Agency success is all about winning and growing clients, yet we don't always take a step back to understand what it is they expect from us. Research published by The Drum found that "a lack of feedback was cited consistently as being among the biggest pain points for agencies" when it comes to pitches, and that 38% of agencies aren't given detailed feedback at all.
I have conducted pitch feedback calls for the last 5 years and in most cases, I am the only person from a list of agencies who follow up in person after a pitch. This confirms to me that there is a lack of quality pitch feedback in the agency world.
My experience with running pitch feedback calls is overwhelmingly positive, and I haven't experienced any pushback from prospects at all. If anything, prospects are happy to tell you how you can improve and they value these discussions. In fact, they have a hugely positive impact on your future relationship with the brand.
However, you need to be proactive and drive this process as prospects will not volunteer their time!
If you're currently not calling your prospects after a pitch, you are taking a couple of risks:
You are taking your prospect's email feedback at face value. In my experience, the reasons for losing a pitch are rarely the ones named in the email (reasons given are often 'price' or 'better fit with other agency'). To get to the bottom of it, you need to speak to the prospect.
Not understanding why you lost a pitch will lead to losing more pitches in the future.
Demotivated new business and pitch teams who don't know how to improve or close more deals.
Here are some tips that are based on my personal experience:
How much feedback should I get?
This will depend on the number of leads you generate. Generally, I'd recommend you do as much as possible to understand trends over time. If you have a high amount of leads and opportunities to pitch, then you might decide to focus your feedback on a type of client, ideal contract value, or a specific industry segment. I recommend getting feedback for lost and won pitches.
What to ask?
To understand what to ask you must first be clear on your vision, which will determine the types of questions to ask and topics to drill into. Where is your journey going and therefore, what do you want to put across during pitch? Your agency should define a list of key topics to ask the prospect about. You could use a pre-made list or NPS-style templates, but each agency will have unique requirements. Don't overcomplicate! This is not a tick-box exercise or questionnaire, but a fluid conversation. Without being too prescriptive, I would recommend conversations about:
Competitors: Which other agencies were pitching? What did they do better/worse than us? Who did you pick and why?
Perception: How did you perceive us in the pitch? How does our brand/USP compare to others? How can we position ourselves better? Did we understand your requirements and success criteria? Did we understand your pain points?
Stakeholders: What was the feedback from the various attendees (important: a Director-level attendee wants to see different content to a manager-level contact). Did we appeal to the various people involved?
Strategy & partnership: Was our strategy compelling? Did we give you confidence in our ability to help you grow?
Delivery: How did our budget compare to other agencies? Did you have confidence in our tactics and scheduled activity?
Team: How was the delivery of the pitch? How does our team compare to other agencies?
Presentation: Did we tell a compelling story? Was it the right amount of information? Feedback on slide design and branding.
Future relationship: Would you invite us to future pitches? Do you want to be involved in any free (non-sales, non-transactional) activity e.g. newsletter, events, webinars etc.? Can we contact you again?
Who conducts the feedback?
You must first decide if you have the time and resources to do this in-house or not. The person in charge, or service provider, must be:
impartial and not involved in the pitch. Prospects talk more openly to an objective person.
able to get meaningful insights. Meaningful feedback requires an understanding of your growth journey, the client's expectations, your industry, and how your competitors pitch.
experienced/senior level. Keep in mind the costs and resources of your senior members of staff. Is their time best spent doing this?
flexible: There is a limited timeframe after a pitch in which prospects will be happy and able to provide feedback.
How to integrate pitch feedback into your processes?
Your sales and services teams need to be aware that you collect feedback and what the process is. Don't make it optional. Your BDMs should trigger these calls without being prompted.
Prospects should be informed that you conduct post-pitch feedback as standard.
Be transparent and share pitch feedback with either all staff or a selected group of people involved in new business and pitches. Store feedback in a central place and make it accessible to people.
Introduce a process to action any trends. Who communicates trends? How do you action them? How do you measure success?
Tie trends back to your agency strategy. Use feedback trends to set your agenda for change and define key areas you must improve on to increase new business KPIs.
The pitch feedback call is part of building a long term relationship with your client and securing future opportunities. Always finish your call with a quick chat about how you can stay in touch and pass this info back to marketing and sales. A lost opportunity will become a new future opportunity.
Shameless self-promotion: I offer a pitch feedback service, so you can focus on selling. If you can't run this in-house, or you don't want to, contact me for a chat.