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Win Without Pitching®: Thinking

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Scale Your Sales Team

Turning Your Delivery Team Into a Sales Team

Almost every leader of a business of expertise has a moment when they realize their delivery team—account managers, project managers, developers, engineers, consultants or advisors—could be a source of instant scale to their sales efforts.  Inspiration tends to hit in moments of sales stagnation or decline. If you’re considering enlisting your delivery team in your

Can We Dial This Down, Please?

I’ve always known about this pervasive problem but the true size and severity of it never fully dawned on me until recently. Almost everyone commits this error in sales conversations and it’s awful to behold. I probably do it too but I don’t notice it. 

Everyone is talking too much.

Flip (the bird to) the Script

At Win Without Pitching we use a model that views the sale as a series of four conversations, each with its own objective and its own framework for navigating to that objective.

Attending The Way

“A man, sitting in his house, attending the way, will be heard a hundred miles distant. Work done truly and conscientiously, in isolation, calls unknown friends.”

The Time Value of Knowledge

Just as the interest on money compounds over time, the interest on knowledge compounds similarly, under the right conditions.

Are These The Last Days of The Pitch?

Something is in the air in Agencyland. After a long, cold and seemingly endless winter, something is finally in the air. Free pitching, the addictive and destructive opioid of both client and agency is disappearing like the White Witch’s endless winter. It may not yet be summer, but spring is most definitely here.

Payment Terms, On Your Terms

Payment terms are right below price on the list of important items you will negotiate. On one hand, I think some creative firms don’t think creatively enough about using payment terms to get an otherwise tricky deal done, but on the other hand, some larger clients can be ruthless at imposing arduous terms on their agencies and other suppliers. Let’s look at how to leverage the former and defend against the latter.

The Best Referral Machine I Have Ever Seen

I’m of two minds when it comes to referrals as a lead source. On one hand, I’m jaded by the people who claim their number one source of clients is “word of mouth and referrals,” when they really mean, “I have no idea and no plan.” On the other hand, I know people and businesses that have absolutely mastered the art of referrals, driving all their growth through this one channel. 

Do You Even Need a New Business Person?

I’m a fan of constraint-driven exercises, so let me pose one for your consideration. Imagine that you could never employ a full-time dedicated new business person (let alone a team) What changes would you need to make in your business as a result?

Unclog Your Stuck Pipeline

Unclog Your Stuck Pipeline June 14, 2023 9:00 am PT — “Caution” seems to be the word of the day. Clients aren’t panicking about a possible recession, but every purchase is under scrutiny. Deals are taking longer to close. Pricing and payment terms are coming under pressure.

You’re Always Selling. Everything is a Negotiation.

Two common refrains that you are “always selling” and that “everything is a negotiation” are often stated as facts, but they’re not facts, they’re points of view, and I don’t happen to subscribe to either of them.

Who’s Going to Own This?

Do you ever wonder why some of your clients are transformed by your work and others, meh—not so much? It’s the multi-million dollar question, isn’t it?

Why We Suck at Negotiating

The more I get to know procurement professionals through my pet project that is 20% – The Marketing Procurement Podcast, the more I am struck by how bad we in the creative professions are at negotiating.

Is The Agency Model Suffocating Your Business?

I’ve become aware recently that when I’m speaking to creative and marketing firm owners or other advisors in this space, we can sound like we are describing two entirely different industries. The agency owner is biased in thinking that the industry is made up of firms like theirs, and advisors like me are influenced by the types of agencies that we’ve most recently worked with.

Can We Change the Way Clients Buy?

Win Without Pitching’s mission is to change the way creative services are bought and sold the world over. Our focus has been on the sell side of the equation, teaching creative firms how to get better at selling their expertise without giving it away for free in the process. Last year I started to think more about the other side of the equation: is it possible to change the way clients buy creative services?

Inbound, Outbound & In Between

Is there any way to do outbound lead generation without giving up the expert high ground, or does any solicitation taint you with the stench of a needy, powerless vendor?

Beyond Good, Better, Best Pricing

I’ve written for years on the impact that three-option proposals can have on your closing ratio and your average selected price. Providing your clients with three or four different ways to engage you—at different price points—might be the simplest and fastest path to improving profit.

What’s In Your RAB Fund?

Everyone likes games. I have a fun one for you. There’s a simple financial metric that you might want to use throughout the year. Once you start measuring it, you will become addicted to improving it.

Think Big. No, Bigger.

Let’s do a thought experiment. Let’s try on outrageous success by moving to the outer range of what you have already proven is possible for a firm like yours.

Is Your Firm Addicted to New Business?

Some firms are black holes where accounts go in and seemingly never come out. Other firms are new business development machines, consistently generating 40%-50% (sometimes more) of their revenue from new clients every year.

6 Barriers to New Business Success

Over 20 years, I’ve heard a lot of success stories from people who have implemented our advice. This post is for everyone else—those who haven’t been able to make Win Without Pitching work for them.

Are RFPs the Spawn of Satan?

I’ve written previously on the steps creative firms should take, but here I’m suggesting we finally call bullshit and throw out the RFP altogether.

More Better Vetting

Qualifying is the act of vetting. In a qualifying conversation, the agency vets the lead to see if this prospective client and their project is a good fit for the firm, and the client vets the agency to see if their expertise is a fit for them and their project. That’s how it should work.

Reboot Your Culture Through New Business

You reinvent your firm one new client at a time. You are only 3-4 years and 10-15 clients from being whatever you want your firm to be—if you treat every new client as a step in your reinvention.

The Innoficiency Problem

The Innoficiency Principle states that innovation and efficiency are mutually opposable goals. In any reasonably functioning organization, one cannot be increased without decreasing the other.

The Role of Models In Your Firm

If you run any business of expertise you will come to rely on all sorts of models. The longer you are in business, the larger your model toolbox becomes.

Are We Having Fun Yet?

It’s been a couple of years since I fully delegated the sales function at Win Without Pitching but last week I found myself taking a few sales calls. I logged off of each one with an overwhelming sense of exuberance. “That was fun!”

I wondered how many other people felt the same way. At the end of the week I posted a twitter poll asking, “Is selling fun for you?”

Everything Can Change In One Conversation

The Flip is our name for the moment in the conversation between you and a prospective client when you move, in their eyes, from the position of lowly vendor to the more lofty one of expert practitioner.

The Five Levels of Pricing Success

In this post I lay out the five levels of pricing success and ask you to do an assessment of where you are now. Then I identify the best resources to help you move up from your current level.

How Assuming Can Cost You Time and Money

You never want to make assumptions in the sale. If you feel yourself assuming something, you need to lean into that and ask a question about what it is that you are assuming. Because when you make assumptions in the sale, it will likely lead you down a really long and expensive path.

The Enemy Within

In this 2Bobs podcast, Blair addresses the internal struggle for margin that happens in many firms between delivery teams and business development teams due to their lack of distinction between cost and price.

Getting Paid

There are three keys to getting paid: start with new standards for new clients, summon the resolve to enforce your new standards the moment client behavior starts to slip, and be willing to walk away from clients that don’t honor their commitments.

Five Alternatives to Cutting Price

The subjectivity of value works both ways. Value is highly personal and subjective but it is so to all parties on both sides of the buy-sell divide. Just as two different clients considering the same offering from the same firm will assign different value to that offering, so too will two different salespeople trying to sell that offering.

In 2020 You Were Spectacular

What a year. Our Win Without Pitching annual planning meeting is tomorrow and I can’t help but think back to the plans we made a year ago for 2020. The phrase “We plan, God laughs” comes to mind. Who planned for this? Putting aside the human tragedy of more than 70 million infected, 1.5 million

The Complex Battle for Margin

The battle to increase gross profit margin isn’t that complicated. By simply charging more you generate a higher top line with no change to delivery costs, thus increasing the bottom line. Battle won, right?

Selling in One Lesson

Your power in the sale is a function of having your desirability be greater than your own desire. Makes sense, right?

How and When to Talk About Your Firm

One of the things that creative firms need to let go of is the need to present. It’s one of the proclamations in The Win Without Pitching Manifesto. “We will replace presentations with conversations.”

The Magic Email

I think together we can make a few million dollars this week, quickly, simply. Use this simple email template that you can use to raise deals from the dead.

Red, White, Black and Blue: The Land of Mixed Signals

In light of where things are in America, I feel the need to point out that if you’re familiar with and have benefitted from my work, Creative Strategy and the Business of Design, and my #thinkhowtheythink philosophy, a sharecropper named Mr. Ben Frank Davis is where it came from.

You Don’t Really Partner With Your Clients

Many agencies like to boast on their websites and in their pitch decks that they “partner” with their clients. It’s bullshit of course. What they mean is they aspire to have their clients treat them like partners instead of vendors. I get it. It’s good to have a goal. But putting it on the website

Four Regrets You’re About to Have

Postmortems are great tools for steady improvement. At the end of any project or new initiative you simply revisit the objective and discuss what went well and what you would do differently next time. A similar idea is the premortem. Project yourself into the future, past the project you are about to undertake, and imagine

Play the Game of Constraints

I’ve been using constraint-driven exercises for years to think creatively about my own business and to help our clients free themselves from the mental models in which many have become trapped. Try these six constraint-driven exercises.

Is It Ethical to Sell in These Times?

We in the creative professions often recoil from the function of selling because we are scarred by the bad buying experiences involving the first salesperson who, for reasons of ideology, training or incentives, saw selling as the requirement to convince.

Collecting, Communicating and Closing in a Time of Crisis

In last week’s post Three Steps to Surviving and Thriving in a Crisis I said step one is to survive the crisis and economic gridlock that will be with us for a few weeks. In part one of two in my survival series, I’ll share some specifics of how you can shore up revenue now.

Recurring Revenue: Holy Grail or False Promise?

I see many agency principals pursuing recurring revenue as though it is the answer to all of their problems. I’m not going to say that recurring revenue models are bad or wrong—they are neither—but like everything in life they come with tradeoffs, and I think most marketing firms pursuing these models are unaware of the tradeoffs until they are deep into business model changes.

Three Steps to Surviving and Thriving in a Crisis

I’ve lived through two previous recessions as an entrepreneur and what we are experiencing right now is not a recession — it is an economic crisis. The recession is what comes next after things stabilize.

Pricing Difficult-to-Quantify Forms of Value

In the Win Without Pitching Workshop you heard me say that I think the ability to navigate the value conversation is the most valuable skill in all of business.  Then we gave you the framework, a few hours of practice and we sent you on your way. Don’t worry if you haven’t mastered this important

The Only New Business Indicator That Matters

TRANSCRIPT David C. Baker: Blair, I’ve got this question, you got me started thinking about it. I’m just going to dive in here. This question is about the best indicator of new business success, not kind of a question. It cannot help but really make people curious. What’s the answer? Then I have a bunch

The Most Important Pricing Skill

Do you know the one key to being a better pricer? It’s the ability to have a good conversation. Pricing success really does come down to your ability to encourage and navigate respectful dialogue.

Help I’m Being Held Hostage by a Sales Robot

Help I’m Being Held Hostage by a Sales Robot

“In the sale, your job is not to convince, you have no business trying to convince anyone of anything ever.” Blair Enns said these words from a stage in Memphis at a conference I was attending almost 15 years ago. It was the first time I’d heard him speak. At that moment, after he said

How to Write a Proposal

Friends, have you ever struggled with how to write a proposal? Sure you have, but I’m here to help. After years of reviewing written proposals from hundreds of marketing firms and about a dozen years of writing my own 100+ page proposals, I give to you, The Can’t-Miss, Killer Proposal. Read this before your competitors

The Story of Storytelling (Or, How To Make your Positioning Real)

The role of storytelling in your positioning in articulating your expertise — where it enters into your positioning, and being able to demonstrate your model so that when the prospect is engages and asks the question “how would this work?” you, won’t totally blow it.

Who Will Be the Adult In the Room?

Why do agencies get themselves into these situations where they feel they have to take work on onerous terms, where they have to put up with procurement’s powerplay moves and where they have no power to affect price?

Clients Deserve to Know What They’re Buying

Many of your proposals fail because the client isn’t sure what they would be buying. One of the first pricing principles I address in Pricing Creativity: A Guide to Profit Beyond the Billable Hour is the idea that there are three things you can sell and price: inputs, outputs or value.

Tap Into the Purpose Behind the Transaction

I bet I can guess your Why. What I mean is, if you are one of the millions of people who have been moved by Simon Sinek to “find your Why”, as articulated in his TEDx talk and book Start With Why, I’m pretty sure I can guess what that Why is. With only subtle

New Year’s Themes, Not Resolutions

There is a period in everyone’s development, I believe, where they choose to be dismissive of New Year’s resolutions. If that’s you now, you’ll get over it. New Year’s resolutions are a perfectly valid mechanism for helping to drive change in one’s career, business or life, but most of them fail to achieve such change,

We Need to Talk About Your Confidence

Confidence is not evenly distributed in the world. I recognize that I probably have more than is merited, but I’ve been at the other end of the spectrum, too, having once worked for someone who seemed to actively undermine the confidence of her subordinates as a means of building her own. I quickly discovered that

Open Book Management

Blair gets David to admit that he was kind of wrong about open book management being just a fad when he originally wrote about it almost two decades ago, and David offers ways that it can actually improve relationships with both employees and clients when used appropriately.

Alternative Forms of Reassurance

Blair and David analyze and then look beyond the requests for reassurance potential clients make during the late stage of a sale to address their underlying motivations.

“Let’s see what kind of client you’ll make.”

Let’s try on the idea of you being as ruthlessly discerning with your prospective clients, if a little kinder in your language. What are the questions you would like to know in advance of working with a client to determine if this relationship is going to work?

The Most Valuable Skill in Business

The goal of value-based pricing is not to charge more—that’s merely a beneficial consequence. The goal of value-based pricing is to create an organization that is intently focused on creating extraordinary customer value.

If I Were Starting Over

David and Blair take turns asking each other questions about what they each would do differently if they were going to start a new firm today based on what they know now.

The X-Factor

Blair gives David some homework to identify patterns in the principals of creative practices who are successful and have that “je ne sais quoi.”

Workshops: Better or Worse Than a Paid Pitch?

It’s been common for a long time for agencies to kick off a new client engagement with a workshop of some form. Sometime in the last two years, however, clients started to suggest to agencies that instead of pitching for free they would pay them to workshop some ideas. It sounds good on the surface, but is it better than pitching?

Rising From The Ashes: A New Agency Model

As someone who is perhaps a little too fond of a grand statement, I’m tempted to borrow from Landau and shout that I have seen the marketing agency model of the future and its name is Communo. Like Landau, however, I have a bias. (Landau went on to become Springsteen’s manager shortly after writing those words.) I’m an advisor to Communo and have a financial interest in their success.

Replacing Presentations With Conversations

David re-reads the 2nd chapter of Blair’s first book, leading to a discussion about how sales people have to choose between either presenting to clients or being present to them.

The Great Convergence is Upon Us

One of the clearest trends in professional firms today is the convergence of the disciplines of design, business consulting and software engineering on the same client business challenges. This Great Convergence is pitting firms of radically different types against each other in the battle to best serve the client, and it’s creating new types of

Reviewing the “Surveillance Footage”

There are seven patterns that almost all principals are guilty of. When David and Blair point them out, it lead their clients to say, “you must have hidden cameras in my office!”

Hacking Heuristics

Blair leads a discussion on how clients tend to take mental shortcuts in making business decisions, and how we can nudge clients without manipulating them to make a decision that is in their best interest.

Collaborating with Competitors

David and Blair compare each other’s competitiveness and then offer some specific ways principals can actually collaborate with their competitors as a part of building beneficial business relationships.

Four Segments of New Business

Blair and David come up with descriptive words that help clarify each of the four parts of what David calls the “pantheon” for new business: positioning, lead generation, sales, and pricing.

Coaches Corner: The Solution For Being Too Expensive

It’s early January. My phone rings. It’s Sue, a former client I spoke with two weeks earlier. She had called to share she was leading a new firm and they were growing like mad. She needed our help again. I had always liked Sue. We did really good work for her and she’s a straight

A Creative Professional’s Progression of Financial Success

I’m pretty sure I can show you the levels of financial success you’ll move through in your career. I can’t predict how far you will go, but by reading the descriptions of the levels you’ll be able to see where you are on the journey and what lays ahead.

Quit Giving The Client What They Want

A mainstay of some agency new business conferences is a few highly coveted clients on the stage lecturing the agency audience on what they want from their agency partners that they’re not getting. While it would be foolish to dismiss these client entreaties out of hand, it would be just as foolish, I believe, to give them what they want.

Hacking The Value Conversation

The value conversation is where value pricing theory goes to die. The difficulty in mastering this conversation is what causes most people to give up on value-based pricing completely and revert back to selling time and materials. It needn’t be so difficult, though.

Project 2018: An Incredible Story of Success

I don’t care what you or I did in 2017. Good or bad, it’s done, and I’ve never been one for lingering too long in the past. A lot of people think that their past defines their future. That the things they can accomplish now and tomorrow are limited by what has happened previously. But that’s ridiculous. The wake doesn’t push the ship. You’re free to go wherever you want, do what you want and earn what you want in 2018, regardless of the reality that was in 2017.

Protecting Your Superpower

You cannot fully understand a system from within the system. You cannot read the label from inside the jar. The thinking that got you here won’t get you there. It’s unlikely the problem will be solved from within the context it was created.

Coaches Corner: Now This Is Fun

But while I may be an expert, I’m far from a perfect salesperson. I let him distract me from the big picture with his incessant questioning. I miss one particularly potent chance to drive home our differentiation. I don’t handle the value conversation all that well, but instead, I jump right to the topic of prices. Oops.

Navigating The Seven-Year Chokepoint

Business is a game with hidden levels. By succeeding at one level, you get invited to play the next. The common mistake is to bring those first-level tools to the next level. Not only do they not work here, but they also work against you. Many of the habits you learned you will now have to unlearn. Accepting this inevitable obsolescence of tools is the key to obtaining all the advanced levels of success.

The Tech Sector’s Negative Influence on Creative Firms

No, this isn’t a rant about how things were better before everything was digital. Rather, it’s an observation on how principals of creative firms have borrowed some of the wrong things from the cultures of technology businesses and startups, in particular.

Everybody On the Same (New Business) Page

“We never pitch.” It was a lie. We pitched all the time but I was getting tired of it. I’d seen this film before and I knew how it ended. I wanted to try to change the ending, even if I didn’t know what should come after my small act of defiance.

Five Rules for Pursuing Project Work

Some firms don’t take project work at all, while for others project revenue vastly outstrips the income from their few ongoing clients. What’s the proper role of project work in your firm, and what’s the proper approach to pursuing or vetting it? In this article I lay out some specific guidelines on projects as a part of your overall client mix, and the rules of pursuing and accepting project work.

Is The Design Firm an Endangered Species?

I imagined that there is a line among design-based businesses that separates those who see themselves as in the business of design from those who see design as just one of the tools they use, in the service of whatever business they are really in. I wondered if this line was moving, squeezing out the traditional design firm.

Four Steps To Lead Generation Success

When I think of the firms that drive numerous inbound leads they all have one very clear thing they do. Their lead generation efforts are as focused as their positioning. They’ve resisted diluting their efforts across numerous channels, avoiding Warren Buffet’s admonishment that “Diversification is for people who don’t know what they are doing.”

Coaches Corner: Gravity

You’ve got choices to make. The future is coming at you fast, bearing down. If you spend all your time with your head being pulled down, the future is going to catch you standing still. It will rock you back on your heels. You will end up sprawling, stunned, wondering what just happened.

Coaches Corner: Getting Smacked in the Back of the Head

I was working with a WWP client recently, and as we discussed a range of topics I heard a common refrain, one I’ll call the entrepreneur’s educational lament: “I train my employees, and once they learn all these skills they take them and go work for my competitors.”

Managing Bad Referrals From Good Clients

It takes a lot of work in fact to generate a steady stream of good referrals and it’s no surprise that very few firms ever get to this place where the business is sustained and growing entirely by doing great work for good clients and systematically asking for and following up on referrals. It is however the highest form of “marketing” that we should all aspire to.

First Principles

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The Diversification Trap

The closer a principal gets to his target exit age, the less risk he takes. At some point, within the five year window, the firm quits evolving altogether, and just when he should be building something strong that will survive the transition to new owners and therefore be easy to sell, the firm begins to deteriorate. The last few years in the business are poor ones. If it gets sold at all, it’s not at the price hoped for. The result is underfunded retirement for a burned out entrepreneur who put all his eggs into the end-game basket. The journey was unnecessarily painful and stressful because of the decisions deferred, and the payout wasn’t there in the end. Lose, lose.

The Ultimate Test of Your Positioning

When we’re working with owners of independent creative firms on the positioning of their firms, we separate the exercise of choosing a focus, from the exercise of articulating a claim. The first is an act of sacrifice, which most people in the creative professions struggle with (even more so than the average business owner, I believe), and the second is an act of communication, something creative professionals revel and delight in.

Why Your Positioning Problem Doesn’t Go Away

Imagine a more detailed map than this for every new business development decision that you face like positioning, lead generation, dealing with RFPs and closing. And then add a peer group of other owners just like you going through the same steps and the helpful guidance of a Win Without Pitching coach. That’s what’s available to you in the Win Without Pitching program where we have numerous training formats to match your learning style and budget.

The One Question I Would Ask Your People

Take this simple test and consider putting it to your team members. It’s one question to which the answers reveal so much about the firm and the individual respondents. I love putting this question to people who do not have day-to-day business development responsibilities – people like creative directors, partners, CFOs and pretty much anybody else in the firm.

Okay, here’s the million dollar question…

When Clients Ask for Financials

If you’ve ever found yourself in a client-driven selection process where you’re being asked to disclose financial details, this article is for you.

Coaches Corner: The Sale Is The Sample

What are you selling? If it’s service then you should be service-oriented in the sale. But it’s not service, is it? It’s something else entirely, therefore…

Coaches Corner: It’s Not For Everyone

It’s not for everyone. But if it’s for you, you’re ready. You’re ready to transform your trajectory, your business, your career. You know that you’re ready, at some level, deep in your gut. You’re ready, you’re hungry, but how?

A Target Audience of One

There is a woman. I see her clearly. She is an artist, a creator. It is her passion.

At some point she decides to make her passion her business. She opens a design firm. Owning a business demands other responsibilities of her. Now she must sell as well as create.

Why Advertising Agencies Don’t Advertise

Most firms have no problem making these claims of creativity or strategy privately in the protective bubble of a boardroom (where the claims are often expressed through the work itself, which is pitched for free, rather than articulated in conversation) but going public in an ad that is bound to be seen by the firm’s competitors is another matter.

The End of the RFP?

Our mission at Win Without Pitching is to change the way creative services are bought and sold, our focus is really on the selling side of the buy-sell relationship.

How to Fake Authenticity

This authenticity thing must be really deep, because everyone is talking about it. I keep waiting for it to blow over, but like the Internet fad, it just won’t go away.

Coaches Corner: How Would You Derail This RFP?

The WWP coaching team received this email this week from a webcast viewer about an opportunity they’re trying to close. We thought we could have some fun by answering publicly to see if you would respond the same way or differently.

The One Word You Need to Hear

There’s a word you need to hear that I’ve been struggling to say to you. I’ve been keeping it from you because I have incontrovertible proof that you don’t like this word. Now, you, the individual, might be an exception but you and your peers as a group don’t like it. I know because every

Trust Your Gut

We need to trust our guts more – in business, in life and in particular in sales where we’re prone to acting against our intuition for long periods of time, all the while knowing that this story ends with the client hiring someone else or not having the budget or the authority or just being The Client From Hell. In hindsight, the evidence was always there. We saw or felt it early and we chose to ignore the signs to our detriment.

Letter to a Drowning Agency Principal

I know everything looks bleak. You feel like things are so far gone that you wonder if the only avenue left to you is to shut it down. It’s difficult in times like this to have clarity on your situation and know what to do next, but if you still have the fight in you and want to make this business work, I can help by telling you what you need to do. Then it’s up to you to do it.

How to Respond to “Show Us Your Work”

“Show us your work,” is an invitation from a prospect to step closer, to open or deepen a dialogue. This request can take many forms: “show me what you can do,” “tell me about your services,” or even “I’ve got an RFP, and we’d like to know if you’re interested (in giving away your high value thinking for free).”

How Often Should You Publish?

Last year I upped my writing and online publishing commitment significantly as a year-long experiment. In this post I want to share what I did, what I learned and what you might take away and use yourself. Falling Into and Out of the Writing Rhythm I built the consulting practice that was Win Without Pitching

The PowerPoint Problem

There are many patterns one sees after working with hundreds of creative and marketing firms on their approach to business development, and one of them is an over reliance on presentation software like PowerPoint. When I spot a strategy document written for a client or the firm itself that was composed in PowerPoint I know we have a problem and I can immediately identify the co-presenting symptoms.


Is Your Lead Gen Stalled? Do This One Thing

Have you lost momentum on the lead generation front? Check this out. I’ve discovered that firms who commit to doing this one easy thing tend get out of the rut. Those that don’t do it stay stuck. Before you click through to read what the one thing is, make a promise to yourself that you’re going to do it, whatever it is. It’s not hard, it’s not ridiculous of embarrassing – it’s pretty straightforward.

Transitioning Away From Selling & Tracking Time

When selling time you tend to strive to a consistent level of profitability across every project. When selling value, your profit measurement focus should broaden out to make sure the entire relationship is profitable, accepting that some projects will be wildly profitable and others less so, even allowing some smaller projects to be unprofitable.

A Mission With No Exit

I now see the idea of retirement, in this age of the knowledge worker, as destructive. It causes us to put up with less than ideal circumstances today as we wait for our reward in the end, except the idealized reward of the retired life isn’t really what most of us want. We’re not coal miners retiring from physically punishing careers, after all. We have the luxury of working with our brains and enjoying it. Plus, as entrepreneurs, we have the ability to shape our reality to whatever we want it to be. The only thing in my way is me.

Should You Publish Pricing on Your Website?

We’ve gone from an era where creative firms never published their pricing on their website to one where, while it’s not common, there’s a bit of a trend toward it among certain types of firms.

There are right and wrong reasons to disclose your pricing on your website and right and wrong methods of doing so.

Four Reasons to Write

Agency business development is a cocktail of sales, marketing and public relations activities. To be successful, your firm has to possess assets in each area.

The Third Way

In this post I confess to a long-held secret, philosophize on a broader life issue and then wrap it all up by explaining how most people get this pitching-or-not-pitching thing wrong.

The Jedi Mindset

If you want to sell from the high ground, push back on a flawed selection process and lower your cost of sale, you need to arm yourself with a series of mindsets that you can stack one on top of the other. They’ll form sort of a modular mantra that you recite silently to yourself in certain situations.

Bring Your Disruption Sooner

Most firms claim to be disruptive in their thinking and believe they bring that disruption to the sales cycle. Most, however, bring it too late.

Learn how to step it up.

Is There an Industrial Pitch Complex?

Win Without Pitching founder Blair Enns writes about his conspiracy theory that there is a self-interested complex when it comes to free pitching in the creative professions.

Seven Universal Truths About Money

Money, money, money. Most of us, I believe, have poor relationships with money. Another belief of mine is that some of us have warped or skewed views on the topic that we think are universally shared by others when they are not.

Seven CRM Mistakes to Avoid

An article by Win Without Pitching founder Blair Enns on the common mistakes creative firms make in setting up or using their CRM application…

The Art of Outbound Lead Generation

If you need leads now, nothing beats picking up the phone or sending an email. Yes, response rates are abysmally low today but with selectivity and proper technique, you’re far more likely to deliver results sooner through outbound than inbound.

How to Cheat at Content Marketing

Content Marketing for Those Who Can’t Quite Bring Themselves to Write Experts write. I’ve been saying this for years and until recently I’ve never seen any way around it. If you want to be positioned as an expert on a topic and you want to drive inbound enquiries then you have to engage in content

On Being the Vulnerable Expert

This week’s post is a brief stream-of-consciousness piece on the paradox of being an expert in substance and not style. It’s about the need to not have all the answers when selling; an admonishment to not be the slick salesperson…

5 Reasons You Should Offer Guarantees

The satisfaction guarantee I’m proposing is simply the guarantee that after hiring you and working with you for a little while the client has the freedom to decide whether he made the right decision and would like to continue, or decide that hiring you was a mistake from which he’d like to extricate himself and get his money back.

The Problem With Service

Although I think I do a good job of masking it, I remain scarred by the dozen years I spent working in advertising agencies and design firms before I began advising them. The scar that marks me, and perhaps you, is the service scar.

Are You Really Needed?

Passion is a great thing, but if you fail to match your passion to a need in the market then you’re setting your firm up for failure…

A Fair Price

Should you be pursuing as much as you can get from your clients or should you be driven by the idea of a “fair” price? Many economists would say that any price paid is by definition a fair price otherwise the buyer wouldn’t pay it. They’re wrong.

Always Be Anchoring

Anchoring is one of the most powerful techniques of effective pricing. You are subjected to it all the time…

This Should Be Fun

A proper approach to selling should be energy positive. It should be sustainable. And it should be fun – even when you lose…

The Flip

The moment in the sales cycle when a prospect who previously had you boxed into the vendor position in the relationship…

Digital Disruption Disrupted

The web design firms that disrupted generalist design firms just a few short years ago are now themselves being disrupted…

When to Hold and When to Fold

Some of the core WWP principles include delivering a minimum level of engagement or otherwise talking money early…The direct conversations around money reduce the likelihood that you’ll be scuppered later in the deal by financial objections that could have been uncovered early, and behavioural concessions extracted from the client are indicators of your likelihood of winning the business.

The Tao of No

When we master no we will master selling our expertise. The two sides of no are hearing it and saying it…

It’s Official; I’m Out

“You’re my last client. After this, I’m no longer a consultant.” These words escaped my mouth last week at the beginning of…

Say What You Think

Say what you think. Say it early before stress and resentment build. You’ll make more money, you’ll have more fulfilling…

Mining for Confidence

Confidence and expertise are inextricably linked, not like two boxes connected in a PowerPoint flowchart, but more like…

My Prospecting Email

Recently, I wrote about my Closing the Loop email that’s a bit of a secret weapon when it comes to raising deals from the dead. I received some comments and many more emails about the fantastic responses people were getting from it. One of the emails asked me if I had a similarly effective email template for

Why Creative Firms Don’t (Really) Scale

Michael Gerber, author of The E-Myth, made his name on the idea that you should build and run your small business like you are going to franchise it, even if that’s not a goal. This means mapping out functions and processes, including proprietary strategic processes, to the point that anyone could come along, buy a franchise of your business and replicate your product and your success just from your operations manual and a little bit of training.

Are You Trying Too Hard to Win New Business?

A competitive mindset can sometimes be at odds with a creative one. David Brooks, author of The Social Animal, made this claim in a New York Times op-ed piece last year. (All links to external sources are at the bottom of this article.) When you’re constantly trying to outcompete others, says Brooks, it’s less likely

Confessions of a Recovering Consultant

Last year was a year I’d love to forget but probably never will. I committed to too much (anyone else?) and I got sick just before the first wave of obligations hit. I juggled big commitments and various illnesses, getting sick four times on three continents with debilitating but benign illnesses and ailments that were

Seven Words You Can’t Say in Business Development

A couple of years ago I wrote an article titled, ‘I Wish I’d Said That: Seven sentences to get you out of sticky situations.’ Just as there are words you can employ to helpful means, there are also words that you should avoid to keep you out of trouble and in control of the buy-sell

Debunking the Myth that “It’s Everyone’s Job to Sell”

One of the things I am most fascinated by is how people become trapped in mental models, or ways of thinking, often in spite of overwhelming evidence that the model is flawed or, as is often the case, completely, absolutely 100% wrong. The perpetuation of falsehoods happens in individuals and groups, with intelligence seemingly no

The New Rainmakers

Years of insisting that business development people generate leads instead of just follow up on those generated by other means has forced creative firms to prefer sales-based skill sets of cold calling and networking over others. In this article I explain why those skill sets are less valuable today and what is replacing them in

CRM: The Train Coming at You

There is a trend within your clients’ organizations that is going to affect the offerings of your firm. It will open up exciting new areas of opportunity that you will be forced to capitalize on. To ignore this trend would be dangerous, I think, because not only will it affect how you deliver your services,

The Legal Implications of Issuing an RFP

There is little that’s more frustrating than receiving a request for proposal (RFP) written by an individual who doesn’t know what he’s doing–especially when it’s a company you really want as a client. You know what I’m talking about–the RFP unexpectedly shows up in your inbox offering a moment of excitement, but your deflation follows

A Bite From The Apple

The passing of Steve Jobs has left many of us contemplating his impact on our lives beyond the devices we now take for granted. Perhaps even more important than the technology itself, Jobs left behind some powerful business lessons for us. We’re all going to draw different lessons and inspirations from the man; here are

The Impact of Creative Quality on Business Development Success

Imagine that you’ve won a full-page ad in The New York Times for the use of promoting your firm. What would you say in that ad? If yours is a specialist firm, the answer is easy. In one variation or another you would stake a claim to your expertise as the leading provider of X

The Evolution of Confidence

I once played a first game of chess with a friend in which he destroyed me with his opening move. In the very first second of the game he had me panicked – robbed of my ability to think clearly. The only thing that was clear at that moment was that he would beat me

Meeting Madness

Picking up on the theme of my last article, Five Things to Master in the New Year, there’s another area that most of us would do well to work on at a time when we’re making promises to ourselves: new business meetings. And I don’t mean we should strive to get more of them.

Five Things to Master in the New Year

As there are less than 20 meaningful business days left in the year, it’s time to think about what we might do differently next year. Below are some business development resolutions for you to consider, each an issue that you might attempt master or at least make progress on in 2011. The first three are

Voicemail: To Leave or Not to Leave

For years I counseled that rather than leave a voicemail when doing telephone introductions, you’re better off hanging up and dialing again at a later date. Then someone (I wish I could remember who) explained the dynamics of cold calls and voicemail to me in a new light: “Knowledge is power…”

Five Positioning Mistakes

After almost ten years of advising creative businesses on their positioning, I’ve looked back to find the five most common mistakes that I’ve seen. If you’re repositioning your firm, use this guide to help you avoid the mistakes I’ve seen and even contributed to over the years.

Positioning Transitions

Four Ways to Get from Here to There Business development success is rooted in a firm’s positioning, and while choosing a focus for the firm is The Difficult Business Decision, it’s not the only decision around repositioning a firm. The question that immediately follows once you have chosen a focus is, how do we make

Becoming the Expert

The difference between success and failure is often not in knowing what to do, but in doing it. One of the areas where the getting it done problem routinely arises is in living the firm’s positioning. When working with a firm I routinely see this pattern:

Are You Hard-Wired for Business Development Success?

Nine years into advising creative people on how to sell their services I have come to see that the variability of our individual hard-wiring not only predicts our likelihood of success, but it helps to identify which business development strategy we will select in our pursuit of success. McLelland’s Theory of Needs postulates that people

Social Media Sins

I’m relatively new to social media and a light user. But I can’t get over the ‘rules’ of how we’re supposed to use these tools. Turns out, I’m breaking most of them. I know I’m not doing it right, and I don’t care. Hear my confession of my 10 social media sins.

16 Brief Points on Free Pitching

Two of my favorite things collided this week when author and blogger Tim Ferriss put out a call for a design contest on to design the cover for his new book. It was picked up on Twitter by free pitching watchdogs No!Spec and @specwatch and the debate was on.

The Polite Battle for Control

In simple terms, agency business development can be described as the polite battle for control. In this brief 20-point thesis on modern day business development philosophy for marketing communication agencies, I’ll make the argument for control as the goal.

Pitches, Search Consultants & Hissing Cockroaches

It’s been interesting to read the heated online discussions in recent days regarding the Zappos pitch and the Portand Online website design contest. Agencies and clients are squaring off in mixed camps over whether these pitches are handled fairly or are even appropriate to begin with. I thought I would dust off this article that

The Armor-Piercing Introduction

Even the most specialized firms are capable of delivering a range of services that are broader than their declared specialization. It’s tempting, therefore, when making a telephone introduction, to pursue all the work that your firm is capable of instead of focusing on the work that it is best at. The mathematics say that if

7 Tips for Selling into a Recession

I’ll leave the bottom line guidance to the finance, human resource and other experts and stick to my knitting: business development. How do you protect the top line at a time like this? Here are seven suggestions.

The Cost of Creativity

When an entrenched specialist is invited to compete for opportunity outside of his area of expertise, his reaction is often something close to terror. The specialist believes that when an opportunity within his area of focus comes to him, there is nobody better qualified to help the prospect.

The Five Objections

I spent the early part of my consulting practice advising you on using classic selling techniques to help overcome objections raised by the prospect in the buy-sell cycle. Over time it became clear that rather than trying to overcome these objections, you should be raising them for the prospect to overcome.

Business Development Compensation

How and how much should a marketing communication firm pay its business development personnel? While there is no easy answer, following these five steps should help lead to a compensation (pay) plan that works for employee and employer. This article builds on last month’s Win Without Pitching Newsletter issue, Business Development Planning, which discussed setting

Business Development Planning

Planning begins with the setting of goals and while we all know the value of goal setting, I regularly see marketing communication firm’s business development achievements hampered by aiming at the wrong goals. Follow these three simple steps to ensure that next year is a banner year for business development.

Google’s Impact on Business Development

In his 2006 book The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More, Wired magazine editor Chris Anderson explores how technology has enabled many businesses to exploit tiny, previously unviable niche markets rather than chase the lowest common denominator mass markets. One set of such enabling technologies is what he calls

Proving Your Expertise

Okay, you’ve repositioned your firm as a narrowly focused expert. Now what, you ask? Now, my friend, you ask yourself the product question: What skills, capabilities and processes do you need to add to support your positioning? While positioning is rooted in a claim of expertise, product represents your ability to prove such a claim.

The Right People on the Bus

In Jim Collins’s 2002 book Good to Great he explained that one of the common denominators of success that turned ordinary companies into consistently extraordinary performers was the ability to get the proper people on the team, or the bus, as he put it. But in agency business development, who are the right people? In

First, Do No Harm

When a family member had some health problems a few years ago we began meeting with doctors. We marched into one doctors’ office after another and offered our diagnosis of the situation, then asked to hear the recommended course of treatment. Finally we happened upon one who stopped us in our tracks: “Stop. You’re diagnosing.

Twelve Resolutions for the New Year

Our most productive years are usually the ones that we enter armed with solid goals and plans. What follows are twelve business development resolutions with which to begin the New Year. They are excerpted from the forthcoming article, A Call to Arms: Twelve Proclamations of a Win Without Pitching Agency.

Responding to Requests for Proposals

Building an agency one request for proposal (RFP) at a time is a painful and potentially humiliating way to grow a business. And while winning without pitching means not playing the RFP game, there’s more subtlety to the approach than simply saying no and feeling good about yourself all the way to bankruptcy. In this

Expanding Your Expertise

For years now I have preached to you about narrowing the focus of your firm in order to eliminate competition and shift the power in the buy-sell relationship to you, the seller. A narrow positioning is one of the foundational Win Without Pitching principles that allows you to take control of the buying process, lower

Creating Objections

In my counsel to agency principals and business development personnel I spend too much time on the subject of how to overcome objections. If you find yourself constantly dealing with or dreading objections late in the buying cycle then there’s something you’re not doing early in the buying cycle: you’re not creating objections. You should

Testimonials, References and Referrals

Rare is the new client that is secured without the help of outside assistance. The common vehicles for this assistance are testimonials, references and referrals. In this issue of the Win Without Pitching Newsletter we examine how each of these vehicles of assistance is different from the others, and how each should be applied in

Tools of the Trade

If there’s a tool out there that will increase my productivity, I get it. Some have proven to be wastes of time, money and attention, but others have contributed to increased productivity or enjoyment of routine tasks. In this issue of the Win Without Pitching Newsletter I cover five tools of the trade that anyone

Lowering Your Cost of Sale

In any large consultative sale there are costs associated with buyer and seller coming together. How those costs are assigned to each party is a valuable indicator of who possesses the power in the relationship. Order-taker agencies routinely incur most of the expenses associated with the courtship, while some well-positioned expert agencies are able to

Quit Selling & Start Helping

To understand selling is to understand that in the pursuit of profitable new clients you have no business trying to convince anyone of anything, ever. To the question, if my job is not to convince, what then, I respond: It is to help the unaware, to inspire the interested and to reassure the intent. This

I Wish I’d Said That!

Have you ever been close to securing a lucrative engagement only to be thrown off your game, and possibly out of contention, by an unforeseen late question from the client? While there’s no way to prepare for every objection that might arise there are a few common ones that seem to create that deer-in-the-headlights response.

The Meeting, Part 2

This is the second in a two-part series on The Meeting. If you missed part one in the October issue of the Win Without Pitching Newsletter, you’ll find it posted to our web site here. Part one explored why an unqualified focus on getting more meetings can be counterproductive to business development efforts, and it

The Meeting, Part 1

Getting More Meetings “If I get a meeting with someone I can almost always close them. I just need more meetings.” I hear this often. Years ago, between the end of my agency career and the launch of my consulting practice, I heard these words from an agency president who was hiring me to do

Beyond the Rolodex

Last week Adweek published an article titled Shortcut to a Long Relationship in which they commented on the $400mm Volkswagen advertising account going to Crispin Porter + Bogusky of Miami without a review. The authors pointed out a small trend to this type of account movement and explained it away with a comment on the

Selling to Committees

Some agencies have policies about not doing business with law firms. Some refuse to work with not-for-profits. Others steer clear of government and government agencies. The reason for all is usually the same: committees. Committees can be difficult to deal with in the buying cycle and even more difficult once the account is won. But

Inspiring the Interested

It is often stated that all buying is emotional. While this is an oversimplification that gets many salespeople into trouble, emotions do play a role in most significant purchases. Knowing how and when emotions come into play allows the seller to employ the emotional tools of inspiration to his advantage. But seller beware: emotions are

Can Sales Be Outsourced?

“I know we need to get out there and sell our firm’s services, but I don’t want to be the one to do it, and I can’t justify a full-time position. Can’t I outsource it?” If you’ve ever posed this question, this issue of the Win Without Pitching Newsletter is for you.

Rainmaker Wanted

The title of the ad says it all. This firm isn’t seeking an employee; they’re looking for a miracle worker. No other position in the agency has a moniker loaded with such expectation, so wrapped up in the myth that the firm is but one uber-human away from success, as the business development magician: The

Ten Tests of Your Positioning

Winning without pitching begins with positioning. How’s yours? This brief post offers ten simple questions to ask of how your firm is currently positioned or for any new positioning you may be considering.

Ask yourself these ten questions.

Strategy Traps

Agencies all over the world today are trying to get ‘more strategic’: to position themselves as strategic partners to their clients, to sell higher margin strategy over increasingly commoditized implementation – all in a bid to profit proportionally from the greater value being delivered. Most are failing in this bid, suffering from the same four mistakes that are easily avoided once they are recognized.

Proposal or Contract

Blair Enns founder of Win Without Pitching latest article on Proposal or Contract. The proposal is the words that come out of your mouth. The document is the contract.

The Ladder of Lead Generation

In this issue of the Win Without Pitching Newsletter we discuss the costs and benefits of using various public relations, advertising, and selling activities in driving business development for your agency, and we examine what the use of each says about your firm.

Reassuring Words

The lexicon of sales clichés is filled with words and phrases designed to convince people they have a problem that only the salesperson’s product or service can solve. Selling (facilitating the buying process) however, is rooted in helping, not convincing. It is something that requires empathy, understanding, and the knowledge of how to reassure the

Expert or Order-Taker?

Expert agencies and order-taker agencies could not be more different from each other. Usually, you cannot spot the difference by looking at their work or their premises. You can however spot the difference by listening to the words that come out of the mouths of the firms’ principals and employees. The expert agency mindset about

The Case for Case Studies

Case studies are among the most effective yet most misunderstood and misapplied business development tools available to marketing communication agencies. When presented properly, their power in helping to land the account is almost unrivaled. However, they are often applied incorrectly, and almost always used too early. Case studies are closing tools best used right at

Telephone Truths

When speaking to a successful agency business development VP the other day I asked him, ‘Why are cold calls so easy for you?’ Without missing a beat he responded, ‘Because I enjoy helping people.’ He explained that when calling into organizations in industries where his firm had experience he felt confident of his ability to

Decision Maker Dynamics

‘Thanks for coming in to make your presentation today. I’d like to introduce you to Carl, our VP of Special Projects. He’ll be sitting in.’ Through the gritted teeth of a forced smile you shoot your business development person a look that says, “Who the Hell is Carl?”. Carl, you are about to learn, is

The Rapport Trap

In Good To Great, Jim Collins writes of the liability of charisma, pointing to charismatic CEOs who built what looked to be successful companies only to have them implode after the departure of the leader. His point is that, far from being an asset, charisma is a liability that masks inefficiencies – a crutch for

The Art of Walking Away

‘You are never worse off walking away,’ said Harvey Mackay in his book on selling and negotiating, Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive. People want what they can’t have and often they need to lose or risk losing something before they fully appreciate it. That’s one of the reasons why the Take-Away can be one of the more effective closing techniques in your arsenal.

The Agency Gatekeeper – Keeping Bad Clients Out

When discussing specific new client opportunities with agency business development personnel I often offer some qualifying questions for them to put to their prospects. One VP of business development recently responded to these questions in exasperation, ‘It sounds like you want me to look for reasons not to do business with this person!’ ‘Exactly,’ was

Compensating Your Revenue Builders

Most agencies have a difficult time arriving at a fair and effective compensation model for their business development personnel. If you grapple with how and how much to pay your revenue builders, then this issue of the Win Without Pitching Newsletter is for you.

Price: The Final Objection

We are culturally conditioned to avoid talking about money in our personal lives and as a result, in our roles as business development people, we tend to put off financial discussions until the last possible moment. In the last two issues of the Win Without Pitching Newsletter we discussed the commoditization trend in the agency

Battling Commoditization

Commoditization is the act of turning something of subjective or unrealized value into something of quantifiable value. Inherent in this definition is the implication that the value quantified is subject to the same market forces as are physical commodities. A physical commodity is readily available in large quantities from numerous producers, enjoys little product differentiation

Strange Creatures: Pitches, Search Consultants, and Hissing Cockroaches

I liken agency business development practices to the island of Madagascar. Broken off from the rest of the sales world and left to evolve on it’s own, agency business development has evolved in a peculiar direction, spawning some unique and fascinating creatures. Two of the more interesting are the speculative pitch, and the agency search

Set Your Account People Free

Most agencies look to their client services staff to fill the majority of business development duties in addition to their account management responsibilities. But a subtle re-assignment of these duties can often bring a surprising performance increase, not just in client acquisition, but also in account services and ultimately in the quality of client relationships.

The Selling Website

An understanding of how people buy is important to anyone who has anything to sell, but it is doubly important to marketing communication agencies for the reason that you are in the business of helping your clients sell. Through the development of ads, point-of-purchase material, and sales collateral you develop some of the sales tools

The Four Keys to Qualifying

If you’ve ever wondered why your agency spends so much time and money to land so few accounts, this has been written just for you. We have all heard the term, qualified prospects in reference to potential customers, but what does ‘qualified’ really mean? A qualified prospect (my term of choice for ‘prospect’. He’s buying from

Positioning for Profit

There is only one reason marketing communication firms are hired, and therefore only one viable basis for the positioning of your firm. It is not personality, it is not process, it is not price. Marketing communication firms are hired for what they can do for their clients based on their expertise.

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