It is often hard to get honest feedback from a prospect after a chemistry meeting or a phone interview when the decision didn’t go your way. We hear things like; you have a great agency but, it was so close, you were very good, we decided to go a different way, you just didn’t have what we were looking for, and so on. It's like Valentine hearts – meaningless words with no substance.
Marketers make decisions about you, and you don’t know why. They don’t realize or don’t care that you just put your heart, soul, hours and staff into presenting your agency, and all you get is empty praise. You might think you know what didn’t connect or where things went astray, but it’s only conjecture.
As a business development professional, I strive to get brutally honest, blunt and personal feedback after every “close second.” There is no better way to learn, correct and grow. But it’s frustrating when marketers won’t be truthful and it hurts everyone in the process. An investment in the pursuit of new business pays off when you win, but if you don’t, you need to get something meaningful and actionable for the time and money.
I thought if they aren’t going to tell me after the meeting maybe they will tell me under a cloak of anonymity. I just completed a survey of over 150 marketers representing companies small to large and brands in both B2B and B2C industries. I asked them to give one piece of advice to make that first meeting a success.
Here are some of the best pieces of advice from your future client:
“Always be honest and professional.”
“Be yourself. Be bold. Don't bore us with process or your culture; both are important to your operations and talent recruitment but not that interesting to clients.”
“Know our company, our products and our current audience.....then tell us how you will reach new customers.”
“Demonstrate your advantages over your competitors.”
“Do your research before we meet. To come in completely "cold" shows me you are not a serious candidate.”
“Please don't tout your awards - most clients do not care about your accolades. They care about the results you've helped your clients with.”
“Tell me how you're going to help us achieve our goals, what you're going to do to work smarter and help us drive down costs while exceeding our expectations. In other words, we want to hear from you answers to the same questions our customers are constantly asking us.”
“Show me that you are creative, flexible and eager. Pay attention to the RFP and follow directions.”
“Research the business as much as possible beforehand. Don't insult what's been done before.”
“Be bold, be smart and be passionate. Within a few minutes, you can tell if an agency just wants more business or truly believes in their work and how it can help a client.“
“Document as many industry insights and success stories as possible. Always be cultivating some really great creative/campaign concepts that can be pulled out and tweaked to pitch a new client.”
“Know the culture of company, and audit the brands that make up that company and culture.”
“Don't start with a "sell". Demonstrate you know a bit about me/my company and think long-term. Relationships first. Be realistic and that these relationships take time to change and there has to be a compelling reason to do so.”
“Don't bait and switch with top executives in the pitch and replace with a junior level team when awarded the business.”
“Be ready to show me what you can bring to the table and why you are differentiated from the other agencies we already work with.“
“Be careful not to act as though you know more about my industry/brand than I do - you don't, and you don't need to.”
“Do your research on the organization you are presenting to. Understand their brands and the dynamics around their brands.”
“Tell me how philosophically, and in practice, you would handle the entire consumer experience. You might not execute every element, but how invested are you strategically in having clients get to that nirvana answer/place?”
How do you get meaningful feedback? I would enjoy hearing your thoughts and experiences. I’ll be posting more insights from the research so stay tuned. The more we share and collaborate, the smarter and more successful we will all be. After all, new business is the future of your agency. #LetsGrow!
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