Five pitching strategies for agencies to win the room

Jonathan Pease, author of Winning the Room, shares five sure-fire strategies agencies can implement to capture a new client while in a pitch meeting.

Throughout my career, I have seen incredible ideas not even make it past one pitch meeting. I have also witnessed ho-hum ideas get bought on the spot and make it all the way into the world. The difference came down to how they were pitched.

With the battle for clients and projects fiercer than ever, the way you present can be the defining factor between your agency’s success and failure. I’ve distilled five essential pitching strategies from my upcoming book, Winning the Room, that can elevate your agency’s pitches and leave an enduring impression.

Avoid small talk

I get it, small talk is warm and tempting. It breaks the ice and often finds common ground. But the reality is that small talk can erode your credibility and waste precious time. It creates an atmosphere of familiarity and security, which is precisely the opposite of what a successful pitch should achieve.

Your pitch should be a journey into the unknown with a story that leaves your audience on the edge of their seats. Is a cosy chat about the weather going to achieve that? Absolutely not.

Instead of seeking common ground in mundane, distracting details, aim for uncommon ground – the topics, ideas, or emotions that spark intrigue, surprise, and curiosity. Of course, don’t swing to the other end of the spectrum and act like a cold robot: opt for relevant warmth, but in a way that seamlessly transitions into your pitch, keeping the momentum alive.

Build team chemistry

The simple fact is that people buy from people they want to work with. Your team’s chemistry – or lack thereof – is a magnet that will either attract or repel new business. If you’re calm, comfortable and confident in one another’s presence, that will shine through. If you secretly hate each other, that frosty energy will no doubt permeate into your pitch.

True team chemistry is not just about knowing each other’s hobbies or having snappy introductions prepared. It needs to go deeper. You need to be genuinely inspired by your team and the outcomes they can deliver.

Before even stepping into the pitch room, take actionable steps to build your team chemistry. Spend your time with clients discussing other members of your team, but don’t fabricate stories. Look for genuine opportunities to enhance the reputation of your team members. Building legends isn’t just the agency owner’s responsibility; it’s a collective effort that can come from all directions within the team.

Say less

Coco Chanel once famously said: “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take at least one thing off.” This advice applies to your pitch deck as well. Embrace the art of reduction by using fewer words, ideas, and visuals.

This approach has several benefits, including making your presentation easier to deliver and receive, conveying a more potent message, and freeing up time for essential Q&A and buying conversations. Trim the fat and let your core ideas flex through.

Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse

Rehearsing is the ultimate way to reduce nerves, troubleshoot gaps in your pitch, maximise opportunities, and, above all else, create an energy around your pitch that people will feel. Most people think they are rehearsing but really, they are just doing run-throughs. Real rehearsing only starts once you’ve got all of your content locked in and all of the presenters in the room, and you’re ready to present the pitch just like you’re in the real room.

My simple rule for myself and my teams is this: do nothing for the first time in the room. This means that once you’re in the room, you’re only doing, saying, presenting things you’ve already done before in rehearsals.

Often, people forget to rehearse the Q&A section, which is a big missed opportunity. The best presentation of the best ideas can all come tumbling down by one fumbled answer to a question. Q&A is where you get the opportunity to demonstrate how deep you are on the content you’re presenting. Savvy audiences know this and use this time to really make their decision. Yes, your pitch needs to engage and excite, but Q&A is often where the actual decision to commit is made.

Keep adding value after the pitch

I notice lots of pitch teams put all their focus on the pitch itself and, as a result, almost ignore what happens after the room. Many pitches are won in the post-meeting conversations, coffee catch-ups, and interactions that follow. Continue to provide value beyond the pitch by nurturing client relationships, addressing their needs, and consistently delivering outstanding work.

Often, agencies put so much into the pitch itself that they are completely gassed out by the end of the process. The most innovative agencies are conscious of this and have a plan in place – sometimes involving other people in the team – to ensure the value keeps flowing beyond the pitching room.

This article draws on content from Winning the Room, by Jonathan Pease available to pre-order now, and on sale from 24 October.


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