How to make more money from losing than winning
Agencies I have led have made more money from new business pitches we lost than from pitches we won. Sounds illogical, but it’s true. Here’s how to win when you lose.
It begins with a story of love almost lost. I was very keen on a certain young woman. I showered her with huge attention, was captivated by her every murmuring, did everything I could to shine. You know the plot. One day she put her hand on my shoulder: “Chris. I appreciate the attention but you need to know, I have a boyfriend.”
And it was the way I responded to that critical moment of truth that encapsulates the secret to making more money out of losing than winning.
Now- when that girl said she had a boyfriend, I could have reacted by storming off and ignoring her thereafter except for sulking looks across the bar. Frankly, I felt like doing just that. If I had, though, she would have known I had been after just one thing. Instead, I replied: “Of course you’d have a boyfriend! How could a great girl like you not! That’s no problem! I am really interested in you as a person. You’re fun, know so much stuff, I like you very much, and am keen to have you in my world, if that’s ok.” It was OK of course, and that’s what I did. I kept close. Attentive. Respectfully so. Six months later the boyfriend screwed up, got the boot, and I was in!
The Lesson For Business?
That’s how my agencies made more money out of lost pitches that pitches won.
A pitch is an opportunity to build a great new relationship– irrespective of the outcome.
When you get a ‘no’ from a prospect, don’t storm off in a huff. Instead, make it a concerted, persistent mission to build relationships and add value to the key client executives you met during the pitch process.
Prospects never forget it. They are always surprised, impressed and flattered by the attention- particularly given they have effectively just rejected you. Often the decision to select another agency wasn’t theirs, or you lost for some minor reason. As with that girl 15 years ago, when the prospect says ‘no’, ensure they know you were not just interested in ‘the prize’, but were and are genuinely interested in them, and their personal success.
By doing so you make life long friends: and as a side benefit, you get work.
The agency who won will stuff up eventually and you’re in, or often that client executive moves to another company and hires you. The most valuable client relationships of my career include several with executives who chose someone else when we first pitched. We did not storm off and sulk. We stuck with it, and made building a deep relationship a mission. They stuck with us (for more than 25 years in some cases), and through many of their and my various corporate lives. All are very close friends.
Oh- and that girl I was telling you about- well, I married her!
(P.S. We’ve had many long and great relationships from ‘won’ business pitches of course, but that’s not the story here today…)