As we're pulling up to the offices of one of the biggest pitches I have ever been involved in, I had absolutely no doubt that there was no chance we'd get the business. We could have gone in there, given the greatest presentation we'd ever given (which we did) and I knew we'd not only walk out of there without the business, but they wouldn't even do drinks with us after.
Let's flashback a bit. I get a call from a friend saying that this massive company she knows well is looking for a new marketing agency and that she recommended us. Leads like this don't come around that often and when they do you'd better be ready.
We weren't ready.
At the time of the call, my company had just purchased and merged with another company. Everyone was excited about the merge, but with the merge came a new CMO. A CMO stands for Chief Marketing Officer, not Chief Making-Sales-Happen Officer. As sales director, I had my reservations, but you play the hand you're dealt.
The CMO takes the lead on the account and immediately shoots for the moon. There's no discovery call. The tickets are purchased to fly across country in one week. The major concerns are not about what strategy is best for the client, or how we can help leap the hurdles they had been facing with the last agency. No, the concern was how much money we could charge the client, how many services we could force them into and showing off a brand new state-of-the-art (partnered) reporting system.
The pitch goes according to plan, just how we wanted it. The guys take it all in, just like we wanted it. The VP of Marketing leans back in his chair, then leans forward and in the thickest Georgia accent says, "Guys, this is great. It truly is. You all come highly recommended. Your presentation was excellent. Seems like y'all have a good company. But, guys that presentation was way up here (hands in the sky). I'm looking for something down here (hands at mid chest). You guys are trying to throw touchdowns. That's great, it really is. But, fellas, I'm looking for the blocking and the tackling. Show that to me."
We couldn't show that to him. We had barely worked together for 2 weeks and we damn sure didn't know how our companies were going to work together. We tried to scramble, but it was too late. We didn't listen, or we didn't care to listen in the first place. Instead we threw up our own agenda and tried to fool the client into thinking it was what they wanted. They knew what they wanted, we just didn't ask.
It's that simple. Ask what someone wants and they will tell you.
We ended up eating steak and drinking martinis alone on a Tuesday night in North Carolina talking about how it was remotely possible we had failed.