Seven keys to boost your win rate

For most firms in agency searches, it's not so much what they do right - most have the people and capabilities to do a good job for the client.

For most of the firms in my agency searches, it's not so much what they do right – most firms have the people and capabilities to do a good job for the client. Rather, it's what they do wrong in the pitch, often tripping over their own self-inflicted roadblocks.

Winning your fair share of new business opportunities makes all the difference between having a healthy, growing agency environment and a stagnant one. Following are seven important tips that will help you improve your business development process and increase your win rate.

1. Remember: it's about what you can do for them. Prospects already know the basics about your firm, so get on with it. They want to know how you can make a real difference in their business. Don't waste time presenting information that's available on your website.

2. Use key learnings from your past pitches. Too many firms lose valuable intelligence or recreate the wheel from pitch to pitch. Ensure that key learnings from your recent pitches – whether won or lost – are incorporated in all of your agency's pitches. I've watched some firms get exponentially and consistently better in their pitches by incorporating what they've learned.

3. Provide necessary support to pitch teams. Research, creative, writing, and graphics help will give your pitch team the tools it needs to put the agency's best possible foot forward every time. Few agencies do this, but it makes a world of difference in your final product.

4. Choose wisely. Many firms never outgrow the shotgun mentality of their early years in business. Don't waste precious staff time and resources on unlikely opportunities. If the pitch process looks clear and fair, the budget is appropriate to the work required, and your firm has solid capabilities in the client's business space, go for it. Otherwise, it's far better to invest your time on those opportunities that represent a great fit.  

5. Connect the dots. Often, agency presentations jump straight from the client's challenge to the big idea without detailing the firm's thinking and strategy that got it there. The client is excited to learn how you think about their business and what you can bring to the table to make a positive impact. Give them a road map and make it crystal clear.

6. Develop a plan for chemistry. Chemistry can make or break the day. Like any good battle plan, you need great intelligence on the prospect. Work your networks to find out as much as you can about the client, its people, their work styles and hobbies. And don't forget to make sure that everyone on your team is on the same page. If not, the client will notice.

7. Go all out. If you don't have the time to learn about the client's business and develop keen insights about its challenges and opportunities, don't bother participating. From the client perspective, it's obvious which firms have done their homework and which are just mailing it in.

When pitching for a new client, the big things obviously matter, but don't forget to pay attention to the small stuff, too.

Dan Orsborn, CEO of Orsborn Partners, has spent most of the last decade leading PR agency searches for major marketers. His column will tap into his expertise, from both sides of the equation, on the agency-search process. He can be reached at

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