Are you getting paid to pitch? Really. That same question again. Well, actually, yes. Or so it seems.

At a recent EVCOM-hosted Campfire Session at Tobacco Dock London, attended by 25 hardened sales and business development professionals from a number of agencies the question was asked again. And rather emphatically.

Why is the time and the creative effort that goes into responding to a pitch opportunity not recognised in monetary terms by our prospective clients? And particularly now that the industry has reached the point of maturity – like advertising or architecture – where the cost of creative input, however speculative, can be measured and, ergo, rewarded?

All those present at the session agreed that the traditional pitch was an expensive way to win work. Clients, with seemingly little understanding of the time it takes to develop one creative concept let alone a choice of three (or in some referenced cases more) and with all costs firmly resting on the agency’s bottom line, were unsympathetic to the cost of pitching. And, perhaps more importantly, were oblivious to the fact that, by default, they were only hearing from the most well-heeled (or larger) agencies when going to market.

It was also anecdotally noted that unsuccessful agencies were still seeing creative concepts re-purposed by winning agencies. And commissioning clients who kept budgets invisible at pitch stage, in the belief that this ensures only best value solutions were brought to pitch, were also held to account.

Yet, although the debate was a long and well fought, the group reluctantly concluded that there would always be competing agencies willing to break ranks and pitch at no cost and, therefore, the idea of getting paid to pitch remained aspirational – for now.

The group shared a number of “red flags” throughout the proposal and pitch process that, if well observed, would net an agency a bigger time and cost saving than any upfront per pitch payment ever could.

So, simply put, if you are brave and apply these “red flags” you might increase your profits considerably by working smarter not harder. Don’t pitch if no budget is declared, more than five agencies have been briefed, a pre-meeting is declined, there is no response or inadequate response to pre-pitch Q&A, the budget holder is not named, known or invited and if it is not your core business.

Sure, we all instinctively know and recognise these red flags but continue to try our luck. And, of course, every now and then, we win. But as we are an industry that survives on tiny margins, changing how much time we spend on pitches that you don’t win could have a much bigger effect on your bottom line than winning those pitches in the first place.

So, there is more than one way to get paid to pitch. Whilst clients may not be prepared to invest in each and every pitch opportunity and some competing agencies will always “break ranks”, observing the red flags will save you time and effort (not to mention heartbreak) that will amount to the same in real monetary terms and make pitching and winning more business a highlight of every working day.