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Archive for the category “Effective Pitching”

Keep calm and ‘help’ clients to climb the loyalty ladder

Written by Nguyen Tra Giang – s3397586

In today’s modern and dynamic life, people tend to hastily chase their passions and desires, companies often focus on mass production and how to increase revenue quickly, whether patiently nurture and maintain a long-term relationship with clients is still important?

Figure 1 : A long term client/agency relationship is priceless , you can't buy or sell it, you just can use a strategic process to reach it. Source (Sallyhogshead 2013)

Figure 1 : A long term client/agency relationship is priceless , you can’t buy or sell it, you just can use a strategic process to reach it. Source (Sallyhogshead 2013)

“Forget about pushing products, you will never be able to sell your products to anyone if you do not have trust and support from loyal customers”, Bao asserts with a resolute tone of a young man who is an Account Executive in Planning & Sale Dept of Petrovietnam Southern Gas (PSG). After a year being responsible for client servicing and client acquisition, Bao concludes that building a successful client relationship is a whole challenging yet exciting journey, which requires you to cultivate knowledge to construct specific approaching strategies and develop a professional communication skill. Regarding to this topic, I and Bao would agree that Loyalty Ladder is an ideal marketing relationship concept for assessing the degree of client loyalty.

Figure 2 : The loyalty ladder is a relationship marketing concept that sees customers gradually moving up through relationship levels(Managing Service Quality 2000)

Figure 2 : The loyalty ladder is a relationship marketing concept that sees customers gradually moving up through relationship levels(Managing Service Quality 2000)

“The power of first impression”

The bottom rung of the loyalty ladder is an important part as it is the foundation to reach loyal clients. “There are always new clients in the crowded market who come to your business for the first time. Make the first visit remarkable and everything else (loyalty, advocacy, trust) will possibly come after” (Beverland, Farrely & Woodhatch 2007). For Bao, when client is in the first ladder – Prospect, patience is the key. He asserts that without appropriate qualifications of prospect, you will fall down at the first rung. “Don’t make your sale pitch early because you might be 80% immediately ignored. Be patient and save it until you both know clearly about others”, Bao warns. With my question of how to shorten the distance with client at the first rung, Bao suggests that creating personal relationship is a solution. He often takes advantages of networking events or existing relationships or even tries to invite clients to his friend cycle to get a better understanding about them. “Best time to professionally give clients a relevant pitch is when you research adequate information about their current situation and find out why your products is compulsory for them”, Bao advices.

Figure 3 : The best way to build loyalty down the road is to focus on loyalty and commitment on the first rung - Prospect . Try to carefully research about clients and impress them in the first meet conversation . Source (Chronos-studeos 2013).

Figure 3 : The best way to build loyalty down the road is to focus on loyalty and commitment on the first rung – Prospect . Try to carefully research about clients and impress them in the first meet conversation . Source (Chronos-studeos 2013).

Know and love your client’s business as much as they do

Now you already got clients to use your products in the stage Acquaintance and are on your way to move them to a higher rung – Steady Supporter. However, “you may lose your clients to the competitors anytime if you just leave them with the products and get lost”, Bao emphasizes. He encourages future client managers to pay more attention on client’s business so you can consistently exceed their expectations. For instance, PSG mainly distributes liquefied petroleum gas, besides selling products, Bao always actively give clients advices, suggest them promising projects and update gas/oil price as well as educate them about the market .Focusing on product and client services helps to retain existent and increase word-of-mouth (Davies & Prince 1999).

Figured 3: Clients are just like us. They want to be cared and supported. Love them and they will love you back. Source , (Steph , 2012)

Figured 3: Clients are just like us. They want to be cared and supported. Love them and they will love you back. Source , (Steph , 2012)

“Relationship is like a brand: you have to invest in it, and understand that it gets built over time” (Solomon 2008).

Figure 4. Invest effort, passion and knowledge to build a strong and long-term relationship. Source, (

Figure 4. Relationship is like a brand, you have to invest effort, passion and knowledge to build a strong and long-term relationship. Source, (

Relationship commitment will be driven to the top rungs – Advocate and Trusted Partner when agency constantly improve their proposed solution and willingly try new approaches. Bao proudly smiles while mentioning about Petrolimex and Shell Gas Vietnam, the two most loyal clients that he has put much effort to move them through each ladder. Before we end the conversation and get back to the hustle life, Bao reminds that client retention is more important than acquisition because 80% benefit come from the existing clients. By maintaining a stable relationship with them, you not only able to sell more products but also raise your reputation because your loyal clients will give positive reviews about you to others. “You’ll possibly get new clients and remember to keep calm and ‘help’ them to climb each loyalty ladder all over again. Good luck”, Bao winks.

Figure 5: (1) Nguyen Thai Bao ' s business card . (2) Nguyen Thai Bao and Nguyen Tra Giang is enjoying their talk about client management in Papa coffee. (3) Nguyen Thai Bao ' s business photo . Image collaged by author.

Figure 5: (1) Nguyen Thai Bao’s business card. (2) Nguyen Thai Bao and Nguyen Tra Giang are enjoying their talk about client management in Papa coffee. (3) Nguyen Thai Bao’s business photo. Image edited by author.

Word count: 664

Beverland, M., Farrelly, F. & Woodhatch, Z. 2007, “Exploring the Dimensions of Proactivity within Advertising Agency-Client Relationships”, Journal of Advertising, vol. 36, no. 4, pp. 49-60.

Davies, M. & Prince, M. 1999, “Examining the longevity of new agency accounts: A comparative study of U.S. and U.K. advertising experiences”, Journal of Advertising, vol. 28, no. 4, pp. 75-89.

Solomon, R. 2008, “Great Work Wins Business; a Great Relationship Keeps It”,The Art of Client Service, Kaplan Publishing, New York, pp. 97-99


Even when the odds are stacked against you, keep pitching.

Words by Ho Gia Thuy – s3357749

Under the scope of the communication industry, an excellent client manager handles excellent business relationships. “No matter what you do in a business-related career, you end up pitching something” (Steenburg quoted in Broberg 2012). While the whole execution plan is an expensive full meal, an ideal pitch is the appetizer that welcomes clients to order other dishes. When they keep asking what exactly it is that you are doing, you fail at the very first step (Solomon 2008). The crucial role of effective pitching accordingly cannot be underestimated since an uninteresting one hinders competitive advantages, collaboration prospects and investment opportunities.

I had a chance to interview Mr. Tai Nguyen, current Managing Director at HAT Communications – a small-sized local agency in the event services sector. At HAT, the account team consists of the busiest working bees. “They perceive pitches as nightmares, very terrible ones indeed”, Mr. Tai pointed out, “however since I accompany them to most client meetings lately, they gradually turn to love their jobs”. This man told me he utilized witty tricks, which can only be widely applied under careful supervision. “Once you follow my words improperly, you know the consequence. But I hope you can skillfully pull it off to get an impressive job title in your future career”.

IMG_1606(Thuy and Mr. Tai inside HAT meeting room, photo by the author 2013)

Headstarter: First Impressions

Pursuing the mom-and-pop business style cannot guarantee success. In the 90s or early 2000s, a pitch might win thanks to the utmost contribution of “big idea” (Steel 2006). “Now, the big idea is no longer the only core of the pitch,” said Mr. Tai, “the tipping point has turned to the first impression that clients had with the agency.” Especially when you bring up a new business team with fresh faces to nurture early relationships, it is when everything falls together before the pitch (Jaffe 2010). You then can feel proud as we get the chemistry right, and the win has started well.

Benefits > Features

While benefits and features and similarly important, the former should be enhanced and stressed on more often during the pitch. What you and your products can do, be it daring or legendary, clients do not really want to hear about that (Schultz & Doerr 2013). “Special features are only great when it is applicable to the case of your clients,” Mr. Tai implied, “you can flash your lights on unique selling points, but pretty please remember that clients only care about how the agency perfectly help them achieve their desired goal.” While it is good to tell that your service supports them in selling, it is better that you show them how to earn $200,000 more each year. A breathtaking feature without the smallest benefit, sadly, is nothing but a dead one (Laidlaw 2013).

An amount of Money spent = A Milestone reached

Money get the client’s potential attention fast. It is crucial that at the opening of your presentation you tell them whether your service help them save or make money. Then you will have to follow the idea by presenting figures after thorough research to “lead the prospect down your logic trail” (Martin 2012). Mr. Tai stated that clients usually have other concerns on whether to join forces with your agency, but nothing talks louder than budget discussions so you must be careful about it. You can also talk about how you will spend their precious money: get people to execute the plan, get people to help with risk management, or save for unexpected overheads, etc. Anyway, clients’ capital must be bucketed into specific categories that guarantee positive outcomes. When talking “money” with them, your role is to demonstrate how far they can reach (specific milestones) with each extracted amount of money.

Are you experienced in THEIR EYES?

To reap the benefits of big budgets, the first thing is not to compete on price (Klein 2013). Short-term projects along with micro-scaled partners may find small spendings appealing, however, marketing yourself on price is somewhat counter-intuitive to attract major brands. Mr. Tai insisted that key clients had already expected overhead expenses and extra times before discussing the project with us. “The way I see it, while a long list of proposals was quickly passed over because of expensiveness, a greater number of contracts was turned down as a result of low pricing and a mist of inexperience”, the man added.

The 2:1 golden ratio

Sometimes you will love to show off the breadth of your team by bringing a vanload of people in various positions (Mavity & Bayley 2009). That being said, “only key presenters are enough for a professional pitch”, Mr. Tai mentioned, “it’s time you played with those ‘less is more’ words. If you choose to outnumber your clients three to one, I honestly think you’d better walk yourself out of the door.” This man believes that the proper ratio is 2 agents to 1 client. In case an agent encounters a problem while speaking to a client, the other agent assigned to serve this client can handle the talk and keep the story continue. This way will make any client feel emotionally connected with the team and suppose that you are more than ready for their immediate feedback.

Who cares about leave-behind works? Clients.

Those little things matter. As a pitch usually consists of four to five agencies a day, clients may forget what was introduced after you are gone so it would be nice to leave a copy of everything for them to mull over. It can be in hard copy (a printout), or electronically (links to other micro-sites, emails, slide deck). Mr. Tai advised me to never be hesitated to ask clients about the soonest time that they get back to us after decisions making.

Celebrity endorsements: Treat or Trick?

When the interview came to the point of using celebrities as the main speaker of any pitch, Mr. Tai explained that any client manager must handle them with care. “Celebrities are fun. They get people listen to them because of their social status. However they normally don’t follow our scripts well. They’re easily carried away by little talks or side stories,” Mr. Tai gave some warnings, “They can help you get your contract on the table faster but can also make you look like a clown at the same time. I guess it all depends on how serious they are being a presenter”. Still, since not many people are thinking of endorsing celebrities during pitching sessions, you should study this method and see how to make it cool in front of your clients.

In a nutshell, simple tips that I have learned after a valuable interview with Mr. Tai can be summoned up as below:

Word count: 1112



Broberg, B 2012, ‘How to hook people with an effective pitch’, American City Business Journals, 20 January, viewed 3 September 2013, <>.

Jaffe, J 2010, Flip the funnel: how to use existing customers to gain new ones, Wiley, New Jersey.

Klein, K E 2013, ‘How to charge more than competitors’, Businessweek, 28 June, viewed 3 September 2013, <>.

Laidlaw, G 2013, ‘Should you use features or benefits to sell your stuff’, Sitepoint, 2 May, viewed 3 September 2013, <>.

Martin, T 2012, ‘Seven tips for pitching — from the client’s side of the table’, AdAge, 26 June, viewed 3 September 2013, <>.

Mavity, R & Bayley, S 2009, Life’s a pitch: How to sell yourself and your brilliant ideas, Corgi, London.

Schultz, M & Doerr, J 2013, What sales winners do differently, RAIN Group, Massachusetts.

Solomon, R 2008, The art of client service, Kaplan Publishing, New York.

Steel, J 2006, Perfect pitch: the art of selling ideas and winning new business, Wiley, New Jersey.

Tai, N 2013, interview, 27 August.

What clients seek

“I understand most agencies have their own guidelines for dealing with clients. They tell their client managers how to speak, what gestures to make and what to say, etc. This is all perfectly reasonable because at the end of the day, they need to have their services approved by their clients. How else are they going to make ends meet? Unfortunately, from my point of view, things start to get quite repetitive after a while and it turns out most pitches are similar to a certain extent. This makes them predictable and, I don’t mean to be rude, also rather boring. Thus, the ideas and pitches that stand out is the winner. Naturally, they have to be of, at the very least, decent quality, but as a rule of thumb, I’d say if you can dazzle, you will most likely win.”

Figure 1. Ms. Chi Tran (right). Photo taken by author.

Figure 1. Ms. Chi Tran (left). Photo taken by author.

Figure 2. Colgate-Palmolive Logo. Reproduced from Career Builder Vietnam.

Ms. Chi Tran is a Human Resources (HR) Director at Colgate-Palmolive Vietnam (Colgate). The paragraph above is a small portion of her answer when I asked her  how she would recommend communication agencies to approach the pitching phrase and also how to deal with their client afterwards. As an HR Manager, Ms. Chi and her team has held many internal events for the company’s staff and employees. These events are usually not very large and although I initially assumed Colgate can plan and execute them by themselves, it turned out the company actually has been recruiting the services of many domestic communication agencies to assist them in making these events as special as possible for the staff and employees.

Figure 3. Made to Stick. Reproduced from Amazon.

Surprisingly, Ms. Chi mentioned the book Made to Stick (Heath & Heath 2007) as soon as I asked her for advice on how to communicate effectively with my future clients. As part of my studies in Client Management at RMIT, Made to Stick was used as a reference point on many aspects of the task of managing a client, or many clients for that matter. Although she recommended the book because it contains many valuable lessons, she disapproves of how many people seem to think of it as the go-to guide for professional communication behavior and etiquette. To a certain extent, the book can even be considered the definition of effective communication, but in no way is it universally applicable.

“Made to Stick isn’t actually unique. There was Tipping Point in 2000 and just recently there was Contagious. These books are reference points, not guidelines. It is a given that you would want to be, most ideally, in the service of large multinational companies and giant conglomerates when you graduate. Keep in mind, however, that your clients, the ones you will be interacting with for most of the time, are individuals. Yes, you can read all about how to deal with people and how to persuade or appeal to them, but at the end of the day, there is no sure-fire way to anticipate human reasoning and behavior, at least not that I’m aware of.”

Figure 4. The Tipping Point. Reproduced from Wikipedia.

Figure 5. Contagious. Reproduced from New York Times.

It would appear, then, that the success of these books has become the downfall of whoever sticks to them too closely. They are so widely read and their instructions so commonly applied that clients have become “immune” to them. So if not even the critically applauded and best-selling Made to Stick, its spiritual predecessor The Tipping Point (Gladwell 2000) as well as its spiritual successor Contagious (Berger 2013) can reliably provide a to-do list that can guarantee a high level of success, what can agencies in general and, more specifically, client managers do to be in sync with their clients?

“Just leave out all the rest and focus on the now and next.”

Ms. Chi’s biggest gripe with most agencies is that sometimes they tend to focus too much on brandishing their past accomplishments and do not pay enough attention to the details that will get them the contract. Past accomplishments, achievements and awards are great to look back upon at the end of a tiring work day, but they play no part in guaranteeing a high quality project in the present and future. A vivid example for this line of reasoning can be observed in professional sports in which a team winning the title the previous year does not necessarily mean they will repeat as champions the coming year. Ms. Chi humorously called agencies who focused too much on what they have achieved in the past “shiners” because they tend to “shine” their trophies instead of looking forward to acquiring new trophies. In other words, they spend their time presenting to her and her colleagues why they are qualified for the job but not why the project will be a success in their hands. And no company is willing to commit a budget to a project without a clear picture of what it will actually be like.

“Try to do the presentation at our pace, not yours and keep it steady. Drive slow.”

In psychology, there is a theoretical basis for several cognitive biases called naive realism (Ross & Ward 1995). The social cognitive bias that Ms. Chi is most concerned of is the Curse of Knowledge coined by Robin Hogarth (Camerer, Loewenstein & Weber 1989), according to which better-informed individuals have difficulty thinking about certain matters from the perspective of lesser-informed people. When giving presentations, it is important to determine how much the client know about the subject matter being discussed and walk them through all the details step by step. This might sound simple enough but in reality, it is anything but. Over the course of her career, Ms. Chi has not had much problems with this but she said some of her colleagues (she did not reveal their names and positions) can easily be put off by phrases such as “obviously” or “as everyone knows”. Beware of the Curse of Knowledge, she said, because while we communication abstract terms and jargons for granted, the uninitiated will only be hearing opaque phrases (Heath & Heath 2006).

“Be presentable. It’s not good if your presentation looks better than yourself.”

I’ve observed that the communication industry requires less stringent dress codes. However, as Mark Twain once said, “Clothes make the man” (Atkins 2012). True, what we wear affects how we perceive ourselves, and how others perceive us as well. As future client managers, we will one day be representing our entire agency as we should make ourselves look as appealing to the client’s eyes as possible. Many people mistake being well-dressed for being dressed in expensive clothes. Nothing can be further from the truth. A dress from NEM will look just as good as one from Margiela if the wearer knows how to adorn it.

Although our interview was brief, it contained much useful information. Ms. Chi did not gave me many suggestions to take into the workplace, she only gave me the most relevant ones. I will end this blog with another of her gems.

“You should dazzle your client by working with purpose. Don’t be fancy. Simply and truthfully show your client who you really are and what you can really do because if they cannot be convinced by the real you, all the fancy extras in the world will not help you succeed.”


Atkins, A 2012, “Clothes Make the Man”, Atkin’s Bookshelf, posted March 2012, viewed 5 September 2013,

Camerer, C, Loewenstein, G & Weber, M 1989, “The Curse of Knowledge in Economic Settings: An Experimental Analysis”, Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 97, No. 5, pp. 1232-1254.

Heath, C & Heath, D 2006, “The Curse of Knowledge”, Harvard Business Review, posted December 2006, viewed 5 September 2013,

Kakutani, M 2013, “Mapping Out the Path to Viral Fame”, New York Times, posted February 2013, viewed 5 September 2013,

Ross, L & Ward, A 1996, “Naive Realism in everyday life: Implications for social conflict and misunderstanding”, in T Brown, ES Reed & E Turiel (eds), Values and knowledge, Taylor & Francis, New Jersey, USA, pp. 103-105.


Berger, J 2013, Contagious: Why Things Catch On, Simon & Schuster, New York, USA.

Gladwell, M 2000, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, Little Brown, New York, USA.

Heath, C & Heath, D 2007, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, Random House, New York, USA.

Pitching Your Way Through The Cluster

As a student majors in Professional Communication, I’ve always been interested in the act of communicating, especially under the form of business. When it comes to our Advertising home field, I’m also curious about the pitching process, how we shall speak to the client in order to get the contract signed.


Photo 1. An advertising pitch. Reproduced from (n.d.)

To satisfy my curiosity, I contacted Mr. Nguyen Viet Dung from AiiM – Al Interactive Marketing Education, for an interview, after witnessing him throwing out an interesting presentation at RMIT University.

AiiM is a vocational school for marketers of all ages. It focuses on the growth of Digital Adverting in Vietnam. In this school, the students are being taken care of by the industrial experts like Mr. Dung.

Before taking the role of Business Director at AiiM, Mr. Dung has worked as Head of Strategic Planning at Climax Interactive Agency. His job was to master the transformation process from Insights to Ideation and make them big and bold by working closely with the clients and as well as account and creative people.

After some emails sent back and forth, I was able to make an appointment with him at a sushi restaurant.

It would be a lie to say I didn’t feel the pressure before going to the interview. Being impressed by how confident Dung was with his presentation as well as his job position, I thought he would be a somewhat strict guy. It turned out I had thought too much. Mr. Dung was a great guy, and a big help indeed! Soon after we settled down for some sushi rolls, he smiled and broke the awkward silence by asking me a few questions regarding the interview. Surprisingly, the interviewer being interviewed by the interviewee!  In fact, it was one of the tips of giving a good speech that I’d mention later on.


Photo 2. The author and Mr. Nguyen Viet Dung at the interview – photo by the author (Vu 2013)

To start off, I asked him about his thoughts on communication in advertising between clients and agencies.

“In general, communication is the process of exchanging information between two objects to have a mutual understanding”, said Mr. Dung.


 Photo 3. Communication. Reproduced from (n.d.)

He then continued. “However, when it comes to advertising, it’s transformed into Commercial Communication – Communication for commercial purpose. It happens when a company communicates with a group of focused consumers to create changes in consumer’s mind and behaviors”.

Taking his point of view into account, I asked what it would be like when two companies ‘communicate’ for an ad campaign.

“It’s when the pitch comes in between.  Two organizations talk and work together for a solution that work best for both consumer’s and producer’s side.” It aims at the win-win situation between you, the agency and them – your client. If you win the pitch, you get the business and your client gets the solution for their problem / opportunity. Basically, it’s collaboration between experts from different industries (Nguyen 2013).

With his experiences in working with both account people and clients, Mr. Dung had shared me some tips on how to give an effective pitch that could win you the contract.

Understand client’s problem in-depth


Photo 4. Research, research, and research. Reproduced from (n.d.)

Right after you get your hands on the brief and right before you get your brain work hard for the big idea; research, observe or get out and talk to people to clearly understand your client and the main obstacles that your communication campaign can change (Nguyen 2013). Mr. Dung reminds me of a strategy suggested by Solomon (2008) that an account person should live the client’s brand. As soon as you start speaking your client’s language, you’ll start to feel the real problems and it’s easier to come up with a good work this way. Furthermore, by understanding your client’s directions, you can develop ideas that fit their demands.

The beginning of my interview with Mr.Dung was started off this way as he asked me what I expected to know from him.

Give an idea that stick

After you have a clear understanding of what your client is either consciously or unconsciously expecting to see, you should be thinking of a big idea that fits the requirements. However, an idea that follows an instruction is not enough. As written in Chip and Dan Heath’s ‘Made to Stick’ book, a qualified idea should deliver some of these characteristics: simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotions and stories.


Photo 5. Good idea. Reproduced from (n.d.)

Give rationale to support your idea


Photo 6. Rationale your decision. Reproduced from (n.d.)

An argument wouldn’t be valid if it’s not supported with a list of evidences. So does an idea. You can’t persuade the client how good your idea is without a full list of rationales. For example, there was one time when Mr. Dung decided to use testimonials for a television product. The TV brand targeted middle – income family with kids. The agency told the client they chose an engineer to be the main representative for the TVC and testimonials because he fitted the target audience’s background. In other words, while presenting your idea to your client, explain it in details and as clear as you can. You should be able to answer the question ‘Why are we doing what we are doing?’ to your client and make your answer appropriated (Nguyen 2013).

Surprise your client if possible           

One way to impress is to surprise. An agency should do more than what the client expects. (Nguyen 2013). This recommendation is similar to what Mr. Danny Vo has told us in his speech of Creative Leadership for our Client Management course’s video resources (Vo 2013). You can either give two to three alternative options for your core idea or make your concept big and bold enough to impress them. Personally, I think showing your client how deep you understand them can also create a great impact.


Photo 7. Surprise, surprise! Reproduced from (n.d.)

Finally, to wrap up our talk, Mr. Dung suggested that we should set a goal for our pitches. We can’t expect to sell the whole idea within a pitch. We can only prove that we are better than the competitors and we are the best creative house for this job. Don’t stress out yourself because the pitch final result can be influenced by many elements (Nguyen 2013). Not winning a pitch doesn’t mean you’re a loser; because the success of a pitch is about an agency getting client crystal-clear understands and agrees with the proposal.

Word Count: 1077


Craig 2011, ‘Understanding’, image,, 08 February, viewed 10 May 2013, <;.

Dcrn1104 n.d., ‘Ad Agency cartoon 1’, image,, viewed 12 May 2013, <;.

Dtkoanh 2012, ‘Good Idea’, image,, 25 July, viewed 11 May 2013, <;. n.d., ‘Surprise, surprise.’, image,, viewed 13 May 2013, <;.

Heath, C & D 2008, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Take Hold and Others Come Unstuck, Arrow Books, UK. n.d., ‘TriedToUseThisRationaleOnMyMomOnce-54146’, image,, viewed 11 May 2013, <;.

Solomon, R 2008, The art of client service, Kaplan Publishing, New York, USA.

Vo, D 2012, ‘Leadership & Management in Creative Industries’, guest lecture in COMM2384 Client Management, 20 November, RMIT University, Vietnam, viewed 07 May 2013, Blackboard@RMIT. n.d., ‘keyword-research-services-680×386’, image,, viewed 11 May 2013, <;.

Student: Vu Thi Minh Khanh

ID: s3275847

Is there a formula for a successful sales pitch?

So many questions have been made. So many books have written. So many pieces of research have been done. All try to find a magic formula for effective communication and a successful sales pitch.

Successful Sales Pitch

Communication is one of the most fundamental, complex and essential parts of everyday life. It’s the ability to communicate effectively that differentiates us from other creatures (Littlejohn & Foss 2008). Mastering the art of communication can give you a big advantage in many jobs, career prospects and other aspects of human life and sometimes make you world famous. Due to the great impact that communication has on our lives, it’s no wonder why this issue has gained so much attention from scholars.

A number of ‘recipes’ and ‘equations’ has been formed in order to help people improve their pitch. But is there really one? The communication process isn’t a static and simple thing. In contrast, it is too complex and variable to apply rigid formulas. However, the real impact of communication theories and models on improving sales pitches is not deniable in many circumstances. Therefore, besides studying formulas, it is always a can’t miss opportunity to hear some real experiences of making a successful sales pitch from practitioners in the field of client service providing.

Personally, I’m always curious about the effectiveness of sales pitch tips and formulas in real-life practice. And so in my quest for the truth, I met up Mr. Sang the other day to discuss this issue with him. Mr. Sang had a long time working experience as the Chief Liaison Officer for Celadon International – Vietnam’s leading international real estate development, marking and asset management group.

The interview with Mr. Tran Van Sang

Talking with him was a memorable experience. He is knowledgeable and straightforward person. After knowing the focus of this interview, Mr. Sang went straight to the point.

“When we mention the word communication, it comes to my mind that we’re trying to deliver a message from one person to another,” he says. “So it is very important to make the message that we want to deliver clear and simple (Tran 2012).”

As quick as a flash, it reminded me about a recent school lesson. Around 2007, the two bothers Chip and Dan Health wrote a book called “Made to stick”. It is a 336 page book that can surprisingly be summarized in a single word “SUCCESS” (Kiviat 2006). These are the first letters of 6 principles of how to leave your client with your “sticky idea” stick beyond the presentation. They are Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional and Story (Health & Health 2007).

Leaving me surprised by what he just said, Mr. Sang continued his turn, mentioning some other tips that he often uses while making a presentation.

“Begin your pitch with an ice breaking message,” Sang says. “You can tell a humorous story to attract people (Tran 2012).”

Finding two out of six principles of how to make your idea sticky in his words, I decided to bring the six principles of the Health brothers in the discussion. Although he has never heard the idea of “made to stick”, Mr. Sang agreed that the theory would probably work in reality. Then he added  other practical tips that the “Made to stick” failed to mention.

“You should speak loudly, slowly and clearly with intonation. This is to make your pitch interesting and awake the client (Tran 2012),” he smiles.

“Besides evidence to support your idea, your appearance can make your pitch more credible,” he advises. “You need to dress formally, nicely and professionally so that people can trust you (Tran 2012).”

Communication isn’t simple as it seems on static paper. So many exciting stories and experiences that Mr. Sang have had throughout his life-time working period still linger in my memory. However, the strongest impression to me is nothing but the way he answers questions from clients.

Hearing his stories, I remembered another formula that aims to help people improve their pitch and communicate effectively, the T.R.I.U.M.P.H.S model. In terms of answering questions from the client, the model advises us that we should not think that we need to answer the question immediately (Singer n.d.). Instead, if the question is too difficult, we should ask the client to give us some time to research and address their question later. However, Mr. Sang says that sometimes we cannot answer a question not because of our lack of research, knowledge or professionalism but because of the sensitivity of the question. This is the kind of question that you cannot avoid.

“You should not answer the question directly all the time,” he says. “You have to know how to answer the question indirectly (Tran 2012).”

These words sounded vague and generic to me for awhile. Then everything is shed light on by his story.

A few years ago while Celadon was trying to develop its hotel in Hue, the company faced a shortage of workers with high expertise in the local area. Mr. Sang contacted his old employee who was working for Furama Resort in Da Nang at that time. After some negotiation and persuasion, five employees of Furama Resort decided to move and work for Celadon Hotel in Hue. Then, in a later conference, a representative of Hue Tourism Association asked Mr. Sang.

“Do you think that it’s wrong for a hotel service management company to steal employees from another hotel, making the labor market unbalanced? (Tran 2012)”

“That’s why we hope that the Hue Tourism Association will provide more job training for local people in Hue (Tran 2012),” to that question Sang calmly answers.

He also said that sometimes there is a hidden message in the client’s question; therefore, we need to realize and make it straight to the point or the client will continue to chase us with endless questions. His advice reminded me that sometimes in high-context cultures like Vietnam, people tend to read between the lines. Things are not always expressed straightforwardly. Communication would become more effective if we are able to spot the hidden message from clients.

Despite the fact that communication theories and models such as “Made to stick” and “T.R.I.U.M.P.HS” are useful tools for that can help people enhance their presentations. However, client managers need to know that these “recipes” cannot be effective in all circumstances due to the complexity of the communication process. Also they need to be aware of factors such as context, culture, and listener while practicing communication. Ultimately, the most valuable lessons about communication would not come from the text book but real-life and workplace experiences.

Words: 1,110


Health, C & Health, D 2007, Made to stick: why some ideas survive while others die, 1st edn, Random House, New York.

Kiviat, B 2006, ‘Change Agents: Are You Sticky’, 29 October, viewed 04 September 2012, Time Magazine Business, <,9171,1552029-1,00.html>.

Littlejohn, SW & Foss, KA 2008, Theories of Human Communication, 9th edn, Thomson Higher Education, USA.

Singer, J n.d., ‘Consistently Outperform Your Sales Competitors’, Add Sales Triumphs Models to Your Selling Skill Repertoire, <>.

Tran S, 2012, interview, 28 August.

The Perfect Pitch

“A good proposal, and most other things, is about attractiveness – attractive appearance, attractive personality, and attractive presentation. That’s what makes an effective and successful pitch.”


This is what Ms. Nguyen Thi Bao Chau, a Business Development Manager of LuatViet Company shared. With much experience in the field, she has met with many agencies and decided which ones would be the best for her company. What persuaded her to make those decisions? Common knowledge would say the quality of an agency’s proposal, but that is just the final product of the working process. Essentially, it is the communication process that she evaluated. An effective pitch, therefore, shapes a client’s perception of an agency.  Let’s explore what they really think and expect from an agency by exploring several tips Ms. Chau has for agencies. Thus, by wearing the client hat, an agency could make the pitch more efficient and appropriate.

LuatViet Advocates and Solicitors is a law firm that provides lawyers, advisors and partners. Their services are generally about giving clients legal support from a wide range of professional and experienced staff.  As a Business Developing Manager, Ms. Chau’s tasks are to set marketing plans, organize events, arrange project launches, and of course, work with the agencies. Each year, LuatViet has a General Conference that invites lawyers not only around the nation but also globally. This annual event is very significant for the company so Ms. Chau’s role is very crucial. Thus, she has to work with many agencies to choose the best partner and proposal for the event.

Dan and Chip Heath proposed a method to make an idea stick in the audience’s mind. By saying stick, they meant making an idea easy to understand and remember so it could affect the listeners’ attitudes and behaviors afterwards (Heath & Heath 2007). This is a useful guide for anybody, not only agencies or business people, to apply in casual communication to send a message that would stick with the listeners beyond the conversation. However, a business pitch must not only change the clients’ behaviors but also satisfy their expectations and needs. Sticky ideas, unfortunately, cannot fully cover this aspect. Then, what are the expectations and needs that agencies have to accomplish? Are they stated in the contract or do clients naturally think that the agencies must know themselves? Ms. Chau, as a client, could reveal some missing points in the progress of generating an effective pitch.

“I wouldn’t want to work with someone that doesn’t develop themselves, from knowledge, personalities to appearance.”


First impressions are always the key to any lasting relationship. By the time an agency representative opens the door, walks in, and says “Hello” and sits down, their clients have already formed an initial impression. As the representative speak for the entire agency, it is essential they show the clients the agency’s values. Also, a comfortable and relaxing atmosphere for the pitch with the clients is necessary. Ms. Chau said that as a woman, she always dress up professionally attending a meeting with an agency and expects them to do so in return. Business meetings require professionalism, and dressing up neatly is something any agency representative needs to do. Ms. Chau added that agency representatives must not go to meetings without bringing anything. There have to be documents, presentation slides or anything that could visualize and summarize their ideas. This is to assist the client in having a clearer understanding of what the agency intend to present.

“I want to see what I need and expect to see from a pitch.”

In a pitch, clients are there to listen to what agencies have prepared and proposed so there will be much information and many ideas they have to absorb. Thus, they really want simplicity and clarity. As stated in Heath and Heath’s sticky ideas (2007), a pitch should be simple, concrete and unexpected. To clarify, the pitch needs to be straight to the point, concise and easy to understand. Sometimes, the client’s decision to choose an agency or not is already made during the pitch so the agency needs to make their pitch profound and clear. Also, they should show the clients that they are well-prepared and have back-up plans for any situations. Ms. Chau said that she appreciated agencies that put a lot of effort into coming up with ideas for a project. Clients always expect the best products from their agencies, and they want them to do it passionately (Ammani 2012). In most cases, the deciding factor in Ms. Chau’s judgment of an agency is their passion in working for her company.

“Be patient, we are not experts.”                                   


During the pitch, the agency’s role is to explain the big idea, key message, and the proposal in general to their client, so they can consider, make comments and decide. This means the pitch is very important for both sides to reach a final agreement. As stated above, the agency should present their ideas simply and clearly. However, sometimes they think it is easy to understand, but their client does not. Hotz, Ryans and Shanklin’s research (1982) also revealed most agency respondents believed their clients lack knowledge of advertising and marketing. This often leads to the agencies being arrogant and demanding. Ms. Chau opined that agencies should always be patient and willing to respond to their clients’ questions. Also, they need to sympathize with their clients and explain everything succinctly to them.


Advertising today is one of the most significant practices. In order to promote companies, services, brands and the like, every organization chooses this promotional tool to announce their existence as well as boost their values. However, there are so many advertising agencies out there, the representatives have to make their company a first choice of any company. Ms. Chau’s organization has their list of agencies, and her choice often depends on the first pitch of an agency and, later on, their proposal. Thus, it is significant to impress her – a client prioritizing by appearances, ideas delivery and patience – as an agency-to-be.

Ho Ngoc Khang Ninh –

Wordcount: 1003

Proof of life



Ammani, P 2012, ‘Friend or a foe – Understanding the client agency relationship in advertising agency’, Romanian Journal of Marketing, no. 1, p. 40-49.

Heath and Heath 2007, Made of Stick: Why some ideas survive and others die, 1st edn., Random house, NY, USA.

Hotz, MR, Ryans JK Jr. and Shanklin, WL 1982, ‘Agency/ Client Relationships as seen by influentials on both sides’, Journal of Advertising, vol. 11, no. 1, p. 37-44.

Photos of the networking events on 1st March 2012

Here come some of the pictures taken at the two networking events in Alibi Bar and Ly Club. Check ’em out and enjoy the moments, guys!

Special thanks to Mel C for being a great, great General of the RMIT army!





Networking for Beginners

In this age of connectivity and mobility, one would think that the youth of today were genetically engineered to conduct small talk (SMS style) and connect easily with strangers by virtue of their membership to what is known as Generation-Z, or to be more precise, Gen “V” for Vietnam. This assumption was confirmed, more or less last night 1st of March 2012 when I attended two networking events with my Professional Communication, Client Management students.

But no matter how amazing my students worked the room, they were behind from the get-go because unlike their classmate Luan and Huong, none of them came prepared with business cards! There were definitely some notes to be taken down as the night progressed as I have also been out of the networking loop for sometime since I’ve put on hold my work in industry, and so the process of writing this article comes as a welcome refresher course in the art of effective networking. Here are the top three observations and recommendations to improve future forays in networking.

BE FLUID. A networking event is a place of motion.  Good events are held in places where people can mingle and walk about. Unfortunately most venues in HCMC can be quite small. The first event we went to, the Vietnam Creative Circle (VCC) was in Alibi bar in District 1. It had a narrow hallway with two sets of couch areas to the right and a couple of tall tables with chairs on the other side. Indeed the place was cozy enough to have an intimate conversation with a stranger. One of my students Huong even commented days prior that she would rather go to this event because the place is ‘small’ (and had no entrance fee). But, when a bunch of RMIT VN students from Professional Communication, Design and Commerce are all trying to get an introduction with host Daniel Gordon Jones at the far end of the bar, things can be pretty tight… and messy. Needless to say, I left the other students whisked away my Prof. Comm. students to the second event organized by Vero Communication at the beautiful sprawling garden of Ly Club in District 3. Now that was a sight to behold! Despite the 100,000 VND entrance fee the venue was teeming with from my humble estimate, 200 guests from various industries!

LOOSE THE PACK. Did I say ‘a bunch of RMIT VN students’? Correction, I mean ‘an ARMY of students’! I believe in strength in numbers, sure we always teach team work in the classroom. But if you come to a networking event with a whole battalion, and actually stayed with them the whole time… you will not be able to meet new people. My sweet students kept on gravitating towards me like moths to light. And more than once I had to ‘shoo’ them away. My personal favorite? A segue… whilst talking to a new contact, a student came by to join the conversation, I would introduce them and, then make my excuse to fill-up my glass. Magic!

If you are new at networking, its good to have at least one friend to go around with. You can even help entertain each other when there are no other interesting prospects around. But keep it to one wing man. If you are by yourself, all the better! Try this, as soon as you enter the door… pick a spot in the middle of the room, preferably near the bar so you are in a good position to chat-up someone waiting for their drink to be served and also have a clear view of who is coming in. Work the room slowly, first with your eyes. Who is alone? Who is getting a lot of attention? Are the organizers of the event there? Pick a target. Then another, then another.

One thing that turns me off at networking events is that when people who already know each other simply talk to each other. At the first event, it seemed to me that the VCC was a ‘gentleman’s club’ and I mean that in the most respectful way. That, most of the people who go there are veterans of the Vietnam advertising industry and they already know each other and despite belonging to competing agencies they are good mates outside of work. I’ve been to a couple of VCC gatherings in the past when I was working in TV production and I did notice this pattern. It’s quite hard to strike up a conversation with the attendees because they tend to sit and chat around with just their inner circle. Hmmm… perhaps that’s why they call the group the creative ‘circle’? I would definitely think twice in going there again.

Another pack to loose? The backpack! Or big laptop bag. These items will just slow you down and get in the way of moving around freely… Again, think fluidity.

HIT OR MISS. Not all networking events will get you the right match, this is not a speed dating event. I have been to a few in my career and I can honestly say that I’ve had a 40% success rate. By this I mean, they contacted me… instead of me contacting them. Also, be sensitive to the fact that the conversation is two-way. Don’t always think about yourself. I want to keep this conversation going as long as I can because this person is a potential client, or potential employer, or he is really cute! Blah, bah, blah…

Remember that the network runs two ways. Maybe the person who you think is a possible contact does not see you as one. It will take some time to listen to conversation cues and decipher body language from someone to know that they are not interested in what you have to offer and that they are ready to move-on. Look out for these signs: looking away at other people, fiddling with the straw of their drink, nodding their head in a regular pattern, long awkward pauses or shifting from side to side, to name a few.

Take the hint, you need to walk away as well. The art of small talk is simply that… it is small, sweet and short. My advice? Keep it under ten minutes. If you see the person again at the event, just smile, don’t chat for long. You have his/her business card right? The next conversation should be an email, especially if this person is someone you really need to connect with again.

And in the spirit of keeping things short I hold out my hand to you and say adieu. ‘Till the next event…

~Mel C

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