How To Win A Pitch Or Proposal

What can you do to give yourself the best chance of winning a pitch or proposal you write. This was a question that was recently asked in one of my monthly group coaching calls. We had some great answers so I thought I would dig into this in today’s podcast.

Time Stamp

[00:00] Intro

[01:20] We are all time poor so we need to use our business development time carefully and be selective about what proposals you should agree to write

[02:04] Start by qualifying your leads carefully (which means having a clear niche and knowing who your ideal target customer is)

[02:56] The Sales Funnel - and where you should invest your time

[03:35] The 3-5 non-negotiable questions that must be answered before you agree to invest more time

[04:25] Use education based marketing content (rather than your time) to educate your audience 

[05:22] The importance of building a relationship with the prospect before responding to the brief

[06:05] Find out who the decision-makers are

[06:50] Get a date in the diary for a follow-up call BEFORE you send the proposal

[07:30] Get the audience involved in a pitch and bring the team who will work on the account

[08:17] Start your proposal by making it all about the client (not your agency!)



“Slow down to speed up - get your 3-5 non-negotiable questions answered BEFORE agreeing to pitch or write a proposal.” - Rob Da Costa
“Use content on your website (rather than your time) to educate your audience.” - Rob Da Costa
“In order to not be ghosted, get a date in the diary for a follow-up call BEFORE you send the proposal.” - Rob Da Costa

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 Full Episode Transcription

We're having some great discussions on my monthly calls in the self-running agency Implementation group. One of the last months was about delivering a pitch and then having the rug pulled from their feet because, despite pitching, the new marketing director decided they wanted to work with their previous favourite agency. So the question was, what could I have done differently? And there were some fantastic, fascinating conversations that took place with all the other members. That's what I really love about it. The group coaching format is because if you have a challenge, then others will have faced that challenge or will be interested in knowing the answers.

So not only am I showing my insights but so are other people who can share their real experiences. So in today's podcast, I want to share my personal insights on giving yourself the best chance of winning a formal pitch or closing the deal on a proposal you submit. So let's get going. I'm Rob Da Costa, and this is The Agency Accelerator podcast. As someone who has stood in your shoes, having started growing and sold my own agency and just know how it feels in the ups and downs of agency life.

So this podcast aims to ease your journey just a little by sharing my and my guest's experiences and advice as you navigate your way to growing a profitable, sustainable and enjoyable business. Let's face it. We are all really time-poor, So we need to be really mindful about using our time smartly, especially when it comes to business development because you might feel fortunate to have the opportunity to write lots of proposals or pitch for new business. But you can also end up chasing your tail, being run ragged, trying to write too many and as a result of that, having a lower win rate because you can't really give your full time and attention to do the absolute best.

Because it's a bit of a conveyor belt, and you've got to get these pictures and proposals completed. And, of course, you've got a day job serving your clients as well. So I want to share with you some thoughts that I have about giving yourself the best chance to win that pitch or proposal. And it all starts by really qualifying your leads before you even start to talk to them, let alone agree to write a pitch or proposal. Now the better the fit of the lead for you, the more confident you will be about doing a great job for them.

And, of course, that means you're increasing your chances of winning that piece of business. Now this all starts with your agency having a really clear niche and therefore being able to define exactly who your ideal target customer is. I've talked about snitching and defining your ideal target customer many times before, so our link in the show notes some other resources that cover these topics if you want to learn more. But let's assume that you already have a clear niche and you already are really clear about who your ideal target customer is.

That someone that will understand the value of what you do, but also so you'll be confident you can do a great job for them. Now it's worth reminding ourselves of the sales funnel that the sales funnels are wide at the top and narrow at the bottom and at the top of the funnel. We've got kind of cold leads going in and at the bottom of the funnel. We have got long-term customers dropping out, and in the middle, we've got prospects. What you want to think about is if you took that funnel, one flipped it up the other way.

So now it's narrow at the top and wide at the bottom. That is how you want to be investing your time. In other words, at the top of the funnel with cold leads, you want to be investing very little of your time, and the further down the funnel goes, the more of your time you should invest. And so you really want to think about how you can qualify leads before you start spending half an hour on the phone with them to find out that they only have £200 to spend.

So the first thing you want to do is think about the 3 to 5 non-negotiable questions that you must have answered before they will go to the next stage of conversation with you. And some of those questions will include things like, What's your budget? Why is now a good time for you to be looking for a new agent who is involved in the decision-making process? And how will you and the wider team judge success? That's four questions, but there are a bunch of others that I'm sure you can think of as well.

And you want to take a slow down-to-speed-up approach here because if you don't get any of those questions answered, and you get really excited about the prospect, and you jump on a call with them, and you find out. Actually, they're not really serious, or they don't have a budget, or they are just kind of looking around at the moment. And they're actually quite happy with their current agency. Or they've never used an agency like you before, so they're using you to educate them. That's all a complete waste of your time.

And you can serve those people with what I call education-based marketing content, which can be on your website. This is detailed marketing content that helps educate your audience, and they can read it at their own leisure rather than using your time to educate them. So this might be an article on how to brief an agency or how to select an agency, or what your type of agency does for your customers, all of that kind of stuff. Education-based marketing put it on your website. Don't use your time to educate your prospects on a phone call or, even worse, in a meeting.

Now, once the prospect has passed through those hoops and you've got the answer to these questions, and you're feeling confident that they are a good fit for you, that they have a genuine inquiry, then the next stage is that they're going to ask you to write a formal pitch or tender pitch or write a proposal. And at this stage, you want to start trying to build a relationship with this prospect. So meet them, ideally face to face or at least online, to ask them more questions and to dig into the brief that you've been given in more detail.

You want to consider all the things that they are not telling you in brief and also think about how you can ask the right questions to find out this sort of hidden agenda. After all, you definitely want to decline to write a pitch or proposal. If all they're really looking to do is kick their incumbent agency at the backside, and they want to check on the market for comparison pricing those types of scenarios you want to walk away. And that is why asking the question, why is now the right time, is such a fascinating, useful question to have answered.

It's then important for you to find out who the decision-makers are because bear in mind that some of these decision-makers may not have been involved in the earlier proposal process, and they may have not even seen the brief. So bear this in mind when you're writing your picture proposal. It's always worth restating what the brief was as well as any assumptions you are making. So just think about the fact that the contact you're dealing with may not even be the decision maker. They may be an influencer, or they may just be someone who's short-listing the agencies.

So try to work up through their business to find out who are the decision makers and see if you can start building some kind of relationship with those people. I know that's not always possible, but this is what we should aspire to do. My next tip is to make sure that before you send the proposal, you already have a date in the diary to do a debrief. Because how many times have we had a really short deadline to write a proposal? So we spend long hours burning the midnight to get this proposal written. We then send it off to the prospect, and then they ghost us.

And no matter what you do, you can't get hold of them. So, in the end, you kind of give up because you feel you're hassling them. So get a date in the diary before you send a proposal. And if the prospect is reluctant to agree to a day, then this is definitely an amber light warning signal that you should either then decline to send a proposal or dig into why they don't want to agree on a date in advance. If you're going to be doing a formal pitch, then try and get the audience involved and ask them questions during your presentation and also find out what other areas they might want to discuss that isn't covered in your pitch.

And when you're doing this pitch, always try and bring the team who will work on the account because there's nothing worse than having the bigwigs present with a little Asterix at the end, saying little Jane account execs will be your main point of contact. So that is one of the key reasons why agencies lose pictures. They put the owner or the senior people in front of the client. They come across as very charismatically and knowledgeable. But then it turns out that they won't really be involved in the project at all.

So don't make that mistake now in terms of the structure of proposals. I'm a big fan of making all about the client unless about you. So the first part of the proposal needs to tell the client about the brief about the current environment there in the competitive landscape. The challenge is that they have your solution to that challenge, and then you're pricing and all the other groupings, such as case studies, testimonials, and more about your agency, can all go at the back of the pitch. One thing that someone said to me many years ago, which is very true, is that: A) No one judges the quality of your proposal by how many pages it is, and B) You do not want to bury your pricing somewhere at the back that the client finds really difficult to find because obviously, that's what they're interested in as well as your proposed solution. So make it about the client and not about you. And obviously, if they want to find out more about you, it will be at the back of the proposal. But you also have to think that by the time you're submitting a proposal, they should know quite a lot about you already.

I guess if I want to summarise this whole podcast, it would be to give you my favourite piece of advice, which is to slow down to speed up. As I said earlier, don't get so excited about the opportunity to write a proposal or do a pitch. Go for it. Hell for leather without slowing down to get your ducks in a row to find out all the information and also to qualify this lead in or out. And obviously, if they're out, you can politely decline. But if they're in, you want to do as best a job as you possibly can, and you need to be armed with all the information that we've talked about today in order to do a great job.

Okay, so that is my tip. What tips do you have? I'm sure you've got some other tips that I haven't mentioned it. So please do let me know. Drop me an email at Robert at the cost of coaching dot co dot UK and let me know because I love to hear from you guys and to talk of that if you found today's episode useful and, indeed, other episodes of the podcast useful, please do consider leaving a review on Apple podcast and obviously make sure you hit the subscribe button so that you are alerted every Thursday when the next episode goes live.

I've left a link at the bottom of how to leave a review on an Apple podcast because I know it sometimes can be quite difficult to do that. But I really appreciate that because it helps the algorithm show my podcast more people, as you know, and that means I can help more people. But other than that, I hope you have a fantastic week. Get laser-focused on your pictures, and proposals apply. What I've talked about today and you may find that you're doing fewer proposals. But you will find that your proposal win rate has gone up massively, and none of us wants to be busy fools.

We all want to be laser-focused with our time. So other than that, I'll see you next Thursday on the next episode of The Agency Accelerator podcast.

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