3 ways to refine your team's pitch

Storytelling is the new norm for agency folks. It is now considered the best, if not the only way to pitch a campaign to a client. But few have mastered the art of storytelling. A great story is a journey -- a riveting, inspiring, emotional path to something bigger than ourselves. To get there you have to be able to think differently, and perhaps more importantly, you need to be able to communicate your story as a team. Here are a few key tips that will make your story succeed.

Turn the pitch on its head

There you are, the phone rings, and that prospect you've been courting for over a year finally calls with an agency-changing RFP. The next two weeks become hell -- competitive analyses, focus groups, client research decks, landscape analysis, persona development, strategy development and creative brainstorms. Then you meet, revise, meet, revise, and finally, you're ready for pitch day.

You have an hour, an hour and a half if you're lucky, to present all of this incredible work from the past two weeks. You want to show the client how smart you are, so you follow the time-honored technique. You lead with insights, follow with strategy, and end the pitch with the creative. The problem is, you often spend over half the time showing them strategy and insights to set up the big reveal. And by then, the audience is tired.

Don't get me wrong -- I am an insights guy. I love this stuff, and I'm often first up after the introductions, but what if we spent this energy in an entirely new way? What if we turned the patented pitch process on its head?

What if we were to start at the finish line and lead with the creative, then use the rest of the time to show our thinking on how we arrived at the solution? The creative is what they want to see. Why not just give them what they want? Start at the climax of it all.

Doing so would drive us straight to the heart of the story. After all, it's the creative that's doing the telling for consumers, so it makes sense to ignite that story and spark excitement from the very beginning of your presentation. If the pitch idea and creative is strong, you won't suffer by shelving the insights and analysis until later in the presentation.

Build real relationships

We are fortunate at Questus that most of our team has been presenting together for close to a decade.

But we started to think -- what if we refine our storytelling skills by putting ourselves in a truly uncomfortable situation where we had to rely completely on each other.  For example, taking an improvisational class together. Think about it. Not knowing where the story is going to end, and what your partner is going to say next, but being prepared to respond nonetheless. Sounds a lot like pitching, right?  

Ultimately, it is the trust that team members have in each other that allows a great story to be told collectively. Trust in each other, and trust in your story. But before you build trust you must build real relationships. Improv classes are not the only solution. There are all kinds of unconventional ways to build team cohesion.

One way we do it at Questus is by taking the team on an urban safari around their local city a few days before the pitch. They're given a small budget, each person puts an idea in a hat, ideas are randomly picked, and people don't come back until they've each done one. The connections and collective problem solving experiences gained by our team have been amazing. It helps build real relationships and challenges you to use different muscles to tell your story -- beyond the walls of a conference room.

After all, even a good story can fall flat if told poorly. If your team is accustomed to performing in uncomfortable environments when pitch day finally comes, you can rest assured that your story will be a success and your clients will be happy.

Keep refining

By changing up your presentation approach and lighting the creative fire for your team, your chances of arriving at a brilliant story for the client come pitch day will increase. Every team works differently, and every client has different demands, so never be afraid to refine and experiment with new methods to keep your approach fresh and your storytelling skills strong. Because it's not just the story that matters, it's how you tell it.

Scott Fiaschetti is director of consumer insights at Questus.

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Comments

Bob Sanders
Bob Sanders May 6, 2014 at 11:01 AM

Great points. And between this http://www.imediaconnection.com/content/36291.asp and your article it should be easy? Right? Right? LOL still, so many marketing firms are soooo bad. Painful to watch. But it does keep me busy!

B