Specialize in success: The Win Without Pitching Manifesto

In the age of the internet and globalism, there is so much information, so much expertise, and so much competition that standing out from the crowd can seem an impossibly daunting task. For creatives and knowledge workers this is particularly true. Success is differentiation. The Win Without Pitching Manifesto by Blair Enns is a modern classic on how to achieve such differentiation and sell your skills for what they are worth.

The Win Without Pitching Manifesto has acquired a devout following in the decade since it was first published in 2010. Written in a short, provocative style, Enns lays out twelve proclamations from “We Will Specialize” to “We Will Rethink What It Means to Sell” to “We Will Charge More.” It is quite a short book, not even 150 pages, but there’s a lot of material packed into it, and it has justly acquired classic status.

Enns has a background as a designer, and the book’s twelve proclamations are geared primarily towards designers and creatives, but could really be extended more broadly to anyone who trades in ideas, advice, or creative solutions. The key idea in the book is that the key to success lies in specialization.

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of firms out there that offer full-market service. If, as a generalist, you are competing with a plethora of other, better funded, generalists, all the balls are in the client’s court. You have to exert immense amounts of energy trying to persuade a client to choose your services. Worse still, you have to “pitch” to get business. Enns defines pitching as the “attempt to sell or win approval for one’s ideas by giving them away for free, usually within a competitive, buyer-driven process.”

This propensity to spend inordinate amounts of time undercutting the value of your own abilities in the pursuit of business is the chief problem that the book addresses. The first step in breaking free is to specialize. Nobody can be the best at everything. But with laser-like focus, you can certainly be the best at one particular niche service or corner of the market.

Once you specialize, you can assume the posture of an expert. And this changes the whole dynamic. Now, you don’t pitch to win people over. You, the expert, work with them to determine whether your particular skill set fits with the client’s particular needs. Conversations and relationship-building replace presentations. Diagnostic work replaces throwing ideas against wall. Enns frequently uses the analogy of doctors and lawyers. They are right sought after for their expert-level knowledge. They are not treated as disposable.

Everything else builds around this core of differentiation through expertise. Manifest expert-level skills allow you to charge expert-level prices. Four of the books twelve proclamations focus explicitly on questions of pricing and are full of actionable advice.

The Win Without Pitching Manifesto is simply one of the best books of its kind out there. The self-confident and expertise-focused philosophy presented in the book has applications in any situation where you find yourself selling your own knowledge and abilities.

The Win Without Pitching Manifesto is available for purchase here.

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