Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
How Not to Come Second
Article Type: Suggested reading From: Strategic Direction, Volume 24, Issue 7.
One of the best book reviews recently published by Emerald
David KeanReviewer: Gábor Hoványi, University of Pécs, Budapest, Hungary
There are two different types of competition. Taking part in the first where many buyers have demands, suppliers can be happy to be close followers of the market leader firm (even the legendary business strategy of General Electric Corporation is more or less satisfied with a second position in a particular field of technology or on a given market). The other type of competition is pitching. Here suppliers have only one buyer (or potential client who published his brief) and if you are second and even a “close second” with your offer in the competition you are a loser.
A firm or a team needs two skills if it wants to avoid even the “close second” position in pitching: it has to answer the problem of the brief with professional expertise as well as creativity and has to convince its hopeful client of its aptitude. The art of pitching is the methodology of this convincing. And David Kean’s small book is a brilliant guide to make a profound and at the same time entertaining inspection in the workshop secrets of the methodology of pitching.
The book starts with the usual mistakes of pitchers as losers and continues with detailed tricks making pitching firms and teams winners even in situations where competition is very keen. That is the bulk of the book. In the following chapters special skills are outlined to help pitching on the international scene and pitching to governments by writing compelling tender documents. At the end of the volume there are checklists for winning a tender as well as quick pitch “to do” lists (these latter prove unambiguously how practical the book is as a guide).
There are many original advises in the book worth taking into consideration even for pitchers who are usually not “close seconds” but experienced winners in pitching. Let’s see some of the author’s advises:Read the brief of the potential client and start to think on its challenges just on the day you received the brief and not only after two or three days are gone!To solve the clients’ problem you have to understand the clients as people.Price with pride in your offer!Get your team right for a successful pitch, i.e. find a “complemented” and “balanced” team structure.The members of your team have to meet regularly and “religiously”. An original diary has to be kept on all meetings of the team.Meet your clients as often as you can: you have to find out “what makes them tick”.The audience of the pitch (as well as the audience of your presentation) can be portrayed by a four types personality model distinguishing expressive, amiable, driver and analytical people; the prepared portray should be a real route-map for all your communications with the client.Be ruthless when selecting your best presenters.Before presentation you must have three rehearsals with your team members!When presenting in your office always look at it with fresh eyes to discover everyday’s depressing details!Write down beforehand the worst questions the client could ask you after your presentation!Also the last parts of David Kean’s book are instructive, especially the chapter dealing with pitching to government. But the presentation of pitching on the international scene is a bit superficial. In this area the rules of behaviour (some characteristic examples are mentioned in the text) are routed in the differences of cultures and value systems and a successful pitcher has to be acquainted also with these deeper particularities. Naturally the size and style of the book does not permit to go into deeper shifts of a Hofstede-like analysis of cultures and values but the presented examples can only draw the pitcher’s attention to the problem. It would be also useful to write more about the relation of object and methodology of pitching in a hoped-for next edition of the book: the methodology should be completely different when you are pitching, e.g. for a new railway ticket system indicating also the target station of trips or for an advertising campaign of a new elder-flavoured soft drink product.
At the end may I extol the writing style of the book: it is not only clear, concise and forcible descriptive but what is rare it helps to create with the peculiar typography a real “dialogue” with the reader.
To sum it up David Kean’s book will be certainly a stimulating source of ideas even for experts in pitching; also students who have to present their theses during their university career will find the book useful; and it will give insight also to marketing specialists namely into a new field of marketing where (I am afraid) they have not yet acquired too much experience.
This review was originally published in European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 41 No. 7/8, 2007, pp. 972-974.