Note: Listen to Lulu Raghavan on the new kind of approach required to win business these days, when clients are fatigued from non-stop meetings. Or read the transcript below.
This COVID induced lockdown has thrown up many different challenges for CEOs, perhaps none more important than the pressures of winning new business. I’m sure you're feeling the heat, just as I am at Landor, the global brand and design consultancy that I head in India. Landor is a part of WPP, one of the world’s largest communications groups. We are branding specialists most famous in India for having taken the Taj from one brand to many brands in the portfolio.
Our business is project-based and we’re constantly in business development mode, hunting for the next juicy game! In this context I was fascinated by a very interesting interview with Rose Herceg which really inspired me to get my hustle on.
Who is Rose Herceg? Rose is Chief Strategy Officer of WPP Australia and New Zealand. She has a storied career and in fact the first business she started back in 1998 named Pophouse became Australia’s best regarded company for innovation, social trends and business strategy.
In the interview with Rose that I watched on WPP TV, she talked about the new kind of hustle required to win business these days. Clients are actually more up for lateral and original thinking than we give them credit for, she said. But we have to focus on actionable and tangible ideas that will have an immediate impact on their business. We have to keep it short, sharp and incredibly articulate when presenting to clients on video calls. They don’t need long presentations and too many charts. Get rid of the white noise. Keep out the buzzword lingo. Stick to short sound bytes. Get to the heart of the idea. Land the selling point. Get them excited and cost it up really quickly. 20 min meetings max. Keep it short and get the hell out of there.
Importantly, don’t bore your clients. Don’t be so serious. These non-stop meetings really wear them down. Bring some humour into the conversation. Don’t miss an opportunity to lighten it up!
She shared with us her best hustle in the last few weeks with a client that swore they had no money. Rose and her team asked for just 20 minutes to present their idea. 48 hours later, half a million dollars miraculously showed up. Her big learning is that there is money. Clients want to use this time to get ahead and get past their competitors. They are not going to give money for bad ideas but they certainly have money for good ideas! A no to a yes and half a million dollars in 48 hours—now that’s a legendary hustle.
Embedding the art of the hustle inside our firm has taken some doing. Typically, we're used to a fairly lengthy pitch process with multiple rounds of stakeholder meetings. Nowadays, while the internal effort might still be just as intense (many all-nighters and endless cups of coffee, etc.), we ensure that we spend a lot more time trying to be laser-focused in our presentation. We are forcing ourselves to be sharp in identifying the pain points, offer just a few practical solutions and be absolutely on point with our storytelling.
It isn’t about being focused in our approach to content. We now make extra effort with how we present as well, given that it will be in the virtual room which we can’t dress up with props like we usually do. We keep our videos on. We “design” our screens to make sure we use a branded background with the Landor logo. We present with energy and enthusiasm. And we find a way to emotionally connect with our prospective clients.
For instance, just the other day, we were in conversation for a new project with the head of marketing of a major apparel exporter. They wanted us to help them brand a new wearable tech product. In the normal course, we would have done a more elaborate proposal and a heavily loaded credentials presentation. But this time, we decided to approach it very differently. We wrote a sharp storyline focusing on just the problem, the branding task at hand and our initial POV. We also quickly showcased how the best brands approach the same problem and how Landor could quickly get them to tangible solutions.
The difference in the approaches? Not one credential slide. Boy, were the clients happy to not hear us go on about ourselves!
We sent them a microsite later which had all the credentials. This helped us cut down our time in the pitch to focus on the client. Out of 60 minutes allotted by the client, we got through in 30 minutes flat! On most other days, we would have been struggling to finish in the allotted time. This gave us 30 minutes of valuable conversation time with the client in which we focused on building their confidence that we are the right partners. What was the result? The client has not yet made a decision on the project because the lockdown has slowed things down. But they have communicated to us that we are on top of their final shortlist of three firms. I’m pretty sure that our new approach to the pitch had a role to play!
This is an important shift not just for me personally, but for our entire team. It really helps us focus on the essentials and cut out all the frills.
The youngest star on our team said it best: we have to think of our pitch conversations as a rapid fire round on a gameshow, not an hour long documentary! We have to be pacy, sharp and make it enjoyable for the viewer!
Of course, this new way of working isn't easy to embrace. But we're all starting to learn why brevity and simplicity goes a long way in winning new business in this new post COVID world.
I hope this was useful for you to think about.