Blair Enns – Win Without Pitching

Author’s Note: I had to type really fast for this so it resembles short-hand.  I apologize, and again, please contact me if clarification is needed.  I can paraphrase and say visit his site and/or purchase his book:  Win Without Pitching,  It will change the ways you look at a pitch while giving you strong evidence of how it will work to your strategic, financial advantage.

Blair Enns – Win Without Pitching

Blair seeks to change the way creative firms sell themselves.  One agency at a time, all over the world.  Specifically, to win without pitching.  The goal is to get new clients without having to part with your thinking (for free) or having to write a proposal.  He is trying to inject this way of thinking into how to manage the client in the buying cycle.  Blair doesn’t believe in proposals, rapport, getting meetings — no presentations.  This method will be incorporated into the Workamajig CRM system being deployed in late January.

Define pitching – “not in spec biz”.  Pitching is giving away creative for free.  To blair, this means you are in a defined selection process.  Firms battle one another, and commoditize their own services.  Search consultants and procurement departments are brought in to pick firms.  This removes firms from companies and and pits them against competition in the defined process from firms.  It should be your job, if you are different, to know that you don’t want to be lined up and treated as the same as other agencies, because you are asked to give away thinking for free.  

Four Phases of Engagement for managing and attaining new business

1. Diagnose Problem

2. Prescribe Solution – strategy

3. Initial Application of Solution – apply creative concept to address strategy

4.  Re-Apply – therapy as needed over time.  

3 steps to win without pitching

1.  Change the power structure in the buy-sell relationship through positioning:  typically client has the power — but why?  Not because they have the money.  Money is meaningless without power to solve problems.  costs of bringing buyers and sellers together.  who bears the cost?  the other person has the power.  clients power in the relationship comes from the availability of substitutes.  client says ‘they have options’.  this is where the product becomes viewed as a commodity.  how do we transfer the power back to the agency?  reduce or eliminate the competition.  the goal of positioning is to reduce competition.  the benefits:  price premium, sales advantage, control.  if you are viewed as the only solution to a problem you have all the power.  

2.  evolve your role as sales person as the client to be moves through the buying cycle – blair never liked the word sales.  seems like ‘talking people into things’.  when selling done properly, nothing to do with convincing. not your job to convincing.  it is 3 things.  help the unaware, inspire the interested, reassure the intent. 

a. unaware – sounds like ‘no’.  approach target.  give pitch, explain product.  answer is some variation of no – ‘don’t have problem’ ‘already have vendor’ ‘don’t use outside parties’.  don’t want to ignore these people. but don’t devote too much time.  if they don’t see problem your job is to uncover need.  not your job to try and get a meeting.  it’s your job to help them.  tell them about your free newsletter that explains your area of expertise.  no thinly veiled sales pitch.  no company info.  put thought leadership first.  allows them to decide if they need your help.  

b. interested – early stage and late stage clients to be.   interested sounds like “hmmm” .  inspire through emotional stimuli.  provide examples :: website or brochure.  it’s your job to inspire them.  inspire them to want to change, form the intent to take action.  creative people are naturally equipped to inspire.  no better means to inspire than to show your work.  no vision?  no decision.  get them to see and imagine what they could be.  

3. reassure the intent – sounds like the ‘we’re ready’.  reassure:  the many mistakes of reassurance.  making a big decision feels great.  high on serotonin.  than you slip into serotonin hangover of buyer’s remorse.  first you helped.  than you inspired.  late in the buying cycle, closing situation, now they are worried about making a mistake.  your job is to reassure.  offer alternative forms of reassurance.  they are going to ask for them “can you get me something in writing?”.  “can you get me a proposal?”  there’s no valid eason to give one.  clients to be asks for:

a.  proposals – 

b. strategy

c.  creative

alternatives include:  demonstrated processes.  phased engagements.  opt out clauses.  guarantees. 

demonstrate – people typically go to same thing.  often on their site:  demonstrate, presc., apply, re-apply.   every firm does it.  talks big process game.  try to prove that you do this to the client.  you SHOULD be taking your case studies and have them reflect your processes.  show them how you work, so that if you choose to hire you will know how we work.  show outcome of steps 1, 2, 3, 4.  talk about what it was like to get there.  put case study aside (use boards, not slides).  different case studies, show same process.  client sees little variation in process, little variation in results.  you can show great work, but client is scared (late in the game).  they wanna know ‘wheres the bad work’?.  have them see and understand.  this allows you to take control.  they can see from a-d, it makes sense.  they see high likelihood of a high quality outcome.  

phased engagement – you can then propose phased engagement.  offer opt out clause.  if you are delivering value, they will stay with you.  talk about budgets at each phase.  if you think we make mistake, we will refund.  guarantee first phase.  it’s a reverse pitch.  you do the work and if we like you we pay you.  well, you could simply get paid, do the work and if they don’t like it give them back.  


documents do not close.  people do.  strike “pitch” from your lexicon.  “presentation’ too, except once you have client, of course. written proposal never closes the deal.  proposal is the words in your mouth.  demonstration instead of presentation.  



3.  offer alternative forms of reassurance – fear of making mistake is why firms ask for spec work.  ways you can give them something without giving most valuable product for free.

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