Business Development

Why you might pitch even though you know you’ll probably lose


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Sometimes it’s much easier to pitch with almost no hope of actually winning because you can be.  Er… honest.
I  was involved in a pitch a couple of years ago, right at the hard start of the bad times, where we were asked to take part in the process as an afterthought, to make up the numbers.  I didn’t really want to do it, but my colleagues were desparate to because, frankly, if they didn’t, they’d have had nothing else to do, and reading the paper, openly, in the office would have seemed a little strange at a time of mass redundancies.

So to keep us busy, we did go for it, but I was adamant that we accept that we probably wouldn’t win and be honest in our proposal from start to finish.  And we were.  What happened?  We were brilliant is what happened.  We really brainstormed, We really put our selves in the clients’ shoes and thought how we would approach the proposal if we were spending our own money.  We didn’t hedge on the costs, or the difficulty of the challenge for us or our customer.  We expanded the brief because that’s what we believed would be in the clients’ best interests, and we put together a great presentation, together, as one.

When we came to make the pitch, our belief, sincerity and togetherness showed, and we were truly compelling in the room.  We played our own game, answered questions honestly, had fun and frankly blew them away.  And we still lost. But then the project was cancelled so even the winners lost, and 2 years later we’re still in the hunt as it gets reconsidered as that same client begins to think of coming out of hibernation. So our efforts in pursuit of a pitch we knew we’d lose-

  1. Built us credibility and reputation with clients who had never heard of us before.
  2. Helped us practice and develop our skills.
  3. Allowed us to take a risk and learn from it.
  4. And we still might get a huge chunk of terrifying work sometime in the future.

Surely that’s a good use of anyone’s time?

Jim Harvey

Jim Harvey

Managing Director at The Message Business
Jim is the MD of The Message Business, a company which helps FTSE 100 companies to sell themselves, and their products better. Speech writer, Prezi trainer and designer, coach and consultant, Jim also finds time to be a proud father and husband.
Jim Harvey
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