’re going to have to start now.

There are limited spots available. You can read more about the details of the program here. If you still have any questions you should probably contact us quickly. If you want to talk to others who are in or have been through the program, contact us, but do it today. The registration link will disappear as soon as the program is full.

If feeding the machine is what you think about when you wake up in the morning then that is your destiny. Until you decide that it isn’t.

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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