My biggest gaffe: I promised clients the world (well, Bill Turnbull) in a pitch

I learned the hard way that you shouldn't over-egg the pudding in a pitch.

Pitching remains a key aspect of winning business and it's an area I enjoy and am good at, but I learned a painful lesson about the limits of selling the vision for what the agency thinks it can achieve for a client.

I led a response to a charity brief a few years back for an organisation seeking to campaign around a controversial issue, one that gets very little coverage in the media.

We developed a really good tactic for launching a research report it had produced, one that we felt was in with a chance of getting it the national profile it was after. We brought it to life as much as we could for the pitch. I decided that the best way to seal the deal was to mock up a shot of its chief executive sitting on the BBC Breakfast sofa discussing the report with Bill Turnbull.

My colleagues were rightly worried this was over-egging it a bit and we would be better off being more circumspect. I was blind to their concerns, pulled rank and insisted we include it. We duly won the work and ran a reasonably successful campaign – but completely failed to get it anywhere near the BBC Breakfast sofa.

The damage had been done in the pitch and the client felt we had let it down when we didn’t get the coverage we had so confidently mocked up. The project, and our role in it, was written off as a failure, and we were not invited to pitch for the next piece of work with this charity.

Lessons learned; listen to others so your blind overconfidence doesn’t get you into trouble and, of course, don’t over-promise.

Peter Gilheany is a director of Forster Communications

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