Winning Work without Pitching – 4 thoughts from Blair Enns
Digital Pigeon11 November 2021
In his book ‘The Win Without Pitching Manifesto’, Blair Enns writes: "We will see ourselves as professional practitioners who bring real solutions to our clients’ business problems. We will seek respect above money, for only when we are respected as experts will we be paid the money we seek."
Enns, a world renowned author and respected marketing thought leader, started out in agency life just like many of us. Chasing meeting after meeting with target clients, turning up with a lengthy presentation deck, and jumping at prospects every demand - all in the name of closing deals and winning new business.
Many years later, he pursued a radical change in tact - refusing to give away free advice or ideas and, importantly, positioning himself in the driver's seat during negotiations. He pushed back on completing lengthy RFPs and sought alternative ways to progress new business discussions.
Of course winning new business is always going to require some degree of discussion, negotiation and demonstration of your capabilities. What Enns believes, however, is that there are many ways in which you can acquire new business without jumping through all of the usual expensive and time consuming hoops, while at the same time avoid giving away your valuable ideas for free.
Here are some of the things Enns suggests:
1. Win without pitching
Secure the business before it gets to a defined, competitive selection process. Easier said than done, of course - but in essence, what he’s talking about here is finding a way to demonstrate to a prospect that you’re the best candidate for the job in advance of being asked to pitch for it.
Enns writes that presentations, in which one party tries to convince the other to hire them, build buying resistance; conversations, in which both parties endeavor to make an honest assessment of the fit between one’s need and the other’s expertise, lower it.
He urges you to move from the presenter role to that of the expert practitioner.
2. Derail the pitch
Get the client to put their process aside and take an alternative first step with you. Enns encourages anyone vying for new projects to not develop, nor share with the client, creative of any kind before the client’s challenge/problem/opportunity has been diagnosed and the strategy prescribed and agreed to.
3. Gain the inside track
Participate in the target client’s process, and constantly gauge whether they’re willing to treat you differently and grant the inside track - which Enns defines as the inside information or access to hard-to-reach decision makers.
4. Walk away
Good prospective clients who recognise and value our expertise will grant you one of the above. If a prospect won't, Enns urges you to walk away. It’s a bold tactic - and not without its risks. But to truly move the needle it’s an essential element.