Over the last few weeks I’ve been working on a number of reviews of pitches and tenders that have been lost by agencies and professional services firms.

There has been a common theme that has contributed to all of these, and that has been the perceived quality of the operational or day to day teams that were proposed to work on the business.

What is clear is the importance that prospective clients put on the contribution in the presentation of the team – often junior and middle management – that would work day to day on the business if they were appointed.

In one case, a prospective firm thought it would be best to send their two most senior people to show their senior commitment to the prospective client, which was fine as far as it went but the head honchoes were unable to convincingly answer detailed questions and demonstrate how they would practically run the account.

A second example was the ad agency that sent the senior team with their client servicing representatives but only gave them a minimal role in the meeting.

Put yourself in your client’s shoes, doesn’t it make sense that you will want to meet and see in action the people that you will probably be working with on a daily basis?

One of the reasons I suspect this isn’t happening is the confidence that senior management thespyexpert.com from service providers have in the experience and capabilities of many junior and middle management in high pressure, winner takes all, pitch presentations.


I remember many years ago when I had only just started life as a trainee client services manager at a well-known advertising agency in London. One night about six o’clock I had left the office early and was going down the escalator at Knightsbridge tube station when a chap called Don White came up behind me. In those days Don was our Creative Director and one of the “A listers” from the British advertising industry.

Slightly cheekily I asked him why he was leaving so early?

I was taken aback when he said “I’m going to the Highgate women’s institute.”

“Why” I asked quizzically?
His response is a piece of learning that has stayed with me throughout my career.

He said “… as a client service manager your career will be largely defined, now like mine, as how well you can present in important meetings.

There is no substitute for practice and experience. That’s why I’m going to speak to a group of housewives about advertising for a couple of hours and answer questions without any notes – it doesn’t matter if I make a few mistakes, but I learn and get more confidence from each presentation, and I know that the more I do the better I will get”.

Wise words indeed.

Think about the great rock and roll bands – most of them learned their audience skills by playing at smaller clubs before they made it big and played the big stadiums. From what I observe, an increasing number of business meetings are made in informal situations, sitting around talking rather than formally presenting on your feet.

The result is that there are less opportunities for the senior management of tomorrow to learn the craft of their presentation trade before being thrown into the lion’s den of a major presentation. Some blossom but many, who are clearly good at what they do, fail to impress when it counts.

I passionately believe that we as senior managers need to take Don’s advice.

We need to look for opportunities within our own organisations to give junior staff more formal presentation experience. We need to encourage them to get out and talk about; what they do, their industry or frankly anything to anybody who will listen.

The result will be more confident and experienced presenters who have skills that will become a competitive point of difference when presenting to clients and prospects.