The Pitch – Did Donald Draper really find it that easy?

by
Donald Draper - Mad Men

Did Donald Draper really find it that easy?

In the beginning it starts with a briefing meeting, the client outlines their requirements and you listen, gently probing for information, what kind of a business is it? What are their challenges and objectives ? What activity have they tried in the past? What are the dynamics of their industry and what kind of people are they? What are they looking for from you? You commit to coming back with a plan and you set a date for the follow up meeting..

Ok, you’ve put the toe in the water and now you’ve started on the roller coaster journey of “The Pitch”.

With one maybe two weeks of a gap to the presentation date you start that process of thinking, researching, discussing, brainstorming and even dreaming about this possible new client. It’s after slipping into your bloodstream and you are well and truly on the way.

Then the crew up the pace and start working on the plan with roles assigned to each of the team. We chat over coffee, we chat over lunch, the late phone calls, the good ideas. What do you think of this idea ..?

Now you start to become the actual business owner, you start investing emotionally in the challenge and finding the best solutions that will achieve “your” business objectives, your heart and mind are totally committed.

Two days to go, where is everyone? A quick review meeting to make sure the team is on track. The final proposal is starting to take shape.

One day to go and the visuals are other final material is produced, review, review and review again. There is no point being half committed, to have a chance you have to go the extra mile, which always means late nights and short weekends ..

Good suit today! Who is going to present which parts? Rehearse and rehearse and the final pitch is finally ready to present, Oh.. Last minute ideas .. what about it? Ok, go for it, make those last minute adjustments and then final print, burn CDs and off we go.

The nervous excitement and adrenaline take the team through the presentation to the prospective client. The team plays their part, fielding the questions, adding our nuggets of wisdom and experience, taking extra notes and then it is over.

Thanks a million, that was great, we will review your plan and come back to you” and then the inevitable post mortem starts.

What did they think of us? Did I say the right thing? What did he mean by that comment? When do you think they will give us feedback? .. The million questions roll around in your head, could we have done better and most importantly, will they go with us?

Then comes the crash.. you have been so fired up and caught up in the roller coaster of the process that you now are totally exhausted when it is all over.

You’ve played your part, given it your best shot and now it is time to detach yourself emotionally from the process. When you commit 110% it can be tough .

Before I used be on “tender hooks” waiting for the result, which normally doesn’t really happen me any more. Now when the presentation is over, that is it for me. We’ll wait to hear and if enough time passes and we haven’t heard I will push for feedback (it’s amazing how often you never get feedback, which I am convinced is an Irish thing – one crew actually admitted to me that they were just looking for new ideas!!) and that is it.

When we win it is fabulous and when we lose then try not to take it too personally, it could be for one 1,000 different reasons.. At least always give yourself the best chance of winning and learn what you can, so you can be better the next time.

Today we made a great pitch (at least that’s what we thought!), which we put an incredible amount of time, effort and ourselves into. We went through the whole emotional rush and now we are in that “after” place – totally exhausted!

Will we win the account? Who knows.. but I reckon we have a good chance! The great news is that we have another pitch to start into tomorrow!

Donald Draper from Mad Men made it look too easy!

Greg Canty is a partner of Fuzion Communications

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3 Responses to “The Pitch – Did Donald Draper really find it that easy?”

  1. Paul O'Mahony (Cork) Says:

    I like this. Splendid description of the process most companies engage in.

    I particularly like your
    “When we win it is fabulous and when we lose then try not to take it too personally, it could be for one 1,000 different reasons.. At least always give yourself the best chance of winning and learn what you can, so you can be better the next time…”

    However, there seems to be one issue missed out… one thing that bothers me.

    What is the process for assessing the potential client? How do you make up your mind that you’d like to work for that business? That there’s a really good fit between the people on both sides? How do you find out whether the prospective client is good enough for you?

    As I read the blogpost, I got a focus on “how can we produce a pitch that is good enough for them?” But the prospective client might be unpleasant to work with, might not be a friendly experience, and of course might not pay you properly.

    In other words, I wish to challenge the traditional model of pitching for work.

    Clients who seek good suppliers would benefit from having to prove their credentials. It’s not good enough to have money alone – lots of companies have money (or appear to have). It’s the quality of interaction that’s on offer that needs to be established.

    Put crudely: let the client prove they are worth working for. Let the client fight the good fight to show their company is worth keeping. Put the boot on the other foot.

    The ideal situation to get into is one in which you can research & pick your clients. You need to be so good at what you do that you know the issue is not your competence – but the ability of the client to foster a relationship of win-win.

    In my experience, the average client thinks that because they have a need and a budget, they call the shots. They can put suppliers through hoops – they can even expect suppliers to invest in the hope of landing the job.

    Of course, if you are a beginner, trying to win reputation for skilled work, you are not in a position to make clients do much to prove their credentials to you. But as your experience, skills & reputation grow, you bargaining position shifts.

    You start to have more options. I wonder how many companies have a written list of the criteria they apply to any new client.

    On the basis of your portfolio & reputation, you can move to the higher ground – so that it becomes a privilege for the client to have you working for them.

    Hopefully I put the prospect clearly- because I’m very fussy about whom I work for – and am averse to making pitches to clients whom I barely know.

  2. Greg Canty Says:

    As always Paul, I love the way you think!

    On those really dig deep pitches we would have a really good idea of what the client is like and what their credentials are .. However, we have ended up doing work for “bad” clients, not following early signals, which always results in a poor relationship .. “Famous” being the most well known of all of them.. there are another few and fair play to you .. that’s inspiration for another blog ..

    Tips for spotting the clients you should avoid !! It’s on the way soon ..

    Cheers,

    Greg

  3. Daphine Kildare Says:

    hey nice articel! I like your theme! cya!

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