So often the feedback after a close pitch will be that there was little to separate them, “we just felt the working relationship would be better”. In other words they felt the emotional connection was stronger. Feelings rather than rational judgement have influenced the decision.
It is not news to any experienced pitcher that likeability and relationships can outweigh the good creative or technical solution -where real differentiation is tough to achieve. And yet frequently the effort and energy on the solution will be all consuming at the expense of focus on the relationship opportunity. There are two phases to consider.
The first, whether the prospect has met you or not, is the relationship they already have with your corporate brand. They will bring this into the pitch. The positives will have allowed them to short list you but they will have some doubts that will need countering. The creative maverick will need to convince on delivery. The reassuring market leader may be seen as less interested. The brilliantly professional may be seen as too cool.
In the early days of Saatchi & Saatchi, the attractive brand image of daring creativity and outrageous success was tempered by concerns of ‘difficult to work with’. As soon as they met the agency, these concerns vanished under the charm offensive mounted by Maurice Saatchi and Tim Bell. Cementing relationships was key to their pitch strike rate.
The second opportunity lies in the time between the brief and the presentation. This may be a matter of days or of months. Typically a hell of a lot of time and effort will go in to analysis, briefing meetings, familiarisation visits, document writing with the aim of being better prepared than rivals and, of course, impressing the prospect.
All admirable provided the time is seriously used to foster and consolidate relationships. Keep on evaluating them all the time, across the board. Simply put, the prospect should like you more, be more comfortable with you and more engaged by you than with any of your competitors.
This is the vital groundwork that sets up the pitch to close the emotional connection.