Chemistry Ignites the Agency – Client Relationship

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All other things being equal, “chemistry” between a business prospect and the prospective public relations agency account team is very often the difference between winning the business and coming in second.

Think back to that time — I’m sure there were several — when you and your excited account team walked into a prospect’s conference room only to be met by poker-faced business people who backed up their expressionless faces by skipping informality.

Now think back: how did the pitch go? How difficult did the prospect make it for your team to be at ease so that they could put on their best show? How hard did the prospect work to make sure they were in control vs. working hard to communicate that they were equally excited and had been looking forward to the meeting?

Did you win that business? Did you even want that business? Could you do your best work for that client?

As experienced agency executives know, the chemistry — or lack thereof — that happens during that first encounter with a prospect is often indicative of what the “working” client-agency relationship will be like. Chances are good the agency will be treated like a supplier and not a partner.

Now think back to the other time — and I know there were many — when you and your excited account team walked into a prospect’s conference room and were met by equally eager business people who warmly greeted you with smiles, hearty handshakes, and an appreciation of the hard work the agency invested in the opportunity.

How did that pitch go? How much more at ease were the junior members of your team made to feel by the prospect’s genuine interest in their background, their relevant experience, and their ideas for the program? If they had a sense of humor, if they asked questions to better understand your ideas vs. to put you on your heels, if they wanted to know a little about your personal life too, well, I bet you thought that pitch went pretty well.

Perhaps you didn’t win that particular piece of business. But I imagine the idea of working with that prospect was appealing. It was business you wanted.

All great agencies will pull all the stops for the opportunity to earn a prospect’s business. If it’s worth chasing, then it’s worth doing everything possible to win it. Otherwise, why bother?

If you read David Kean’s “How Not to Come in Second,” published in 2006 but timeless in its teachings, then you know about his eight ingredients for pitching: be organized, know your audience, solve the problem, price properly, deliver a great presentation, generate unstoppable momentum, and demand feedback (win or lose).

Take a leap with me for a moment and assume all great agencies, whether they be disciples of Kean’s teachings or not, have a methodology for not coming in second. Assume for a moment that a prospect is meeting with three great agencies. During the pitch phase, each agency demonstrates proven, relevant experience; the ability to generate breakthrough awareness levels; creative program ideas; and the ability to be an excellent business partner.

Wow, tough decision for the prospect, but a good problem to have. So how does the prospect ultimately decide on a new agency in this situation?

Chemistry.

Who does the prospect want to work with day-in, day-out? In good times and when times get tough? Who does the prospect want to celebrate victorious campaigns with? Or re-build with following a crisis?

Chemistry is about a special connection between account team and client. Typically, that connection is obvious — if it’s there — during the very first meeting. It’s intuitive.

The importance of chemistry can’t be underestimated when it comes to selecting a business partner and cultivating a relationship that maximizes value for both parties. C.G. Jung said, “The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.”

I’d be interested in hearing what role you think chemistry plays in a business partnership.

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