Pitching Your Proposal

Pitching Your Proposal

If you are a regular to the TMC (Tuesday morning Commentary) you know my perspective and that of our company on proposals. In case you are new… here it is again…. You present the ask / proposal / pitch (whatever terminology you wish to call it) when you have all the information you need to have written a proposal that they have already said yes to. Simple, don’t pitch the proposal until you have a yes.

This situation comes up often, but it happened this summer with a client and it was a great learning lesson. The real key learning here, in regard to pitching a proposal, is making sure you have all the information you need to build the proposal and present it. In this case she had done an amazing job. Several months of work building a relationship with a prospect. Moving up from the Marketing Coordinator to engaging the VP Marketing as well. They went back and forth on asset and activation ideas and concepts. They talked budgets and came to a very agreeable number that the prospect identified as the right budget. Her proposal exceeded the budgeted amount in value of assets, but came in slightly under the agreed upon budget for the actual investment amount. All along the prospect had said the President would be the final decision maker, but more of a formality. He might have questions, but they were confident they had a strong case for this investment.

Our client, based on this, built out a terrific proposal. Two or three times she referenced the budget number in the proposal and how she had come in under budget. I commended her for doing this. A great tactic for driving home the point of the budget amount they had agreed to and the fact that she came in “under budget”. She sent it over to the VP to review before he presented it to the President and then they would all meet two days later for a discussion; the President, VP, Coordinator and our client.

The VP responded that the proposal looked great, but could she please remove the “budget references”. For me this was a huge red flag. This told me that the “budget” had not been approved by the President and that this might very easily go sideways now. And it did. She never got the face to face meeting… never even got to meet the President nor with the VP and Coordinator to discuss the situation. Their response was “the President needs more traffic numbers to analyse. Then we will review again with him and if we can convince him to say yes, we will be a go. In the meantime, though, we understand you may need to sell this opportunity to others.”

What were our three-quick take aways?

  • Know who the ultimate decision maker is and make sure you are presenting to her / him or don’t build out a proposal… you have no control over the process. This does not mean the meeting of the decision maker has to be at the pitch stage, it could be in the discovery stage, but you need to meet that person to understand their needs / psyche / approach. You cannot get it filtered through a lower level staff person.
  • You need to get all the details before you make the pitch. We should have learned that he was very numbers analytical versus impact or engagement driven. If we had known this, the focus of the presentation would have been on the numbers and their impact versus the experiential side – which is where the VP led us….
  • And finally, in this case we should have learned that the President, VP and Coordinator (the latter influenced now by the President) were asking the wrong questions. This property had qualified buyers of the sponsor’s products. They were a small property, but the right audience. When the President wanted to see larger volume numbers, he was probably comparing this investment to traditional media which they used (newspaper, radio) where audiences are huge, but not focused. My comment to him would have been “would you rather reach 100,000 of which maybe 500 are your audience and 10 react to your message, or would you rather reach 5000 people total of which 2500 are eligible buyers and have an interaction with you one on one to showcase your product weekly for up to an hour each week and also we can direct 500 of those into your place of business each year for 25% of the investment you would spend to reach the 100,000 people?” The question simplified is “do you want to reach a larger number of unqualified buyers with less chance of that audience coming to your store or reach overall less people but qualified buyers for your product who WILL come to your store?” Quantity or Quality buyers?

The deal has not happened… but we learned some pretty important lessons about pitching a proposal. This was still a win.

To learn more on building sponsorship proposals that work, check out these links for the upcoming WSC events, at WSC® Alberta Forum in Edmonton November 25-26, the WSC® Ontario Toronto Forum (October 6-7) or WSC® Ontario Ottawa Forum (October 20-21, 2020). Seating for all three events is limited, so register today to ensure you get all the support you need to make your sponsorship program bounce back with success. Refund guarantees are in place, so there is no risk if you cannot attend. Register today for best pricing!

Please remember to stay HIPS! (Healthy, Isolate when possible, Physical distancing from others and Safe!)

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  1. This was a nice piece Brent. A deal story is always a good read, even when it goes the wrong way.

    It is sound advice. Though I find sometimes the upper level president/CEO sees their role as the person who will try and score the big discount at the end. Not sure how to tactfully shake that out earlier… maybe if they could have met in an earlier meeting as you suggested.

    • So true… they are often the “grinder”. In this case he was just looking for “numbers” and truly in my mind did not understand the value of sponsorship marketing versus traditional media blitzes. Thanks for reading and your feedback Michael.


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