Losing at pitch stage

How to improve without boiling the ocean.

The Pitch: an essential part of any agency’s growth strategy – the ultimate ‘make-or-break’ for successfully landing a new client.

Your team works round the clock and then you get the call or email to say you haven’t been successful.

It feels like a punch to the stomach, but this is not the time for egos – nor for sticking heads in the sand.

Receiving bad news is hard – delivering it is too. Having worked in new business for 25+ years, leading global and local pitch teams across all types of agencies as well as leading pitches for clients – I understand just how hard it is to tell someone that they are not the right fit.

I also believe that it’s only by learning from failure that you can aim for success next time – and that process begins with feedback.


“How can we improve next time? How did the winning agency win – what did they do differently?”


The pitch process – hotly debated by some as a ‘colossal waste of time’ – is about finding the right capabilities and people to meet your brief. When you don’t get the result you want, it’s essential to understand what worked and what didn’t, what the client felt about your approach and your team.

Post pitch feedback for future success:


Don’t ask for feedback over email. Get in front of the client and use open-ended questions to encourage candid feedback. Ask how you did across the whole process, not just the pitch meeting itself – and keep a record of their evaluation data. You may stay on their procurement radar for future briefs or you may be recommended to their peers, so it’s essential to understand what motivates them and what drove their decision not to choose you this time.

NB: One aspect of the excellent Pitch Positive Pledge is that “the process must stand up to scrutiny, be objective, be transparent and retain integrity throughout”.

Evaluation form

Personal impressions are important but hard data from comprehensive scorecards and evaluation forms enables both sides to give clear and quantifiable feedback, from pre-pitch, strategy and media plan to presentation, team and remuneration.

Third party support

By involving a partner to handle post pitch feedback, clients will feel more inclined to be open and honest.  With the benefit of deep industry knowledge, a third party consultancy, like Beckon, understands the amount of work involved in producing a quality pitch and the consequences of a loss.

Feedback is a two-way street

Like you, clients want the process to result in a long-term, sustainable relationship which produces high quality work. In their pursuit of an agency which fulfils the three essential components of a successful partnership – capabilities and talent, commercial ROI and cultural fit – clients put in the same hard work and long hours. If your agency is unsuccessful, don’t be afraid to feed back to the client; if there are things you think they should do differently, tell them.

Look after your team

Post-pitch support to your team is vital and should happen immediately. They’ll feel deflated and burnt out – so give them space to process the result. But do find out how the pitch process was for them and if there are things that can be done differently.

Learn from trends that you see across the year

In an overcrowded market, with the average pitch costing more than £11k, agencies can’t afford to be complacent.

Without boiling the ocean, record and evaluate feedback from pitches across the year (successful or otherwise) so you can look for trends to better understand what is landing or falling short in your proposition, what other agencies are delivering to win – as well as gauging how your pitch team is coming across in meetings, to improve in-house training.

Beckon works with agencies to improve their pitch process. We help clients to get honest feedback when it doesn’t go to plan, to find those all-important trends and to sharpen your pitch for success next time.

 For more information, see our previous blog: Pitching for success the Beckon way or get in touch with Emma.