What separates the winners from the losers when pitching a great client if you are an Advertising Agency? There are several key factors why clients most commonly don’t hire an agency after the pitch! Here is a great summary of the best tips I can share after 25 years of being a rainmaker, trend spotter and passionate new business aficionado.

I believe most Agencies tend to be too focused on selling themselves rather than understanding and solving the client’s problems.

Additionally, agencies often don’t appear to understand the target audience or have the right insights. E.g. they haven’t done their research or had the obsessive concentration and commitment required to absolutely understand the ‘complete environment’ or develop a deep knowledge of the industry.

Differentiation or, lack of it, is another factor. Agencies that lose a pitch frequently aren’t able to convince clients of their ability to deliver or have the best team assembled to help them accelerate their growth or become more profitable. Then there’s the ‘chemistry factor’—sometimes an agency-client relationship just doesn’t ‘click’ from the start.

With decades of global expertise in new business development and pitching, I truly believe clients get the best results from the pitch process when they give the ‘pitching agencies’ the information e.g. business and marketing objectives – they need to produce the most relevant ideas.

I have also found if a client doesn’t have time to discuss the pitch beforehand, they clearly don’t consider it a priority, and agencies shouldn’t waste their time or investment on it either!

Additionally, an ‘unknown budget’ is also a symptom of lack of trust, or a total lack of awareness about the advertising industry. This is a situation that wastes time and effort for both sides of the table and MUST be always be avoided!

The average client-agency relationship has shrunk from lasting over 7 years to approximately 2 years while the average Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) tenure has been reduced to just 18 months today. However, if the client account has a history of short relationships, agencies may lose money even if they win the business. So, if you’re the agency doing the pitching, do your research and review the track records of potential ‘new business’ before approaching.

Here are my 15 Top Tips for Pitching Success in 2017:

1.Practice, Practice, Practice – Before you go into an advertising pitch you need to practice. Rehearse until you feel confident about your pitch. Believe me, it’s an investment that pays dividends. Most pitches fail because agency people don’t take the time for rehearsal.

Always, tighten up your presentation, make cuts, ensure you have smooth transitions and even conduct a dress rehearsal in the actual presentation room if you can.

Take Steve Jobs as a great pitching role model and master his techniques. His pitches always looked easy and effortless. But it was hard work. He usually uses two full days to practice and rehearse his pitch. Being well prepared makes you confident and sharp.

2. ALWAYS – Ask for a list of the pitch attendees from the client’s side, along with their titles. And always spend at least 80% of the time talking about the clients business, objectives and needs. Too many times I have seen agencies talking about their credentials and NOT, helping the clients or brands improve their successes or increase their market-share and revenue streams. That’s a fatal mistake for agencies!

3. USE SOCIAL MEDIA – Before pitching the client/brand, achieve a high- level of familiarity and validation before you pitch them or introduce yourself. E.g. ReTweet their articles, share their posts, make thoughtful comments, etc.

4. FOCUS ON BENEFITS NOT FEATURES – Focus on benefits. Your audience only care about how your service will improve their business, save them time and money, and be more successful. Make that connection for your prospective clients. Don’t leave it to your audience to figure it out for themselves.

5.CHEMISTRY MATTERS – It’s critical that you immediately and effectively build a close and trusted relationship or ‘Chemistry’. Chemistry doesn’t have to be a ‘crap-shoot’ it’s all about building a great rapport because this is what increases your success rate.

Additionally, clients and brands prefer to work with people they like, trust and can communicate well with. Chemistry is everything. Get the chemistry right and your odds increase exponentially. Remember, the win starts well before the pitch, initially by the new business team, when these early relationships need to be nurtured. This is critical for success! Spend as much time as needed at the end of the presentation to answer and address all the clients questions too!

6. DELIVER PASSIONATELY OR GO HOME – Passion sells. Not fake passion but real, undeniable passion for the client, category or marketing in general. Passion is contagious and people eat it up. Send your most passionate presenters. (Treat the client like you treat any person on a first date!)

7. LEAVE-BEHINDS WORK – After listening to three or five agencies over a day or two days, Client/committee members do forget much what was presented (especially written words). Always ensure you leave a copy of everything that was presented, either digitally/electronically, via an e-mail link to a website or microsite, or in hard copy. It matters.

8. KILL THE MARKETING JARGON – I’ve seen a number of pitches globally over the years and after the triumphs, and disappointments, elements that influence successful efforts have become apparent. But,  lose the jargon and be clear and concise.

9.THE AGENCY THAT PRESENTS THE BEST USUALLY WINS – Over the years, I’ve worked with ad agencies, digital agencies, design firms, PR company, creative marketing companies of all shapes and sizes, and they all share one thing in common – they love what they do and understand what it takes to win new business in a competitive review.

Winning the big pitch is something we all are passionate about and love. It’s a false belief  that “the best creative always wins”. Especially in the last decadeI have witnessed, that it is the most cohesive Agency team  that establishes the greatest rapport, skills and strategies with the client that wins.

10. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE – Before you start pitching, ensure you find out who they are and what kind of perspective they want. Remember to follow the rules of ‘Personality Profiling’ .

For example, spend 33% of the preparation time getting the content right, 33% getting the style and format right, and 33% studying and getting to know your audience.

As I have previously written, a ‘Listener Analysis’ should be done in advance of any pitch. E.g. develop a guide of the best to say things and the best ways of saying it: what facts, words, examples, ideas will be the most convincing to your ‘captive’ audience.

11. THINK DIFFERENTLY ABOUT FORMAT – Build your talk first, and then add visuals as you need them.

Think about the story you want to weave. Use boards, props, handouts, or anything to help leave a lasting impression.

Do not let a PowerPoint be the main focus. In fact, in 2017, it is acceptable not to use a PowerPoint if you don’t want. But, if you do, remember the 10/20/30 rule: 10 slides – 20 minutes – 30 point font. Never make your audience squint!

Steve Jobs was expert at this technique. (and Guy Kawasaki excelled at this too!)

People are persuaded by and respond to you, not to your slides. Make people the stars of the show.

12. BUILD A TEAM OF WINNERS – It’s a smart agency that uses the same people time and again to win key pieces of business. The teamwork shows through, and this means a lot to prospective clients.

Round out your team of winners with new additions from time to time, such as adding appropriate account handlers and designated creative team members, and have them join the core team of experienced presenters who know how to win.

13. KNOW HOW THE AGENCY WILL BE SELECTED – Will it be a relationship win? Or a big idea? Will options carry the day? Scorecard?

Today many prospects and search consultants use scorecards. Often the second-best agency wins the entire account on points. Think about the scorecard and make sure you achieve high marks in every category.

14. TAKE THE LEAD RIGHT FROM THE START – From the beginning be the most interested. At the RFP stage be the most tantalizing. At the agency tour stage be the best-organized agency.

At the final presentation showcase the best presentation team. Do these things and you win because you’re in the lead. It’s hard to win first place from the back of the pack.

15. FOLLOW UP – Always leave a copy of your presentation and follow up with more information. Plus a clear outline and suggestions for the next steps.

Don’t forget to smile. Interpersonal chemistry wins pitches. And, to improve your odds, always put your best presenters in the room.

Don’t include talented than is uninspiring or great presenters – simply because it is their turn or that they worked on the pitch.

I’ll admit, I’ve made this mistake BUT, many major International Ad Agencies consistently make this massive mistake. It’s a bad one.

Having spent 25 years refining, experimenting and exploiting these skills: Global Marketing, Negotiation Skills, Advertising, Sales, Training, New Business, Consulting, Public Speaking, Leadership Mentoring, Team Building, Operations, High Performance Marketing, Influence and Ad Agency Growth.

Conclusion – Importantly, I have generally found, the agency that presents the best usually wins! Start today and drive your revenue, growth, inspire your team and accelerate your ‘batting average’ !

As we approach the end of the year, why not give me a call so I can personally help you to become more effective in driving new business.

Call me on +61 411 224 961 in confidence or drop an e-mail to geoff@geoffdeweaver.com


More about Geoff De Weaver: 

Feel free to connect with Geoff today! 

For further information:




Share This Post


Join Geoff’s millions of online subscribers. Get world-class results fast to be more productive, confident and be the next ‘success story’

* indicates required

You have successfully subscribed to the newsletter

There was an error while trying to send your request. Please try again.

Geoff De Weaver will use the information you provide on this form to be in touch with you and to provide updates and marketing.