How much work do you do for nothing?

Here’s a viral that’s going round…


If the amount of time and work that goes into trying to win business makes the endeavour so uneconomical for small suppliers that they stop pitching, the outcome is that they miss out on business, and the client may miss out on the best supplier.

When I first saw this I thought it good that the advertising industry is fighting back on behalf of creatives and consultants.

Then I showed it to a friend who works for a consulting business and he thought otherwise.

Of course the film is ridiculous in many ways but the idea of whether a supplier should be expected to put time and intellectual know-how into a proposal that will likely not result in a fee is worth considering.

 

Now it’s possible that this self-selection is a good thing, after all, a big project will need significant resources. It would be a disaster if half way through an important change programme the consulting business was forced to admit that they were not well enough resourced to continue with the project.  But is it fair for a freelancer with limited time and resources be expected to make an up-front gamble like this in the hope of winning even a modest amount of work?

 

Let’s accept that the resources expected to be put into a pitch reflect the size of the project. Should we be worried about the losses incurred by those who are unsuccessful?  The question is, are clients expecting more than necessary from suppliers at the pitch stage?

 

This is where my friend and I differ.

 

His view is that this is simply a cost of sales – marketing.  Any agency or individual consultant will expect to win some and lose some.  If they lose too many then they are doing something wrong and need to improve.  Furthermore, they absorb the cost of pitches in the work they successfully win.  The model I have always used is that a third of my time goes on marketing, a third on working and about three quarters on cycling (maybe that’s where I’m going wrong).

 

My concern is that clients expect too much and encourage potential suppliers to compete at too high a cost to themselves for work, thus making it a much riskier proposition for small agencies and individual freelancers.

 

What do you think?  Are clients expecting too much and raising the barrier too high for small businesses at the pitch stage?
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