So that’s that. The Conservative Party won; the others lost. While the losing parties walk away with their tails between their legs, we can’t help but notice it’s rather like a business losing a pitch. Here are Susanna Simpson’s top five tips for handling that very scenario.
Much like with the general election, it is very rare to hear about what a company does after losing a pitch. Like politicians, most businesses are happy to shout about winning but it is very rare you will hear anything about those other companies, or politicians, who didn’t make the cut.
Losing a pitch is always a disheartening experience for both you and your team. The amount of work that goes into presenting your company to a new business prospect is enough to deserve a large glass of wine afterwards, and when you receive an unsuccessful result it can all seem a waste of time. However, a loss is as much a learning curve as a win, and it’s important that you take time to evaluate the result and use the learnings for next time.
For politicians, losing their electoral seat is much more personal than a business losing a pitch, but their way of handling it – which is rarely documented – highlights some tips that all business leaders can learn from.
1. Motivate, don’t alienate
Your job as a leader is to motivate your team and ensure they learn from defeat rather than become demotivated. A party leader must do the same for their MPs – never being defeated by a loss, rather learning from it and improving for next time.
Don’t let your personal feelings get in the way of your team’s development. In many cases they may be new to pitching so it is important you help them understand that lessons can be learnt from both wins and losses.
2. Capture the experience
It’s very important to review any significant result, good or bad, to ensure you learn from what didn’t work, or so you can repeat the same process if you are successful.
Ensure you sit as a team and write down what worked and what didn’t about the pitch and then factor in the wonderful benefit of hindsight. Replay the process you went through and what happened in the pitch and decide as a team what you’d do differently next time to get a better result.
Make sure you ask for feedback from every person involved in the pitch, whether it was the creation, research or the presenting, everyone will have a different opinion, which can be valuable for learning from.
3. Seek feedback
Unfortunately politicians rarely get the chance to ask their constituency for feedback on why they did not vote for them, but a business can and should seek feedback from the prospect to find out why your pitch was unsuccessful. Remember that one person’s opinion can differ entirely from someone else’s, so don’t be too disheartened.
A pitch is a completely false business situation and does not reflect the environment or dynamic that you would be working with should you successfully win the business, therefore it is very difficult to give a true impression of who you and your company are. The feedback you receive may seem unfair but you have to remember that the pitch is their only impression of you – take this on board and think about ways you could change your pitch style to give a more realistic view of how it would work should they choose to work with you.
4. People can change their minds, so keep in touch
If a politician lost their seat and went on a rampage around their local town, it is unlikely they will be re-elected at the next election. Unfortunately the opportunity to get re-elected doesn’t come round quite as often as the chance to be hired by an old prospect, however the idea remains the same.
Just because it’s over now, doesn’t mean it’s over forever. We pitched for a new client last year, and came a close second to the largest PR agency in the world. But within four months the company was given notice and we were hired on the back of our original pitch. We had kept in touch with the prospect since the pitch asking how things were going and remained very approachable rather than bitter. This made it very easy for them to come back to us when things didn’t quite work out with the other agency.
If a politician remains humble and willing to use their skills in other ways they will remain useful in the community. Losing a seat doesn’t mean the end to a political career, just like losing a pitch doesn’t mean the end of that relationship with the prospect.
5. Get over it and move on
It’s easy and very natural to feel emotional and let down when losing a pitch – it’s completely normal in fact. However, use that negative energy to complete some positive actions i.e. ring four other new business prospects the day you find out you’ve lost a pitch. There really are plenty more fish in the sea.
That’s the sixth and final feature of our series The Politics of Business. Check out the others if you haven’t already: The Politics of Business hub
Have you recently lost a pitch? Try some of the tips above and let us know how you get on in the comments below.