Guest post by Patricia Gibney
A large, competitive agency search can be time-consuming and crazy-making for everyone. It helps when a search consultant is involved, but that happens less frequently in these days of tight budgets. Often the client is on its own — and frequently in unfamiliar territory. The result: agency teams don’t have the information they need, clients are overwhelmed, and the pitch is hit-or-miss.
Here are a few tips to tilt the balance in your favor.
Pose thoughtful questions. Always ask for a call with the prospect, and use it as a first step in demonstrating your qualifications. If the prospect can’t speak to you due to time constraints or concerns about a level playing field, ask for a blind call, where all interested firms participate, with no one identified. The prospect may appreciate your desire for quality information and see the benefit.
Be transparent. Frequently clients want to know where they will fit within your current roster. They’ll ask about billings, size, conflicts, market reach, etc. Don’t hedge. Be up front. In the end, putting your cards on the table may take you out of the game but will demonstrate your ethics – and may buy you another opportunity down the road.
Follow directions. In my years as a search consultant, I was astonished by how many firms colored outside the lines. One well-known advertising personality, famous for his on-camera appearances, made a point to flout every rule we set forth. Needless to say, he didn’t win the business.
Yes, you need to stand out, but you’re better off doing that in other ways. When a potential client requests information in a specific format, asks you to limit the team size, or is strict about internal access, be respectful and follow the rules. If you can’t honor simple requests, what kind of partner will you be when there’s a critical issue at hand? If you really have an issue with the request, call and discuss it. Most people are very understanding when there’s a good reason.
Why you? Many agencies focus so much on the creative presentation that they forget to hone their own elevator pitch. What are the two or three things that will really show why you’re the best choice? Set yourself apart here.
Don’t get hung up on chemistry. Easy to say. Not so easy to do. When creative is on target, you show an understanding of the business, and your qualifications are apparent, then chemistry takes care of itself. Focus on demonstrating why you can do the job better than anyone else. If you do, who wouldn’t want to hire you to do it?
Patricia Gibney is a communications professional and a former advertising and PR search consultant.