Marketing results for ambitious businesses

How to pitch and lose disgracefully

A few months ago BuzzedUp actively pitched for a big, interesting account. It was the right time for us and I felt in my bones that we'd be a great asset to the business in question. But things didn't go too well...

There were two other agencies in the pitch. Arriving at the client’s offices in our best bib and tucker, we crossed paths with one of the competitor agencies as they departed. A knowing smile passed between us. I knew our presentation was going to be brilliant (it was) yet, at that moment, I also felt a cold shudder go through me... I’d made a mistake by playing ‘the pitching game’.

Win without pitchingblair enns

The thing about pitching is that it requires a ‘battle’ mindset. You are in it to beat the others; they will lose and you will win. That’s quite a bit different to finding the best way to guiding a client's business to consolidation, strength and growth.

Battling to win the pitch affects everything. What will the other agencies say and do? What’s our approach to pricing, given the competition? There is an impetus to over-offer and under-charge.

And even then, you may still ‘lose’, as we did.


I put ‘lose’ in quotes because I’m so glad we didn’t get this work. Our presentation went well, they loved it and us. Our fully-costed proposal—done to the tight timetable the client demanded—took hard work and a couple of late nights. Despite a nagging sense of 'I know I should never have pitched for this’ my optimistic outlook told me we would get the contract..

We are so glad you are not our client

I see no advantage in appearing hungry for new business. I don't chase proposals. Rather, it's best to stay in touch, from time to time, by sharing content and ideas that should help a prospect make the right choice. That's what I did. But I got no feedback indeed no response at all.

So I called. Nine times. Nothing.

Eventually, I wrote the whole thing off as a waste of time. Some seven weeks later an assistant to the MD called to let us know they had ‘gone a different way’ with their marketing. How pathetic and unprofessional. We had no right to win the contract; but we did have the right to be treated with courtesy. I'm so glad we did not engage with this company—imagine what working with them would be like! 

Blair Enns was right (that's him, above, BTW). We must win without pitching

You’ll find a general overview of BuzzedUp's marketing services right here.


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Tags: Sales