For his W&V article “Thanks to digitization: Is the normal pitch dying?”, Peter Hammer spoke to various experts from the agency world and asked for their opinions and assessments of the development of the pitch process. What strikes Torsten Hunsicker, Director Sales & Marketing, directly is that there is a lot of talk about the so-called “last mile”, the actual competitive presentation. What is not mentioned here, however, and is also interesting from my point of view: How has the fundamental sales process of agencies changed as a result of digitization? Because the ultimate competitive presentation is only part of the way to win new customers.
Digitization in the new customer process must begin earlier
With this diversity of agencies on the German market, which I think is really great, smaller, medium-sized agencies in particular are not necessarily in the “relevant set” of marketing decision-makers. They have to work properly for this, be proactive in new business and cannot afford to wait for invitations for RFPs. Because of this, the consideration of how digitization is changing new business in agencies must begin one step earlier.
Whereas before the pandemic I traveled across the entire country for initial interviews or chemistry meetings, which also meant that a complete working day was “lost,” today I have the opportunity to attend several new business appointments in one day.
Does not meeting in person also mean a loss of quality? No, not for me: Productivity and the options for positioning the agency “personally” with significantly more marketing decision-makers increase as a result. And there are not only advantages for the agencies. In addition to the new business managers at the agencies, the contact persons on the potential customer side can also assess more quickly how qualified the contact is and whether there is a basis for cooperation.
At the same time, the reduction in travel saves us money in the sales budget, which we can then use for lead generation measures.
And what about the feeling of whether the chemistry is right?
At this point, the objection that interpersonal chemistry can be better assessed in a face-to-face meeting is not far off the mark. That can certainly be the case, but digital meetings also give me a sense of whether people are “on the same wavelength” and whether collaboration is conceivable. Because it’s also the case that over the course of my years at the JOM Group, I’ve walked away from many face-to-face meetings with the feeling “Gee, you could have saved yourself the trouble. Of course, I also have such a feeling after video calls, but there I have not “lost” a day and ideally have another chance to exchange ideas with a marketing decision-maker on the same day.
Video meetings are thus an enormous enrichment in the upstream new business process, but it takes practice to be able to play its charm digitally as well.
The perfect digital chemistry meeting
However, no matter how many initial meetings take place digitally, if they are not designed properly and thoughtfully, a good impression cannot be made – and this applies to both the service providers and the marketing decision-makers. If you plan a pure agency presentation for the appointment, you should not take part in it from the beginning. Here it applies to always ask itself, how one imagines itself a date with a Dienstleister. And then it quickly becomes clear that the appointment should clarify what added value the agency brings to the customer. What challenges and opportunities the agency sees for the customer and what approaches for communication optimization are apparent.
With these points in mind, it is possible to prepare a high-quality meeting via video conference within a few days, which in the best case will result in an approach or project work.
Competitive presentation: less show, more content
However, meetings in the digital space are not only suitable for getting to know each other first; there is also an opportunity to shine in the final pitch phase of the competition presentation. That’s because the focus here is clearly on the content and less on the show. Despite the physical distance, there are ways and techniques to establish closeness and to conduct a meeting on a personal level. But it also takes a certain amount of courage to try something new and, for example, take a live digital tour of the agency.
What’s more, digital tools not only make it possible to attend several meetings in one day, but also create a newfound work-life balance. Previously, it was difficult for colleagues to attend such meetings, or only under certain circumstances, because they worked part-time or had other private commitments, but now the situation is completely different.
In conclusion, it remains for me to say that our industry has developed enormously in this segment and that we must and will increasingly break away from the previous, sometimes rigid structures. This is already an absolute gain. Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to cultivating more personal contact again, being able to greet people with a handshake (or similar) and also to conduct initial appointments, pitch presentations or chemistry meetings in presence. In concrete terms, this means that the pitch will not die out, but the ways in which agencies and clients find each other will become much more diverse.