Zen, motorcycle maintenance and agency new business

So, a few days ago you might have read a post that helps solve the new business problem no one likes to talk about. The post lays out a few common problems agencies have when they pitch and then briefly discusses one fix.

What you didn’t read there is a phrase that came up in my noggin. The phrase was: “practice Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance.”

What, exactly, does this mean?
It’s from a classic book. Yours truly first heard it back in the day, when I worked in new business in the Chicago office of what was then Foote, Cone & Belding (FCB). I interpreted it to mean “enjoy the ride.” Not bad advice in new business, right? After all, you ain’t gonna win all the time. So, you might as well enjoy the experience of pitching. Realizing that over time, if you pay attention and learn from your mistakes, you’ll get better.

But you know what? That only seems to cover one aspect of the book. The motorcycle maintenance part. What about the “zen?”

Per Wikipedia and Amazon, the book was published in 1974 and tells the story of a father-son summer motorcycle trip. Here’s a nice bit from Wikipedia description: “With this, the book details two types of personalities: those who are interested mostly in gestalts (romantic viewpoints, such as Zen, focused on being “In the moment”, and not on rational analysis), and those who seek to know the details, understand the inner workings, and master the mechanics (classic viewpoints with application of rational analysis, vis-a-vis motorcycle maintenance) and so on.”

So, what about this zen bit?

And how does it relate to being billable?

With a little imagination, a few pieces of advice emerge you can apply to your next new business pitch:

Cut your presentation in half. Identify the small handful of reasons you should be the prospect’s new agency and stick to those. Advice you read a few days ago can be seen in a new light when you think about this phrase. Meaning, it’s all fine and good to have a process, brief or roadmap to pitch. Just don’t lose focus of the big messages that will convince the prospect you are the right choice.

It’s not your zen. It’s the prospect’s.
While you may think I am sitting cross-legged on a yoga mat, wearing a robe, chanting these words… I am, in fact, cranking out a few hundred for you. Getting it done, quickly, so I can get back to getting paid to think about new business for billable clients. My zen is early retirement, on a beach, with an umbrella drink. But who cares, really? While yours and my “zen” is terrific and all, let’s not forget it doesn’t matter nearly as much as your prospect’s.

Zen and asking why
Some might see zen as understanding a bigger picture and being mindful of it. In a pitch, this can mean continuing to ask a simple, one-word question…”why?” This method of laddering up can identify emotional insights that can lead to winning pitches.

Surely there are more. But my legs are getting stiff sitting in this lotus position! Thanks for your time. Hope it helped.