I just watched an interesting discussion on ESPN between Mark Cuban and Skip Bayless, where Mark told Skip that his statement that Miami wanted the NBA Championship more than OKC was "horses*#t" and "the most ridiculous thing he had ever heard."
Cuban explained his statement this way, "Does anyone think that Kevin Durant, Russell Westbook, et.al. didn't want to win a close-out game for the NBS Championship? No, it's that Miami was better prepared with adjustments and changes and they simply executed better".
I agree with Cuban's assessment that the media often tries to simplify with generalities and overstatement, but would add to it by saying that "there's no doubt that both teams wanted to win, but the Miami did more than just execute better, they convinced observers that they wanted it more".
There is a great lesson in there for agencies in a new business pitch - can you convince the prospect that you want it more? I remember a new business pitch several years ago for a regional restaurant chain that our agency really wanted to win. We had restaurant experience, had pitched the prospect in the past so we knew them and their needs, and they had a budget and attitude toward advertising that would allow us to do some great creative work.
We did everything right - we did our homework, we had some great insights about their customers, we put together a really strong creative pitch that included a built-in promotion angle that could be used for a long time, and the new business team did a great job in the final presentation (I gave us a 9 out of 10 rating after the presentation).
But we didn't win the business. When the marketing director called me to tell me the bad news, he praised our efforts and recommended solutions, but just felt like "the other agency wanted it more". He went on the say that "I know you guys wanted it as well, but I just felt like the other agency guys would crawl through a glass-lined pit to make my business succeed".
I never found out exactly what they did, or what we didn't do, that made him feel that way, but I never forgot what he said. We wanted it, but they convinced the client that they "wanted it more".
I never went into a new business pitch after that without making sure that the client would feel our passion for their business and for them to succeed. I'm sure I was over-zealous at times, but I think prospects will usually forgive too much attention and too many questions over the alternative.
I have always maintained that you win new business before the pitch. So I believe that an important ingredient in the mix needs to be how effectively you build a relationship and convince the client prospect of your desire to work with them and to help them succeed. You won't always win, but you won't be second-guessing yourself, and your efforts, after the fact.
BTW, I agree with Mark Cuban that most of what Skip Bayless and the sports media says is "horses*#t", but that's a story for another time.