Do You Know Why You Lost That Pitch? [+Email Template]

Peter Levitan
Peter Levitan




Creating a pitch and presentation for a new piece of business is time consuming, expensive, intellectually challenging, and emotional.

And the last thing that should ever happen, especially if you lose, is to end the draining process of running a pitch without knowing what really happened. A casual “huh?” response after finding out your agency did not win the pitch is not acceptable. You need to learn what might have gone wrong so you can change your approach in the future.

Waiting for the Phone Call

"You guys did a great job but you came in second.”

This is the phrase you don't want to hear.

Why is it always second? You did your best, you nailed the presentation, and you left the room thinking that they loved you. They even gave you a gift basket. But you didn’t win the account.

At the point of a rejection, you will be unhappy, deflated, and exhausted, and you'll probably be scratching your head, trying to figure out what went wrong. Stop scratching, and roll out your post-pitch questionnaire.

The Post-Pitch Questionnaire

Before the pitch process even begins, I always asked prospective clients if they would give me a review of my agency’s presentation after the fact. In most cases, they took the time to give me their honest perspective on how my agency performed. 

Frankly, if the client says "no" to this simple request, I would seriously consider if these are the kind of people I’d want to eventually work with.

One more point: In addition to hearing what the client thought, you should also be conducting a post-pitch review with your agency colleagues. I recommend that you take a page from the U.S. military and conduct what they call an after-action review.

The following is food for thought. I am sure that each agency will have its own objectives, questions, and style. 

Sample Agency Post-Pitch Client Questionnaire

 Dear [client]:

First of all, thank you for giving [agency name] the opportunity to help you with your [project, advertising program, etc.] We are very sorry that our agency was not selected, but we understand that you have chosen the agency that you think will do the best job to help you meet your objectives.

As we discussed at the beginning of the pitch process, we appreciate your agreement to give us honest feedback about the details of our pitch content, presentation, and staff. Because we understand that you are very busy, we only have five key questions.

Please feel free to be direct. We will keep your answers confidential.

  1. Why didn’t we win?
  2. Did we directly address your specific pitch questions, requirements, and business issues?
  3. Did we come across as strategic and creative in how we addressed your business opportunities?
  4. Did we make any glaring mistakes in how we organized or presented our thinking?
  5. We know that interpersonal chemistry is an important element in pitches. Did all of our people come across as professional and well prepared?


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