Ah, Nothing Like Sales Pitch Rejection
Thoughts On A Recent Sales Pitch Rejection. Me = Pissed Off. But, Twas A Learning Opportunity
The odds good are that your advertising or marketing agency or consultancy will often be rejected. A decent reason: the prospect is looking at more than one option and your batting average, even a good one, might only be 300% (note, a career-high like that would get you into the Baseball Hall of Fame). You mitigate the art of rejection by pitching the right prospects and the great fact that you are an expert in what the client is looking for. Ok, that said, you will still get rejected if you have an active business development program.
But, what you don’t want is a useless rejection that does not help you improve. Here is one example. And, tell me if I am too thin-skinned.
Note: 100% of my leads come as inbound inquiries. That means that the prospect probably heard about me from WOM or read about me (and read my insights) and made the decision to make contact.
This happened a couple of weeks ago with a New York agency. We scheduled a call, I gave them my pitch, discussed their needs in detail and they asked for a proposal. I sent it a day later and then kinda got a bit ghosted, as in they did not respond in a timely manner – here is a definition of ghosting:
Ghosting is a relatively new colloquial dating term that refers to abruptly cutting off contact with someone without giving that person any warning or explanation for doing so. Even when the person being ghosted reaches out to re-initiate contact or gain closure, they’re met with silence. (Source: Verywell Mind.)
Look, I know that people need to take their time. So, I do not get crazed if I do not get a yes or no quickly.
Follow Up Scenario
To keep the ball rolling, I did my 4-day post-proposal email follow-up and after a couple of more days got a reply from the CEO who told me that they had selected another consultancy because I did not share the agency’s “vision and values.” Now, I usually go, “well, OK.”
But the statement that I did not share VALUES kinda pissed me off. I mean, WTF does that personal to me message mean? What values did we talk about? I then sent this email:
Thanks for your email. While I never like a “no” answer and move on quickly, I do like to understand the “why” of your no.
In this case, I was a bit surprised at your mentioning a disconnect onmy not sharing values and vision. I am not sure what you mean as I do not recall discussing my values and vision in any detail. It would be helpful for me to better understand this response – as it is a new one. Can we do that either by a brief email or a 4-minute talk?
I’d find that useful if you have the time.
Regardless, thanks for reaching out in the first place.
Will I hear back? I might. Who knows. But, here is the more important learning opportunity.
Make Sure You Know Why You Just Experienced A Sales Pitch Rejection – Have A Post Pitch Questionaire
In my incredibly well-written, smart, and best-selling book on pitching (concentrated on the art of a major pitch presentation) – here it is – I talk about getting the need to know why your pitch has been rejected. In fact, make that request a part of your upfront discussion. This is especially important when you devote agency time and cash to responding to an RFP, RFP, and full-on new business pitch. Learning from the book…
The Post-Pitch Questionnaire
A few days after the presentation you’ll be wondering where is the call. Your team will casually stop by your office with that What’s Up look. Your CEO will walk by fidgeting. You’re getting crazed. Remember the ingénue that is sitting by the phone waiting to get asked out on a date? That’s you. When the call finally comes, this is what you want to hear…
“Congratulations, you won our account and based on your ideas we’ve decided to increase the marketing budget!”
“We want you to immediately fly your team to Brazil to produce the second TV campaign you showed us.”
What you don’t want to hear…
“You guys did a great job but you came in second.”
Second! Why is it always second? You did your best, you nailed the presentation, and you left the room thinking that they loved you. They even gave you a gift basket. But, you didn’t win the account. Let’s face it, shit happens. Even Ted Williams didn’t bat .1000.
Ok, there could be a worse answer than “you came in second”. Here is a really unfortunate post-pitch story from Frank Grady, the founder of Portland’s Grady Britton.
“In a recent pitch, we found success right up to the final round and were then eliminated based on a change in the client’s criteria. Client Comment: “Grady Britton, we love your thinking and we love your team. You are one of the top 3 finalists, however, we have decided that your agency is too small to handle our business.” The elimination came after we had researched the client, the market and had developed marketing strategies and creative executions.
Situations like this emphasize the need for a pre-pitch meeting with the prospective client, which should include a detailed question and answer session. Even with meetings and preliminary relationship development, some clients don’t know what they want until after competing agencies are fully engaged – in other words, client criteria often changes as the process proceeds.”
At the point of rejection, you will be unhappy, deflated, exhausted and could be scratching your head. Stop scratching and rollout your post pitch questionnaire. The absolute last thing that should happen at this stage is for you to be in the dark about what just happened and to have no clue why you weren’t picked. You cannot end this experience without understanding what went down.
The Post-Pitch Questionnaire
The first thing you need to do, and I mean first, is to go way back to the start of the agency search process and make sure that the client has agreed to provide you with an open and honest assessment of your presentation – win or lose. If the client is very professional and experienced, they will have had a search agreement that includes their commitment to a post-pitch assessment. You have just spent a bundle of time and cash and, they owe it to you. Your request for a post-pitch questionnaire will help you look professional even before the pitch.
The obvious: you cannot learn and adjust if you do not learn from both successes and failures.