Top 10 Mistakes That KILL New Business Presentations

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Robert Sanders
Robert Sanders



new-business-presentationWhat are the main reasons people fail in new business presentations? It’s because they make the same common mistakes over and over. In order for you to avoid completely flailing around in new business and achieve success, it’s important for you to understand the most common presentation mistakes. And avoid them.

Here Are the Top 10 New Business Presentation Mistakes:


  1. Not Knowing the Difference Between Advertising and New Business: The number one reason for presentation loss by most agencies is treating prospects like clients. They try to solve the client problem, or be too safe, or win with just creative. In any given presentation one of these can work, but over time you’ll lose more then you win. You have to treat prospects the opposite of clients and understand why if you’re going to win.
  2. Waiting Till the Last Minute: Many agencies get invited into a pitch, and due to workload or time or just through procrastination they don’t start thinking about the pitch until the last minute. If you are truly interested in winning, start demonstrating this early in the process. Until after the presentation, you have to be the most interested, excited, driven and informed agency in the pitch.
  3. Forgetting the Chemistry Rules: The most important part of new business is chemistry. All the agency search consultants agree. In the end, it’s not the creative or the smart planning or the cool interactive tactics that wins. It’s chemistry that wins in the end. That’s why it’s so important for your agency to learn how to use chemistry to win.
  4. No Idea on How the Selection Will Be Made: If you’re not sure how the final selection will be made, do some research. Will it be a strong leader making the final selection or a marketing board? Will some other group have a say? Many prospects use score cards: they’re simple, easy to create and create an atmosphere of fairness. However, the second best agency often wins on points. Understand why and use this to your advantage.
  5. Focus on Content: Agencies almost always focus exclusively on the content of their presentation – not thinking about the “how” and “who.” But prospects will remember long after the presentation how you looked, what you wore, how charming your presenters were with one another, how well prepared the entire show was and whether or not you entertained them. Your perfect line, your break-through strategy recommendation or the neat way you executed an interactive plan is usually forgotten within an hour. Never forget that the show (format and style) is just as important as content.
  6. No Hero: In understanding new business presentations, most agencies forget that the work is only there to showcase the people. In other words, who among your staff is going to be the hero? Sadly, many agency presidents view themselves as the hero. It’s difficult for an agency president to be the hero when there is an agency to run. And the agency president may not be the best presenter. A hero is believable, has the right chemistry, the right title and the right look. Most importantly, the hero has to have the agency’s respect (perceived) and lots of enthusiasm for the prospect. This can cover almost any weakness.
  7. Not Investing Enough Time to Win: How many times have we seen an agency go into a presentation half-hearted? Too many other distractions get in the way and reflect in the presentation. Ask yourself: do you really want the account? Do you have the time to go after it? The desire and energy to overcome the obstacles? Most importantly do you have the discipline and staff to do it right?
  8. No Outline or Presentation Flow: Most agencies start out by doing research and spending time on attempting to solve the problem. While this is important, it’s missing the bigger picture – winning the account. Overall time limit is set by prospect – you must treat the entire presentation as a series of acts in one play that fits within the established timing. Introduce each act with interest. Build to key points. And end each act strongly. Eliminate dull sections and put the information in the leave behind. This makes the leave behind more important, which is helpful.
  9. Bad Presentation Skills: Watching an agency presentation is often like watching the Keystone Cops, with people running around, props being misplaced, talking over one another, etc. It’s vital you understand the perception you are trying to create – quiet confidence, strength and leadership. Someone the prospect can trust. Understand the rules and guidelines for great presentations and follow them.
  10. Not Rehearsing Enough: A major presentation is worth eight hours of rehearsal. If you don’t have time to do rehearsals, then don’t do the presentation. Go to the presentation city a day ahead to rehearse. Lay out a meeting room at a hotel in the shape of the presentation room with masking tape and go at it. You’ll be glad you made the effort. Rehearsing pays big dividends in winning presentations.

A winning agency understands these mistakes and works hard to avoid them. A small group of people, with practice, can become outstanding presenters. It’s a smart agency that uses the same people time and again to win key pieces of business. The teamwork shows through and this means a lot to prospects.

Make sure you avoid these common mistakes and understand the rules of giving outstanding presentations. Don’t give a prospect any reason to not award you the account.

Topics: Presentations

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