What You Need To Know: Pitching’s Dead (And Ridiculous)

The Agency501 Blog


There is a big difference between selling yourself and pitching for business. Whether you’re a preacher or a grocery store clerk, we’re all salesmen. Being a good salesman is a great thing, but it’s time the advertising world moves away from the outdated pitching process. More importantly, it’s time for businesses trying to hire an ad agency to stop requesting pitches.


When given the opportunity to “pitch” business, we typically decline. Don’t get me wrong, we’re aggressive and enjoy competing against other agencies for business. We just won’t do it in the typical agency fashion, which is an hour-long presentation where we try to explain why we’re the best fit and how we’ll have the best “synergy” between our team and yours. It’s ridiculous to think that you can get to know a company well enough to trust them with a couple hundred thousand dollars (or millions, in some cases) in as little as an hour-long presentation. Let alone get to know someone well enough to decide if they’ll be a good partner 5, 10, or 15 years down the road. It just doesn’t make sense, so we don’t participate. Instead, we have multiple conversations and get to know a potential client. We want to explain how we work, what to expect, and how we believe we can be of benefit to them. We also want them to decide if we’re the right fit given the information we’ve provided.

We want a long-term relationship, not a reward for the best presentation. And businesses should want that, too.


A couple of years ago we went through the entire pitching process for a big account we wanted to land. Our pitch was great! It just wasn’t as great as one other agency’s. They pulled out all the stops and spared no expense. They “wowed” the client and won the business. We got beat. It sucked because we knew we were a better fit. Word quickly spread around town that the other company was struggling with the account, which is exactly what we predicted. After two years, they finally figured it out. The frustrating part was that the client couldn’t see past the pitch and focus on the implementation. The experience taught us to stick to our guns and never participate in that type of environment again. We’ll never be an agency that pitches, and that’s ok.


Our experience has taught us that the companies who work tirelessly to perfect their pitch are usually the ones who suck on the backend after they’ve been awarded the business. It’s the “let’s get the business and then figure out how to manage it” philosophy. Fake it ‘til you make just isn’t our style.

When I was in college, I read the book “Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive: Outsell, Outmanage, Outmotivate, & Outnegotiate Your Competition” by Harvey McKay. The book profoundly changed my life, and the quote below perfectly sums out how we approach the business development process at Agency501.

“Never buy anything in a room with a chandelier.”

Harvey McKay

Truer words have never been spoken. Like anything in life, if someone is trying so hard to impress you, they probably need you much more than you need them. Relationships should be mutually beneficial…not one-sided. If I have to spend three weeks preparing for a meeting where I have one hour to impress you, then we’re probably not going to be a good fit. The old school pitching process kind of feels like the king who wants everyone to kiss his ring. If that’s what you’re looking for, no judgment here. Again, we’re just not going to be the right fit. Now, if you want to spend a couple hours discussing the pros and cons of working with us, I’m game. We’re not above giving anyone our time, this game just has to be played on a neutral field.

Give agencies an opportunity to sell themselves. Get to know them and spend time learning the ins-and-outs of working with them. In the long run, finding the right agency will save you a ton of money and spare you countless headaches. Nobody wants to be in a bad relationship, so spend some time playing the field and getting to know the folks who will (hopefully) be around for years to come.

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