Pitch day: Want real answers? Ask some real questions.

 

Surprising as it may seem, clients can sometimes get as tongue-tied asking questions in a pitch as agencies can when answering.  Nerves, large groups of people, discussions or presentations that run over time can all contribute to important questions being left unasked.

We’re often asked by clients to talk through some ‘big-picture’ questions before heading into a pitch and here are a few that may provoke some revealing answers about who you’re meeting with, their philosophy towards client relationships and yes, whether they’re right for you:

 

Thought leadership

Who here in the room actively participates social media for business purposes? 

Ask for a show of hands as to who’s generating content for blogs, Instagram, or tweeting about what’s going on in the industry.

Why the question’s important:

The purpose of the question is to see where the unrehearsed thought leadership is really coming from and how valuable that thinking could be to your business.  Who put their hands up? The CEO?  Or was it the junior account guy? All of them? None of them?  If the word “digital” or “social” was mentioned even once in the pitch, you should have a reasonable expectation the prospective agency is practicing what they’re preaching.

Once you know who’s doing what, ask for some examples of specific -recent – tweets or blogs to get a feel for the content, commentary and subject knowledge.

 

Other success

Which of your current clients can we talk to you about recent results? 

Why the question’s important:

You’re eliminating the subjective and getting right to the bottom line.  This isn’t about how the agency works or what the chemistry is like  – it’s about current or recent tangible results that the prospective agency has actually achieved for current clients.  And in case anyone’s forgotten, the role of any agency (whether brand, digital or media), should be to deliver results for clients (including you).

 

Specific costs

If we were your client today, what would this meeting have cost us?

Why the question’s important:

It cuts through hypothetical fee proposals and rate cards and gets to the heart of how the agency bills for its time and services across a broad spectrum of resources.  Consider that you’ll likely be tapping on all the resources that showed up for the pitch at one point or another – so why not find out what things really cost now?  One more thing… make a note of the final number and if they’re the winning agency, you’ve got a benchmark for future strategy and / or campaign development.

 

Why us?

Tell us why do you want to work with us.

Why the question’s important:

The agency’s answer should give you some insight into the potential fit with your team and your business because it should encourage them to highlight what’s really important about you as a client to the pitching agency.  Generally speaking, you want to hear answers that reflect a passion for whatever business you’re in – or skills and resources that would be a perfect match for you as a client.

 

First result

What’s the first result you’d reasonably expect to achieve if you won our business?

Why the question’s important:

Their answers will give you a perspective on how they view your business as it stands today and their proposed initial areas of focus.  In most cases, marketers are searching for an agency that can hit the ground running and make a measurable difference in the first ninety days or so.

If the answers are vague, or focused in areas that you don’t think will make a short-term measurable difference, you should probably think twice or, at the very least, ask more questions.

 

So if you’re heading into a pitch any time soon and questioning what to question – wonder no more.  And the answers might be quite revealing.

STEPHAN ARGENT

Stephan Argent is Founder and Principal at Listenmore Inc offering confidential advisory to marketers looking for truly independent insight and advice they can’t find anywhere else. Read more like this on our blog Marketing Unscrewed / follow me @StephanArgent

Photo: Ian Eure
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