Consultants, creative freelancers, and marketing agencies are all familiar with the pitch.
The pitch is the moment where you put it all on the line and hope that it’s enough to convince your prospect to become a client.
However, the pitch is fundamentally flawed in favor of your prospect and can establish them as the dictator of your business relationship.
In his book, The Win Without Pitching Manifesto, Blair Enns shares the problems associated with the traditional pitch and shows you how to eliminate them by eliminating the pitch altogether.
His strategy is outlined in the “twelve proclamations” of the Manifesto. The following is a summary of those proclamations.
Proclamation #1: We Will Specialize
“We will acknowledge that it is the availability of substitutes–the legitimate alternatives to the offerings of our firm–that allows the client to ask, and compels us to give, our thinking away for free. If we are not seen as more expert than our competition then we will be viewed as one in a sea of many, and we will have little power in our relationships with our clients and prospects.”
The market is flooded with generalists. There are already enough full-service creative firms and the world doesn’t need any more.
What the best clients want and are willing to pay more for is expertise.
The most meaningful way that a creative individual or firm can set themselves apart is through their expertise, not personality or pricing.
In the client-agency relationship, it’s usually the client that has most of the power.
These days, there are so many choices out there and both the client and agency know this.
But all changes when you are a specialist. Once there is less competition for your expertise, the rules of supply and demand kick in. You get to determine the price and terms.
Expertise is the best tool to use for positioning your creative business.
With the proper positioning in the market, you form your own lane with little to no competition.
When clients buy your services for expertise, rather than a lower price, you have more freedom to deliver your services in the way that you feel is best without worrying about your clients getting in the way. Expertise earns trust.
Proclamation #2: We Will Replace Presentations With Conversations
“We will break free of our addiction to the big reveal and the adrenaline rush that comes from putting ourselves in the win-or-lose situation of the presentation. When we pitch, we are in part satisfying our craving for this adrenaline rush, and we understand that until we break ourselves of this addiction we will never be free of the pitch. Presentation, like pitch, is a word that we will leave behind as we seek conversation and collaboration in their place.”
Enns argues that as creatives, we are addicted to the presentation. However, as exciting as the presentation is, it gives the client all of the power that we worked hard to earn through the first proclamation.
Instead, he suggests that we establish rules for our collaboration with clients through an engaged conversation, not presentation.
The Rules of Collaboration
Strategy First: Before any of the creative development begins, you must come to an agreement with your client on the strategy. You want to ensure that everyone is on the same page from the get-go.
Continuous Reference to Strategy: Prior to presenting any new ideas or concepts, you will review the strategy that you have agreed upon with your client.
Freedom of Execution: You should welcome all input from clients, but they must agree to give up control so that you have the freedom to execute the strategy in the way that your firm feels is best. (Of course, the client must approve of your decisions and should be happy with the outcome.)
Fewer Options of Better Quality: Keep the creative options you present low in quantity, but high in quality.
Always Present Your Own Work: Whenever your recommendations or solutions are being presented to other members of your client’s organization, someone from your firm will present the information. This removes the risk of miscommunication or sabotage from someone in the client organization.
Proclamation #3: We Will Diagnose Before We Prescribe
“We will take seriously our professional obligation to begin at the beginning, and we will never put our clients or ourselves in the position where we are prescribing solutions without first fully diagnosing the client’s challenge.”
The same way that a doctor would not prescribe medicine before making a full diagnosis, we must resist the temptation to prescribe solutions without taking the time to completely understand the problems.
This is unprofessional and sends a poor message to the client about our willingness to truly understand their organization.
The other problem we face is dealing with a client who has self-diagnosed their problem.
By following their prescription blindly, we give up the power in the relationship and we run the risk of getting bad results because we didn’t make the proper assessment of the problem.
That's why there are four phases in our client engagements:
Diagnose the problem/opportunity
Prescribe a therapy
Apply the therapy
Re-apply the therapy as necessary
Proclamation #4: We Will Rethink What it Means to Sell
“We will acknowledge that our fear and misunderstanding of selling has contributed to our preference for the pitch. We will embrace sales as a basic business function that cannot be avoided and so we will learn to do it properly, as respectful facilitators.”
There are three steps to selling as a respectful facilitator:
1. Inspire the Interested: Through your portfolio and case studies, you show prospective clients what other companies have achieved from your creative services.
This gets them thinking about their own business and what they would like to accomplish. At this stage, you are only trying to form an intent to buy, not to close the sale.
2. Help the Unaware: After identifying a prospect that you could potentially help, you must take the long-term approach to selling by educating and not persuading. This is accomplished through thought leadership.
Experts write. You want to establish yourself as an expert, so, do so by creating valuable and thought-provoking content for your persona.
Eventually, many of the no's will turn into yes’s as you continue to establish your expertise in your field.
3. Reassure Those Who Have Formed Intent: Once the prospect has decided to move forward with your services, they will experience a high of inspiration and excitement followed by a crash of self-questioning and buyer’s remorse.
In this stage, it is important to follow-up with calm, logical reassurance.The client will question all of the small details and doesn’t want to hear big-picture promises, but wants to fully understand the process that they are investing in.
In our full synopsis of The Win Without Pitching Manifesto, I'll dive into Enn's 8 remaining, how IMPACT uses them, and how any B2B organization can, to grow and prosper.
To view the full summary, click "keep reading" below.