The Insights Blog

Before You Pitch, Pick the Right Team

Before You Pitch, Pick the Right Team

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Prospects hate bait and switch, where an agency sends a pitch team full of senior, experienced and talented presenters who, after winning a piece of business, are never seen again.

Several years ago we saw “the largest media agency in the country” send the same pitch team to three different clients in six months. The presenters were smart, articulate and great on their feet, all SVP department heads in an agency with several thousand employees. The pitches were amazing, and they lost all but one. In the two losses the prospect team walked away thinking, “We’ll never see these people again.” There is no big-agency business model where such senior execs regularly work on a small or mid-sized client. 

So, what is the right team for a pitch? The ideal team has:

  • The day-to-day agency contact the client will work with
  • Senior execs from each key discipline that will bill the account and be accountable for their function’s support
  • A diverse makeup of individuals representative of the prospect’s target audience
  • A senior executive or owner that vouches for the agency’s commitment

The team needs to have experience working together and be able to showcase their camaraderie. On that note, the roles are also important:

  • The most senior executive should only open with a brief intro and close by asking for the business
  • Every other team member should speak to their area of expertise/function 
  • If an agency team member is in the room, they MUST have an important speaking role

Each of these points is important. The senior agency leader (an owner or senior exec) needs to only open and close. Once they turn the pitch over to other members of the team, they should stay quiet and supportive. Jumping in to clarify or adjust creates the perception that they aren’t confident in the team. The subject-matter experts should handle the bulk of the presentation, because they’ll be leading the account and the prospect will want to get to know them and their style of working and thinking. But everyone should speak. We’ve seen agencies introduce a day-to-day contact and then relegate them to managing the laptop. Clients notice when someone doesn’t speak up.

When assembling a pitch team, use the client’s perspective. Prospects want: 

  • to meet the people they will work with 
  • an agency who can work as a team 
  • to be confident in everyone’s expertise
  • to be confident that the agency will understand their business and target audiences
  • to know that agency leadership is committed to their business

With the right team in place, all of your focus can go to giving a knockout presentation.

Barry O’Neil, a Senior Consultant at Mercer Island Group, has led numerous agency/vendor searches and client/agency relationship management 360 review processes. He has led efforts for clients such as CFA Institute, U.S. Cellular, Ulta Beauty, Clarisonic, CenturyLink, CustomInk and many others. He has also participated in corporate restructuring initiatives, client process realignment initiatives, and agency new business reviews and pitch/positioning consulting.