Blair Enns: 12 Revolutionary Proclamations for Ad Agency New Business

blair enns win without pitching ad agency new business

How to win new business without pitching, reclaim control of client engagements and stop giving away your thinking for free. 

My friend, John Sharpe,  has spent nearly forty years in the ad agency business and the last twenty in business development exclusively. He is a personal friend and mentor with an impressive resume. So when John tells me that he has just read one of the most influential business development books in his lifetime, he had my attention. The book John recommended was, The Win Without Pitching Manifesto, written by Blair Enns. I immediately ordered a copy.

After finding the time to thoroughly digest its contents, I agree with John, this is an excellent book.  Business development is the lifeblood of any advertising agency and  this book should be a “must read” for every person in your firm.

The forces of the creative professions are aligned against the artist. These forces pressure him to give his work away for free as a means of proving his worthiness of the assignment. Clients demand it. Designers, art directors, writers and other creative professionals resign themselves against it. Trade associations are powerless against it. Consultants and outsourced business development firms earn their living perpetuating it. And conferences put the worst offenders from all sides on stage and have them preach about how to get better at it. Blair Enns

Blair is calling on agencies to once again reclaim the high ground in client relationships. He lays out a clear path on how to do it through 12 proclamations of a win without pitching firm.  This is a guide that will transform your agency and the way that you go about doing new business. 

Here are Blair’s 12 Proclamations:

  1. We Will Specialize:We must simply choose to take control, first by specializing and shifting power back from the client toward us, and then we begin to shape our future.”
  2. We Will Replace Presentations with Conversations: To be truly free of the pitch we must change the tone of these meetings with our prospective clients and move from the presenter/compiler role to that of the expert practitioner.
  3. We Will Diagnose Before We Prescribe: From here forward we will view the act of prescription without diagnosis for what it is: malpractice.
  4. We Will Rethink What It Means to Sale: We will seek out those that see a fit between their needs and our expertise and how are willing to let us lead the engagement.
  5. We Will Do With Words What We Used to Do With Paper: Let us be clear to our clients and ourselves: we are not in the proposal writing business.
  6. We Will Be Selective: When given a choice to operate from the position of power that comes with deep expertise or to pursue work outside that area for clients who will not allow him to lead, the expert will refuse.
  7. We Will Build Expertise Rapidly: We will build a culture of continuous learning by hiring for skill, by developing it through training, by empowering our people to form their own professional development plans that we will approve and fund, by holding them accountable to these plans, and, most importantly, by leading with our own example.
  8. We Will Not Solve Problems Before We Are Paid:  Our thinking is our highest value product; we will not part with it without appropriate compensation.
  9. We Will Address Issues of Money Early: We will resist putting ourselves in a position where we have overestimated in the buying cycle only to find the client cannot afford to pay us what we are worth.
  10. We Will Refuse to Work at a Loss: We will leave to our competition those clients that would neither bring us profit nor merit for charity.
  11. We Will Charge More: We will invite the client to tell us that he would prefer to work with a more affordable firm. 
  12. We Will Hold Our Heads High: We will seek respect above money, for only when we are respected as experts will we be paid the money we seek.

Blair challenges agencies to find the fortitude to make these hard decisions. They are doable and will transform the way agencies are currently dong new business.

About the Author

Blair is a business development advisor to creative firms worldwide. He and his family reside in Kaslo, British Columbia, Canada. He is a gifted writer. His book is beautifully written. You will find that it is not a typical business read.  You can tell that he spent a lot of time on each chapter, allowing the words to percolate overtime until they were just right. Rich, fresh, concise copy. In an attempt to descrive his writing to one of my agency friends, I told him that Blair is the Ernest Hemingway of business book authors. You will enjoy this book immensely.

Click on the following links to read the online free version of Blair’s book or to order the print version, “The Win Without Pitching Manifesto”

Follow Blair on Twitter

About Michael Gass

Consultant | Trainer | Author | Speaker

Since 2007, he has been pioneering the use of social media, inbound and content marketing strategies specifically for agency new business.

He is the founder of Fuel Lines Business Development, LLC, a firm which provides business development training and consulting services to advertising, digital, media and PR agencies.


  1. Reblogged this on BULLETFAME.

  2. “We will invite the client to tell us that he would prefer to work with a more affordable firm”…Does this sum it up or what!! Seeking high quality clients only please….
    I have followed Blairs work…I need to see him speak.

    Chris Wilson

  3. Chris, His next THE WIN WITHOUT PITCHING WAY seminar is 12 June 2012 | Chicago, IL ps://

  4. Craig Lindberg says:

    If all agencies practiced this, allied in support of these ideals the industry would be a much more profitable space. Clients though I suspect are even more perplexed on how to buy services today making it tempting to the legions of marketing and creative service providers practicing inbound to provide a mushrooming supply for them to tap. Supply exceeds demand for now but I think that gap is closing. Maybe the time is approaching for Blair’s manifesto to find fertile ground.

  5. Sam James says:

    There will always be pitching. I tried to champion ‘paid for pitching’ when I ran quite a large London agency in 1990. No one was interested or brave enough to give support. So, let’s keep giving away our best ideas for nothing. Why not!!!

  6. douglasburdett says:

    One of the highlights of my summer was reading Blair’s book on the flight to attend Inbound in Boston, seeing him present at the conference and then meeting him when he signed my copy of his book. Agency owners should read The Win Without Pitching Manifesto. And then read it again.

  7. Douglas, I left my copy of Blair’s book on a flight!

  8. Creatives are the weakest when it comes charging a premium for their professional services. I’ve always wondered why they can’t tackle this problem. Until I read Blair Enns book, I never understood what it meant to sell. I knew something was fundamentally wrong with the way they sell – something was out of place. Why do other professionals – doctors, lawyers, engineers – get so well paid for what they do? I mean even for an average practicing doctor the pay tends to be better compared to what an entry level creative earns. Obviously, creatives place no real value on what they do hence their giving away their thinking for free. I know of a few professionals in my country who charge highly for what they do and that because they’ve positioned themselves as experts at what they do.

    The client will treat no better than you treat yourself.

  9. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


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