Does it ever feel OK to turn down a pitch?

What if the client wants us but doesn’t care that we’re not the right cultural fit? What if we don’t have the capabilities that they are asking for – but they think we do? What if we don’t have the right talent and skills for this pitch – or we can’t deliver commercially?

Does it ever feel OK to turn down a pitch?


As a business you need to know what is right for you. Agency leaders are already balancing business growth with client and staff retention – and while it can be tempting to say yes every time, accepting that your agency is not right for each pitch you receive takes courage.


It’s important to understand why a brand might see past those ‘what ifs’ and appoint you anyway. How do you spot those potential red flags – and when is it acceptable to say no?


Quality over quantity


Pitching is time-consuming and costly. Frequent or protracted pitches pull your top team away from existing business and risk draining precious resources – economically unsustainable at the best of times, even more so in the current climate.


Not getting the right result can damage team morale.


The holy grail is to pitch less and win more, while protecting the health of your agency. Sounds simple – and it can be. Prequalifying your pitches and scoring them correctly means you only need pitch for the briefs you can win, maximising success – and having a team that is fulfilled and committed.


Going beyond the brief: 5 steps to pre-qualification as a decision-making tool.


  1. On receipt of the brief, start to formulate your questions, asking first and foremost: Is this winnable?


  1. Now, talk to the client. Challenge their motivations: Why are your considering us as an agency? What have they seen that excites them about working with us as an agency and our team?  


  1. Ask about their evaluation criteria and the weighting of those criteria. Find out who will feed into the decision-making process.


  1. Now assess the scorecard; if the client does not score well, talk to them about your concerns and explain the challenges you are facing.


  1. If the business is not right for you, politely decline and explain your decision to both the client and your wider team. Tell them why you are not right – they will appreciate the honesty. You never know where and when you’ll meet these clients again, so offer them an alternative solution, a partner agency or another consultancy to help.


Having pre-qualification criteria benchmarked (written in stone and agreed) against your ideal client is one of the most important elements of any new business strategy for an agency. Asking the same questions each time will establish macro trends to help you to see which briefs are right for you and which ones are merely distractions. As your businesses grows and evolves each year, though, make sure to review these criteria.


If you need to get a pre-qualification process in place to win the business that is right for your agency, come and talk to Beckon.