2010 Novel Piece Prize for Business Strategy Luminance
The NOVEL PIECE PRIZE award recognizes excellence in business book writing. The first recipient was Youngme Moon. The second recipient is celebrated below...
Why do service firms ranging from ad agencies to consulting businesses to creative professionals succumb to the pitch process of giving away free ideas in order to win new business? This year's recipient of the Novel Piece Prize in Business Strategy Luminance answers that question as well as provides a framework for all types of businesses to use in order to profitably gain new business and new customers in the book, THE WIN WITHOUT PITCHING MANIFESTO.
Blair Enns, business development advisor to marketing communication firms, believes creative professionals have become addicted to the frenzied adrenaline rush of the pitch presentation. According to Enns, this is counter-productive to beginning working relationships with clients because "at a time when we should be conversing, we are instead cloistered away preparing for the one-way conversation called the presentation."
Writing in THE WIN WITHOUT PITCHING MANIFESTO, Enns derides the practice of service firms giving away free ideas in proposals and presentations to prospective clients as flawed. He equates such an arrangement to that of a doctor and a patient. "A client," writes Enns, "asking for unpaid ideas in a written proposal is like a patient asking for diagnosis and prescription from a doctor he refuses to pay."
Enns contends clients, in many instances, come to service firms with self-diagnosed problems and with surgical procedures already identified to help restore their business health. Unfortunately, Enns says, "[service firms] are far more likely to proceed with such a flawed approach than any medical practitioner." Enns urges services firms to "view the act of prescription without diagnosis for what it is: malpractice."
To orbit the new business pitch process hairball, Enns instructs service firms to develop a "Deep Expertise" by making "The Difficult Business Decision" of choosing a tightly-focused specialty. From there, firms must "articulate that focus via a claim of expertise" and "work to quickly add proof" to the claim. Then, service firms must diligently work to achieve a "true thought leadership position" and use its earned expertise to "trigger in the client the idea that perhaps his performance in a certain area could be improved."
Enns readily admits it isn't always possible to derail the pitch process. In those situations, Enns advises service firms to "gain the inside track" because the "default assumption should be that somebody always has the inside track." According to Enns' strong position, if a service firm cannot derail the pitch process nor gain the inside track, the firm should walk away from the potential business.
The most widely applicable business lesson from THE WIN WITHOUT PITCHING MANIFESTO involves pricing power. Undifferentiated services firms, like undifferentiated products, have no pricing power because abundant alternatives exist. The simple business rule is: the more crowded a market, the more likely low price becomes the differentiator.
According to Enns, "winning while charging more is the ultimate benefit of effective positioning." The more selective a firm is in what they do (positioning), whom they sell to (prospective clients/customers), and how they deliver services (proof of expertise), the greater pricing power a firm will enjoy.
Please join me in celebrating the work of Blair Enns as the recipient of the Novel Piece Prize in Business Strategy Luminance for 2010.