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working towards great client service

Even when the odds are stacked against you, keep pitching.

Words by Ho Gia Thuy – s3357749

Under the scope of the communication industry, an excellent client manager handles excellent business relationships. “No matter what you do in a business-related career, you end up pitching something” (Steenburg quoted in Broberg 2012). While the whole execution plan is an expensive full meal, an ideal pitch is the appetizer that welcomes clients to order other dishes. When they keep asking what exactly it is that you are doing, you fail at the very first step (Solomon 2008). The crucial role of effective pitching accordingly cannot be underestimated since an uninteresting one hinders competitive advantages, collaboration prospects and investment opportunities.

I had a chance to interview Mr. Tai Nguyen, current Managing Director at HAT Communications – a small-sized local agency in the event services sector. At HAT, the account team consists of the busiest working bees. “They perceive pitches as nightmares, very terrible ones indeed”, Mr. Tai pointed out, “however since I accompany them to most client meetings lately, they gradually turn to love their jobs”. This man told me he utilized witty tricks, which can only be widely applied under careful supervision. “Once you follow my words improperly, you know the consequence. But I hope you can skillfully pull it off to get an impressive job title in your future career”.

IMG_1606(Thuy and Mr. Tai inside HAT meeting room, photo by the author 2013)

Headstarter: First Impressions

Pursuing the mom-and-pop business style cannot guarantee success. In the 90s or early 2000s, a pitch might win thanks to the utmost contribution of “big idea” (Steel 2006). “Now, the big idea is no longer the only core of the pitch,” said Mr. Tai, “the tipping point has turned to the first impression that clients had with the agency.” Especially when you bring up a new business team with fresh faces to nurture early relationships, it is when everything falls together before the pitch (Jaffe 2010). You then can feel proud as we get the chemistry right, and the win has started well.

Benefits > Features

While benefits and features and similarly important, the former should be enhanced and stressed on more often during the pitch. What you and your products can do, be it daring or legendary, clients do not really want to hear about that (Schultz & Doerr 2013). “Special features are only great when it is applicable to the case of your clients,” Mr. Tai implied, “you can flash your lights on unique selling points, but pretty please remember that clients only care about how the agency perfectly help them achieve their desired goal.” While it is good to tell that your service supports them in selling, it is better that you show them how to earn $200,000 more each year. A breathtaking feature without the smallest benefit, sadly, is nothing but a dead one (Laidlaw 2013).

An amount of Money spent = A Milestone reached

Money get the client’s potential attention fast. It is crucial that at the opening of your presentation you tell them whether your service help them save or make money. Then you will have to follow the idea by presenting figures after thorough research to “lead the prospect down your logic trail” (Martin 2012). Mr. Tai stated that clients usually have other concerns on whether to join forces with your agency, but nothing talks louder than budget discussions so you must be careful about it. You can also talk about how you will spend their precious money: get people to execute the plan, get people to help with risk management, or save for unexpected overheads, etc. Anyway, clients’ capital must be bucketed into specific categories that guarantee positive outcomes. When talking “money” with them, your role is to demonstrate how far they can reach (specific milestones) with each extracted amount of money.

Are you experienced in THEIR EYES?

To reap the benefits of big budgets, the first thing is not to compete on price (Klein 2013). Short-term projects along with micro-scaled partners may find small spendings appealing, however, marketing yourself on price is somewhat counter-intuitive to attract major brands. Mr. Tai insisted that key clients had already expected overhead expenses and extra times before discussing the project with us. “The way I see it, while a long list of proposals was quickly passed over because of expensiveness, a greater number of contracts was turned down as a result of low pricing and a mist of inexperience”, the man added.

The 2:1 golden ratio

Sometimes you will love to show off the breadth of your team by bringing a vanload of people in various positions (Mavity & Bayley 2009). That being said, “only key presenters are enough for a professional pitch”, Mr. Tai mentioned, “it’s time you played with those ‘less is more’ words. If you choose to outnumber your clients three to one, I honestly think you’d better walk yourself out of the door.” This man believes that the proper ratio is 2 agents to 1 client. In case an agent encounters a problem while speaking to a client, the other agent assigned to serve this client can handle the talk and keep the story continue. This way will make any client feel emotionally connected with the team and suppose that you are more than ready for their immediate feedback.

Who cares about leave-behind works? Clients.

Those little things matter. As a pitch usually consists of four to five agencies a day, clients may forget what was introduced after you are gone so it would be nice to leave a copy of everything for them to mull over. It can be in hard copy (a printout), or electronically (links to other micro-sites, emails, slide deck). Mr. Tai advised me to never be hesitated to ask clients about the soonest time that they get back to us after decisions making.

Celebrity endorsements: Treat or Trick?

When the interview came to the point of using celebrities as the main speaker of any pitch, Mr. Tai explained that any client manager must handle them with care. “Celebrities are fun. They get people listen to them because of their social status. However they normally don’t follow our scripts well. They’re easily carried away by little talks or side stories,” Mr. Tai gave some warnings, “They can help you get your contract on the table faster but can also make you look like a clown at the same time. I guess it all depends on how serious they are being a presenter”. Still, since not many people are thinking of endorsing celebrities during pitching sessions, you should study this method and see how to make it cool in front of your clients.

In a nutshell, simple tips that I have learned after a valuable interview with Mr. Tai can be summoned up as below:

Word count: 1112

 

References

Broberg, B 2012, ‘How to hook people with an effective pitch’, American City Business Journals, 20 January, viewed 3 September 2013, <http://www.bizjournals.com/bizjournals/how-to/marketing/2012/01/how-to-hook-people-with-an-effective.html?page=all>.

Jaffe, J 2010, Flip the funnel: how to use existing customers to gain new ones, Wiley, New Jersey.

Klein, K E 2013, ‘How to charge more than competitors’, Businessweek, 28 June, viewed 3 September 2013, <http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-06-28/how-to-charge-more-than-competitors>.

Laidlaw, G 2013, ‘Should you use features or benefits to sell your stuff’, Sitepoint, 2 May, viewed 3 September 2013, <http://www.sitepoint.com/should-you-use-features-or-benefits-to-sell-your-stuff/>.

Martin, T 2012, ‘Seven tips for pitching — from the client’s side of the table’, AdAge, 26 June, viewed 3 September 2013, <http://adage.com/article/small-agency-diary/helps-pitching-client-s-point-view/235576/>.

Mavity, R & Bayley, S 2009, Life’s a pitch: How to sell yourself and your brilliant ideas, Corgi, London.

Schultz, M & Doerr, J 2013, What sales winners do differently, RAIN Group, Massachusetts.

Solomon, R 2008, The art of client service, Kaplan Publishing, New York.

Steel, J 2006, Perfect pitch: the art of selling ideas and winning new business, Wiley, New Jersey.

Tai, N 2013, interview, 27 August.

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One thought on “Even when the odds are stacked against you, keep pitching.

  1. -I really enjoyed your visualizations.

    -THESE ARE DEBATABLE: “While it is good to tell that your service supports them in selling…” AND “leave a copy of everything…”

    -Hmmm the above tips are quite tricky promises to make. What is your personal opinion about it?

    -Overall great details discussed. Could use more specific examples from HAT experiences. And make the interview “quotes” the focus. Avoid always citing other resources before the interview subject quote.

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