Notes from Winning Without Pitching Manifesto [raw]
We Will Specialise
If we are not seen as more expert than our competition then we will be viewed as one in a sea of many, and we will have little power in our relationships with our clients and prospects.
Expertise is the only valid basis for differentiating ourselves from the competition. Not personality. Not process. Not price.
Positioning is strategy articulated and then proven.
We must choose a focus
Then articulate that focus via a consistent claim of expertise
And finally, we must work to add the missing skills, capabilities and processes necessary to support our new claim.
We can measure the success of our positioning by gauging our ability to command two things simultaneously: a sales advantage and a price premium.
when and where we choose to compete, we win more often than not.
when we win, we do so not by cutting price, but while charging more.
Winning while charging more is the ultimate benefit and key indicator of effective positioning, for price elasticity is tied to the availability of substitutes.
positioning brings us control in the form of increased ability to guide the engagement. We are hired for our expertise and not our service.
We Will Replace Presentations With Conversations
We will never be free of the pitch if we do not overcome our addiction to the presentation.
Practitioners do not present. Stars do not audition.
A successful presentation requires surprise. It depends on a big reveal
Preserving the surprise requires us to keep the client at arm’s length and let our knowledge pool up behind a dam that will only be opened at the presentation.
In our firm we will adopt the following policies that will allow us to bring the client closer without sacrificing control.
Strategy First → We will agree with the client on the strategy before any creative development begins.
Continuous Reference to Strategy → Immediately prior to presenting any creative, we will review the agreed upon strategy with the client.
Freedom of Execution → We welcome the client’s input on the strategy and in exchange we ask him to grant us the freedom to explore various ways of executing it.
Fewer Options of Better Quality → When we present creative options we will strive to limit them to as few as practical. There is an inverse correlation between the quantity of creative options we present to the client and the confidence we have in their quality.
Our mission is to position ourselves as the expert practitioner in the mind of the prospective client.
We Will Diagnose Before We Prescribe
There are four phases in our client engagements: Diagnose the problem/opportunity Prescribe a therapy Apply the therapy Reapply the therapy as necessary
It is more likely that the client’s perspective will be wrong, or at least incomplete,
One of the advantages the outside expert brings is perspective. And one of the hallmarks of creativity is the ability to see problems differently, and thus find solutions others cannot see.
Possessing our own formalized diagnostic methods, whether they are proprietary to us or not, goes a long way to our positioning in this matter. Like any other competent professional, it is reasonable to expect that if we address similar problems on a regular basis then we would have a formalized way of beginning the engagement.
We Will Rethink What it Means to Sell
We will embrace sales as a basic business function that cannot be avoided and so we will learn to do it properly, as respectful facilitators.
Making things and selling things are the two basic functions in business.
We cannot be in business without embracing selling.
The good news is that selling, when done properly, has nothing to do with persuading.
selling is about determining a fit between the buyer’s need and the seller’s supply (our very objective) and then facilitating a next step.
To sell is to: Help the unaware Inspire the interested Reassure those who have formed intent
He moves from unaware of his problem or opportunity, to being interested in considering the opportunity, and finally, to intent on acting on it. As he progresses in this manner, our role must change from one of helping, to inspiring, and ultimately to reassuring.
Writing our way forward is a long-term approach that requires the patience of a farmer versus that of a hunter. But it is the only effective, respectful way with the client who says no and does not see the fit between his need and our expertise.
Closing – the last step in the buying cycle – is all about reassuring. Let us remember that when a future client has formed intent and asks us for a written proposal containing free recommendations or speculative creative, his primary motivation is fear of making a mistake.
The key is to respond to the motivation and not necessarily the request.
We Will Be Selective
Instead of seeking clients, we will selectively and respectfully pursue perfect fits – those targeted organizations that we can best help.
We Will Build Expertise Rapidly
We address here the third of our three steps to positioning our firm. First we select a focus, we then articulate that focus via a claim of expertise, and finally we work to quickly add proof to our claim.
A claim is just a claim;
But from then on, it is incumbent on us to prove our claim.
Writing gets us found. Writing helps to cement our position as experts. Most important of all, writing about what we do is the fastest way to deepen our knowledge.
The skills we must possess or acquire in order to succeed in a differentiated creative enterprise are: consulting first, writing second, artistry third.
The artistry, increasingly, is the commodity.
We Will Not Solve Problems Before We Are Paid
Our thinking is our highest value product; we will not part with it without appropriate compensation.
A pitch-based business development strategy devalues our thinking and emphasizes the more commoditized parts of our offering.
we should not progress so far as to share our diagnosis with the client before we are hired
This is the simplest of business tests, one for which there is no longer any excuse to fail: for all new clients, we will be paid in advance.
We Will Address Issues of Money Early
We will set a Minimum Level of Engagement and declare it early in conversations so that if the client cannot afford us, both parties will be able to walk away before wasting valuable resources.
The client has a budget, or at the very least, budget limitations, and we should have our own parameters that define our minimum client size.
By following the sixth proclamation (We will be selective) we agree to be more purposeful about the new clients we take on.
Included in such criteria is budget,
The Minimum Level of Engagement is a powerful tool that we want to commit to using often, but without being overly rigid in its application.
Waiving it without mentioning it doesn’t count. Such behavior is simply a failure to follow our own parameters of selectivity.
We Will Refuse to Work at a Loss
We know that profit margin, like power, only diminishes with time.
diagnose and prescribe represent the strategic portion of the engagement – the thinking phases that precede the doing. Our strength in these first two phases is what sets us apart from our competition and keeps the commoditizing forces of the profession at bay.
As experts, we will not discount with new clients today for the opportunity to make money tomorrow. We will save the use of discounts for our best and longest serving clients at times when they need our support.
We may negotiate from time to time, but before we cut price we will ensure we have explored all the alternatives.
Guarantees → Clients may attempt to negotiate because they are unsure of the value of our services.
Terms → Clients may see the value
inability to pay.
consider offering favorable terms that let the client pay over time.
We Leave it to Last → First, we will ensure that cutting price is the last thing we do.
We Put it in Writing → Second, we must ensure that such discounts are clearly identified in all written documentation, including contracts, estimates and invoices, in order to remind the client of the true value of our services.
In the early days of a firm, there can sometimes be little foundation on which to build expertise.
If we truly are trading profit for expertise building, then we will be honest and direct with our client about it. To do it quietly is to employ the generalist tactic of competing on price.
We Will Charge More
Our premium pricing will cost us clients from time to time; but if we are not losing business on price occasionally, then we are not charging enough.
Healthy margins give us the wherewithal to fix mistakes, earn trust and build loyalty with our clients.
Superior service does not improve profit; profit improves service.
Our strategy – diagnoses and prescription – is how we do what we do. The strength of our strategic processes, rooted in our deep experience and systematic thinking, is what ensures our high likelihood of a high-quality outcome. This is the basis of the premium we command, therefore we should not be charging for it in units of time.
clearly imply that our pricing for these services has little to do with the hours it takes to deliver them.
For the reapplication work that follows, we are free to charge by the hour. When our clients buy our thinking, however, they need to understand they are not buying it in units of time.
There must be the appropriate amount of pain associated with our pricing.
Larger organizations need to pay more to ensure their commitment.
Another reason larger clients must pay more is they derive greater financial value from similar work we would do for smaller organizations.
We Will Hold Our Heads High
We will see ourselves as professional practitioners who bring real solutions to our clients’ business problems.
When we express our resentment for the client who does not value us, we are really expressing our self-loathing for not being able to walk away from him.
There is always another, better opportunity behind the one facing us. If we cannot see it, we must at least believe it.