This post is by Anita Zanesco, a Senior Consultant at TrinityP3. Anita brings a unique blend of insights, creativity and understanding to the communications industry particularly in the areas of talent management, agency process and new business pitch management.
Someone once said to me that running a new business pitch was the shallow end of the consulting pool for consultants looking for interesting strategic projects. I beg to differ and thought it worth a post extolling the virtues of great pitch consultants who genuinely want to make a difference, over those who see it as easy money.
This post is useful for any marketer who may potentially need or be interested in using a pitch consultant, and to a lesser extent, any agency involved with pitch consultants. It may also be useful for anyone keen to become a pitch consultant currently hesitating due to the risk of being coined “shallow”…
The art of running a pitch
I believe there is an art to running a new business pitch and if you are a client wanting to pitch or an agency wanting to get on a pitch list you need to appreciate a few things.
The first is that a great (and I stress the word ‘great’ as why would you actually pay money for anything less) ‘pitch doctor’, ‘pitch consultant’, ‘pitch witch’…whatever you want to call them, are not just highly organised control freaks (which unfortunately I do put my hand up and readily admit I have tendencies towards). They also tend to have exceptionally high EQ, a respective IQ and an intimate understanding of the strategic and creative process.
Secondly, and because of the above, they have the ability to make life extremely easy for clients who commission them to run the search and selection process to hire a new long term agency partner be it for creative, media, digital or any other discipline. In fact their fee would more than cover all the head hours involved for a member of staff to run it internally, not to mention the value their industry intelligence adds to the process.
Where pitch consultants really come into their own, is when things don’t go to plan or a pitch becomes more complex, which in 9 cases out of 10 seems to happen as people, opinion and creativity are never black and white.
The 6 things you should know about what makes a great pitch consultant
There are undoubtedly more, but here are half a dozen factors to consider next time you find yourself shopping for a pitch consultant or just considering the pros and cons of using one over running a pitch yourself. It’s when that complexity kicks in and shallow water gets deeper that you may find having a great consultant on board a real lifesaver.
1. Great pitch consultants are impartial
The best pitch consultants will be impartial.
There is nothing in it for them to side with a particular agency. The best consultants genuinely want the best agency for their client. To use one example, the Chemistry Sessions tend to be the first real point of focus where consultants start to get a really good feel for how a client and an agency interact. Great consultants aren’t as interested in the content of the chemistry session but rather interaction, positive reaction, finding common ground, positive body language and so on.
In their notes, rather than finding personal opinions like, “agency case studies lacked relevant content” you will find things along the lines of, “11.35am clients uninvolved and unimpressed with case studies” or “12.05pm CEO checking emails and doodling– no interest in creative”. It is then after the meeting that the consultant shares their observations with the client to help them probe deeper, aid discussion, and guide decisions as to who will progress to the next stage of the process.
In the same way, when dealing with agencies, great pitch consultants treat each agency equally offering the same level of service, openness and information to all. It is extremely difficult for clients to remain impartial throughout an entire pitch process so having a third party consultant armed with a robust system to help you navigate deeper waters helps remove unnecessary emotion and keep all parties focused.
2. Great pitch consultants have high EQ and are generally people driven – wanting the best for all parties
EQ can’t be measured. To quote one of my favourite clients, “you’ve either got it or you haven’t”. Great pitch consultants have got it in spades. They “get” people. And pitching is a people process whichever way you look at.
Yes, you might be looking for an agency that’s highly creative, super strategic, dynamic digitally or working magic with media but at the end of the day you need people who “get” you and your brand, challenge you and inspire you to greater things. Any pitch consultant worth their fee gets that and wants that for you.
3. Great pitch consultants offer insights from experience with other clients and agencies
You want to work with consultants who have experience and insight.
They use this insight to provide counsel to both the pitching client and the pitching agencies. They do this with care and consideration, objectiveness and discipline. And they try as hard as possible not to offer opinions that aren’t backed up by that insight!
4. Great pitch consultants use proven processes that guide the client through the pitch process
I am exceptionally lucky that I consult via TrinityP3 and have one of the best processes in the world at my fingertips.
The processes TrinityP3 have devised are the most comprehensive I’ve ever encountered having worked agency side with pitch consultants both here and in London. They are based on years of experience, trial and error and an absolute commitment to getting the best results for their clients.
Having a process that is fair to all parties, results driven and robust is a key ingredient for any client wanting to pay for pitch consulting. Not only will you have a proven step by step guide to take you through the maze of potential partners, but a full package of support documentation so at the end of the process your decision, and the process by which you got there, can be justified to any interested party.
5. Great pitch consultants have truly unique tools that add more value than you can put a price on
To use another consultant’s words, a lot of pitch consulting is hand-holding, but… “in amongst the hand-holding are sheer moments of brilliance” and that is what makes a great pitch consultancy stand out and makes it worth every penny.
These moments of brilliance might be inside intel, a unique workshop technique or financial intelligence and benchmarking to which other pitch consultants don’t have access. Regardless of what it is, next time you are considering using a pitch consultancy, perhaps ask them if they have any tools or processes that make them truly brilliant and see what they say.
6. Great pitch consultants feel like part of your team
As a paying client, you should feel the pitch consultant is a part of your team – the chemistry needs to work with you and your pitch consultant as much as it does the partner you are looking to hire. Knowing you can rely on your consultant when you get into deeper waters and trust them to lead you to dry land again is a given.
If your pitch consultant doesn’t get you and you don’t get them, then what are you paying for?
When shallow waters run deep
In summary, and in response to the comment that running a pitch is the shallow end of the consulting pool, it may well be, but what happens when you find yourself floating in deeper waters?
Running a pitch is only shallow if it is extraordinarily straightforward and involves a maximum of one or two people. Throw in a few strategic waves, creative under-currents and some learner swimmers and all of a sudden it’s not so shallow anymore.
Having a third party pitch consultant, and a great one at that, on hand, can make these deeper waters more than manageable. Handled with intelligence and objectivity by the right person, a pitch that utilises a strategic process and unique tools, not to mention moments of brilliance, can save a company hundreds of head hours and provide complete guidance and reassurance as a client makes decisions about a partner for the future. As happy as fish in water!
I’m interested to hear your experiences with new business pitches – good or bad. Please leave a comment to share your story.