The Worst Presentation Mistakes: Part One

Sixteen Ad Agency Search Consultants On “The Single Worst Presentation Mistakes”

MistakenHere is Part One of a list of sales presentation mistake insights from some of the most experienced people ever to sit on the buyer’s side of a B2B sales presentation table. This list, and the next three parts are from my book, “The Levitan Pitch. Buy This Book. Win More Pitches.”

This expert list is one of the last chapters in the book. I consider it a coda to my detailed advice on how to nail a presentation. In this case, I wanted to see what people who have listened to thousands of hours of sales presentations from what should be the best presenters in business (advertising agency executives) had to say about mistakes that occur all too often. The list, the agency search consultants observations and thoughts are both instructive and surprising to anyone delivering a business presentation. I think that the learning here is applicable to a very wide range of businesses… and individuals as we are ‘selling’ all day long.

Part 1

Just because I was in the mood to highlight even more agency mistakes, I asked sixteen of the world’s leading agency search consultants for their answers to the question, “What are the worst pitch mistakes agencies make?”

These opinions come from consultants that have sat through thousands of agency pitches. After reading their comments, imagine the eye rolling that they must do when many of us are presenting our truly brilliant ideas and work.

Again, my goal is to point out what not to do. Hidden between the lines of these answers is what to do to help you win.

Vasily Ananin: Agency Assessments International, Russia

Here are my thoughts on the topic of your question:
To present, the people in the pitch should have the best presentation skills throughout the agency.

Presenters should be able to answer any client questions without the help of colleagues.

If you want to win the pitch, it is better that the presentation is conducted by the GM of the advertising agency.

One of the biggest mistakes during the pitch is that the agency offers services that they can’t knowingly perform. I mean that the agency, during the tender, promises to customers something that they obviously can’t deliver (they are bluffing). This behavior has a very negative impact on the reputation of the agency.

Laura Bajkowski: Principle, Bajkowski+Partners, New York

Talking at the client prospect rather than engaging them in the pitch experience.

This has run the gamut from going around the table and introducing themselves, yet totally skipping the client attendees, to droning on about how great their case studies are, but never connecting the dots back to this client’s business.

Ten minutes of agency droning on about anything other than the client’s business feels like an eternity to the client. Get to points quickly, connect everything back to client’s business, and get the client talking too. And don’t forget to read the room – if you’re savvy, you can tell when you’re losing them.

Cramming everything into the final pitch presentation. We work with clients to keep the assignments focused, but there are always other basic details that are best highlighted in a graphic or left for the pitch book. So agencies cram a lot of content in and rehearse it to death to determine how much faster they need to talk, rather than what can go in the pitch book. And they seem to overlook how to draw the clients into the process.

Clients love info-graphics, and it’s a great way to communicate and crystalize a lot of complex content – don’t know why more agencies don’t do this or something more visual more often.

Paul Bainsfair: Director General,
 Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA), UK

Virtually every agency goes on for far too long about itself and its team. Cut to the chase. Talk about how the brief has been solved, and get to the answer quickly. The clients will thank you for it, and they will decide if they want to work with you based on how they FEEL about you, not what you tell them about yourselves.

Robin Boehler: Partner, Mercer Island Group, Washington

The worst presentation mistake that agencies make is to focus on the wrong things.

The wrong things are typically:

  • Themselves: They focus on their agency and their capabilities
  • Marketing tactics: They focus on the tactics they love

Topics they find interesting: They focus on a topic that they 
personally find compelling 
What’s the right thing to focus on? That’s simple:
Agencies should focus on the core business issues as defined by the prospect. Business Issues can be core strategic items like revenue, market share, 
profitability, growth, penetration, loyalty, etc. Business Issues are rarely tactical – tactics are part of a solution. Tactics, without a Business Issue foundation, are a cost center. No one wants to increase their costs. No one, in fact, wants to “buy” advertising, or media, or digital, or public relations. Rather, prospects are interested in solving their Business Issues. 
Smart agencies bond with prospects around their problem – their business issue – not the agency solution.

Hope you enjoy.

Yes, this series can be a bit of schadenfreude if you think you are not making these blunders. But, are you?


One Comment

  1. doug
    | Permalink

    Great stuff peter, thanks. Still love your old office!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.