Having pondered this question daily for over two decades, I know the answer contains many layers of strategies, tactics and persistence to achieve a level of competency and high performance.

The key phrase is ‘high performance’, not just have an occasional peak performance or outstanding game once each season BUT, to consistently have great games, season after season.

Here are the strategies, programs and thinking required to have ‘game excellence’, not just a great one-off game.

In fact, the legendary Basketball Coach, Pat Riley once stated Excellence is the gradual result of always striving to do better.’ This is also the critical way to think about New Business if you run or own an Advertising, PR, Digital or 1:1 Agency!

Having been involved in literally thousands of pitches over the last couple of decades, I firmly believe ‘prospects can’t tell the difference between GREAT work and GOOD work during a pitch.’ PLUS… Prospects choose to work with people they like.’ E.g. so ensure you never present to strangers or never pitch with strangers too!

Always remember, winning new clients is the ‘most competitive’ activity in business today and there are no prizes for coming second!

Other New Business Truths:

  1. Stand Out – If you want to win iconic big brands or clients, you must first get on their radar. Do more speaking engagements, ramp up your content creation, create a powerful point of view about the evolving market, hire a publicist, do whatever it takes to stand out in the Industry or your field. Make a statement, create waves, and get noticed, be a visionary or game-changer.
  2. Own a Niche – Offer world-class knowledge, expertise, skills and technology arsenal about a subject related to prospective clients’ needs. If you can offer something smart or an unexpected point of view on subjects of interest to your prospects, you become a magnet for the brands and clients you want.
  3. Have an Agency Vision & Positioning (Focus) – Always have a Unique Selling Point (USP) Remember, the client is always going to think what are we going to get when we hire the Agency. Successful agencies always show, illustrate and demonstrate how they will support their client. They also select the best supporting materials that best demonstrates, clarifies and convinces key decision-makers that they’re making the right decision.
  4. Build a Pipeline – New Business, success and high performance is all about generating inbound and outbound new business leads. The larger, deeper and more targeted they are, the greater success you will achieve. It’s a pure numbers game, and the more targeted, pinpointed and experienced you are in an industry, the more successful you will be.
  • Inbound pipelines/new business leads can be improved via announcing: account wins in trade publications, high profile campaigns winning awards, having senior executives speaking at conferences, developing a strong agency brand, strengthening management teams, launching new services, etc.
  • The deeper the inbound pipeline, the more qualified the new business leads, the more revenue and growth the agency will experience
  • Improving the inbound ratio is critical

5. Integration WINS – Teams and agencies that combine – Business Development, Marketing Services and HR have a much more cohesive and integrated team. All three areas deliver the capacity to reach out and touch prospects/talent and build brand perception. Less successful agencies and groups all too often have these three functions operate in a random and uncoordinated manner.

6. Strategy WINS MORE business – By this I mean, if you choose to participate in a New Business Pitch, it’s always more effective to follow these simple steps:

  1. Build a process that defines all logistics associated with driving a client presentation and or response.
  2. Discuss and adjust the presentation and recommendation.
  3. Build consensus among business stakeholders e.g. creative, project management, etc.
  4. Refine process over time through continuous improvement.

7. Use these 3 questions before pitching –

  • is it real,
  • is it winnable and
  • is it worth it BEFORE you start.

8. The best source of New Business and revenue generation comes from three main sources, ranked in order, they are:

Current Clients (approx. 50%)

Competitive Pitching and RFP’s (30%)

Proactive Prospecting (20%)

Interestingly, despite the fact that most agencies are not consistent or proactive in terms of implementing tools, don’t have a dedicated Business Development Director, train staff and a systematic approach to organic growth, existing clients appear to be the best source of new business (50%).

In fact, this also happens to be the best new business source and by far, the most profitable and best way to grow!

9. Framing the New Business Discussion – It is critical before you ‘pitch’ any big client or brand that these steps be planned and implemented:

  • The goal/objective are clean and understandable (not open to misinterpretation)
  • Leverages the Agencies assets (knowledge, resources, experience)
  • Builds team participation (accountability & ownership)
  • Is actionable & easy
  • Is nimble & responsive
  • Utilizes appropriate levels of investment
  • Works for every office in North American and/or internationally

10. Rules to Framing the New Business Discussion

Opportunities should be sorted against six primary screens:

  • Geography
    • All agencies assigned hard geographic territories
  • Core competencies/resources e.g. services, expertise, past experience, realistic timings
  • Relationships (access to decision makers, etc.)
  • Conflicts
  • Budget
  • Scope

(Agencies resources should ALWAYS be given priority consideration. Especially to existing clients!)

11. BEFORE presenting, always make an assessment of ALL Decision-makers in the room. Critically, understand each decision-maker Strengths and Weaknesses – and make sure you play to those.

Prospects pick agencies that give them what they want – and stay with agencies that give them what the need. Importantly, a rule of thumbs is Agencies WIN or LOSE in the first 10 minutes of a new business Pitch.

12. Why the client assessment is so important – From 25 years of Advertising/Digital/PR/Direct Marketing expertise, I can guarantee you that most clients/brands buying decisions are made of 4 Categories. These four categories, and ranked in priority for success, are:

40% – Agency Experience / Cost

20% – Politics

20% – Chemistry

20% – TRUST

13. Delivering Persuasive CONTENT is a Winning Strategy

  • Provide Verification — anything that supports your case
  • Irrefutable facts
  • Client References
  • Statistics
  • Case studies
  • Demonstrations
  • Testimonials
  • Hypotheticals: “what are you on the leading edge of.”
  • Analogies
  • Strong visuals

14. WOW – Every speaker in the pitch MUST, have a ‘WOW’ moment. If they don’t, they shouldn’t be in the room or show! Simple as that.15. Delivery TIPS FOR SUCCESS – I have learned these tips from some of the best, most exception and successful people in the marketing and advertising business globally. They include, all-stars like: Michael Ball, Charlotte Beers, Keith Reinhard, – One of the things that has inspired me from the beginning has been witnessing the importance of their eye contact, body language and tonality.

These ‘mentors’ or  ‘role models’ I prefer to say, were critical in my early career. In fact, they served as my role models.

Here are some of my key take-outs from watching them in action: 

  • Make your Agency invaluable to Clients & Brands
  • Always strive to deliver innovative and disruptive ideas
  • Become the ‘go-to’ talent agency
  • Win numerous strategic, creative and result oriented awards
  • Align and define Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) and optimize your efforts for greatest efficiency and effectiveness
  • Always ensure you have uncompromised delivery
  • Create exceptional experiences
  • Continually determine ways to optimize staffing to increase profitability
  • Focus Organic Growth Against Existing Capabilities
  • Consistently demonstrate and develop best practice and become leaders in the category
  • Create a culture of ‘winning’, ‘urgency’ and success!

16. Key things to remember about WINNING:

  • Only 7% -10% of a presentation’s impact is from the actual content or words.
  • 93% of the impact is made of:

How it was said (53%)…body language, tone, eye contact

Who delivered it (40%)…title, status, expertise

  • Eye contact is CRITICAL – One complete message to each person
  • Don’t jump around without purpose (throw an M&M to each person, not a handful randomly to the group)

17. Top 5 Roadblock to Winning New Business & Success:

  • Lack of Resources e.g. money, time and people
  • Lack of Discipline & Focus
  • Prospecting – lack of skillset and experience
  • Not selective of Pitching
  • Undifferentiated positioning (e.g. Agency, services, etc) 

Conclusion – I hope this article helps prepare you for greater success in winning iconic brands and clients more often and with enhanced skills. I sure hope this builds your confidence, allows you to gain more respect from your team members and allows you to have even more fun with your new business and pitching success!


About Geoff De Weaver:

Over the years, I have worked with most of the top ten advertising agencies and local, digital, direct marketing and specialized firms. My global experience gives me unique insights PLUS an extensive roster of programs and services.

So if you are an: Ad agency, design firm, PR shop, digital agency, just remember I’ve been there, done that too. So don’t hesitate contact me via email at or call me at: +61 411 224 961




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