Marketing results for ambitious businesses

How to pitch and lose disgracefully

A few months ago BuzzedUp actively pitched for a big, interesting account. It was the right time for us and I felt in my bones that we'd be a great asset to the business in question. But things didn't go too well...

There were two other agencies in the pitch. Arriving at the client’s offices in our best bib and tucker, we crossed paths with one of the competitor agencies as they departed. A knowing smile passed between us. I knew our presentation was going to be brilliant (it was) yet, at that moment, I also felt a cold shudder go through me... I’d made a mistake by playing ‘the pitching game’.

Win without pitchingblair enns

The thing about pitching is that it requires a ‘battle’ mindset. You are in it to beat the others; they will lose and you will win. That’s quite a bit different to finding the best way to guiding a client's business to consolidation, strength and growth.

Battling to win the pitch affects everything. What will the other agencies say and do? What’s our approach to pricing, given the competition? There is an impetus to over-offer and under-charge.

And even then, you may still ‘lose’, as we did.

Loooooosers!

I put ‘lose’ in quotes because I’m so glad we didn’t get this work. Our presentation went well, they loved it and us. Our fully-costed proposal—done to the tight timetable the client demanded—took hard work and a couple of late nights. Despite a nagging sense of 'I know I should never have pitched for this’ my optimistic outlook told me we would get the contract..

We are so glad you are not our client

Generally speaking I don't wish to appear hungry for new business; and it's certainly not a good idea to rapidly chase proposals. Rather, one stays in touch in a modest way, from time to time, forwarding content and ideas that should help prospect make the right choice. Anyway, that's what I did. But I didn’t get any feedback.

After some time I called. It seemed so odd that no-one wanted to talk. In the end I had called nine times: to their HQ, to director’s mobiles. I was certain no decision on a marketing partner had been made (I know someone senior on the inside).

Eventually, in the face of total silence I wrote the whole thing off as a waste of time. Then out of the blue, seven weeks after our proposal was acknowledged, an assistant to the MD called to let us know they had ‘gone a different way’ with their marketing. We had no right to win the contract but we did have the right to be treated with courtesy. 

Everybody remain calm

  • Q. Would you want to work with a company that acted like that? A. No thanks!
  • Q. Am I bitter? A. I certainly was, given the effort and time expended, and wasted, on what seemed a good prospect.

But now I feel sort of sorry for them, and a bit embarrassed on their behalf.

Blair Enns was right ((that's him, above, BTW). We must win without pitching


You’ll find a general overview of BuzzedUp's marketing services right here.

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Tags: Sales