An article by David Benady, in Marketing Week, titled ‘the lamp-post theory of pitch research’ looks at the use of focus groups to decide who wins. Strong views for and against were raised, the same views that would have prevailed ten, twenty or thirty years ago.
I happen to side with the no focus group view. This has not stopped me pitching when research is in play. The reason is obvious. In a competitive service industry, the first rule is that the client, potential or otherwise, is always right. For the second and third rules, go back to number one.
It is nevertheless reasonable that the client should let you know how they will assess. If they don’t, ask. You can then decide whether, or how, to pitch, but the problem remains. No decision process can be set in stone. Even with procurement attack dogs, objective evaluation criteria and impartial consultants, something will intervene. It’s called human nature.
It is both the fascination and the frustration of pitching. Whim and chance do play their part. This is why chances of success are greatest where insights into the nature of the decision makers are sharpest. Before and throughout the process.
One example from personal experience, this a 6-way pitch to major French company, Saint Gobain. A formal 2 hour presentation to 20 country managers for evaluation, then 30 minutes one-on-one with the CEO. Our insight was that he, and he alone, took the decisions. So pitch focussed solely on him and his concerns rather than the company at large. The managers scored us sixth out of six. The CEO awarded us the business.