Don't waste the opportunity: Securing client business when you're face-to-face

Charlie Spargo's picture

Josh Armstrong is New Business Director at Creativebrief. As an agency, when you're face-to-face with a client, here's what you need to do to get business over the line.

You might be coming to the end of a managed process, or you might have earned yourself a client meeting off the back of word-of-mouth. Whichever it is, sitting down with a client is serious stuff. 

So much goes before it. You got them to carve out the time in their diary; you fought your way onto the pitch list; your team have sweated night and day and are ready to knock their socks off. So, how do you avoid mucking it up?

This question might put some of your backs up. You might pride yourself on how you get new business over the line, on how you talk the talk in your client meetings. But this article is as much about those finishing touches to convince a client they’re making the right decision, as it is about dropping the showman act too. 

The below is our advice on how to secure client business through sincerity. That might sound a little kumbaya for you, but what brand-agency partnerships don’t need right now, and especially not at the outset of a relationship, is deception.

These are simple things that might seem obvious, but you’d be amazed how regularly we see agencies fail to put them into practice. They’re a result of our work with a substantial number of brands and agencies over the years from across disciplines, and can make all the difference once you’re in the room.

For all the razzle-dazzle that comes before it, so much rests on that final meeting. So we’ve outlined some of the most frequent successes, and mistakes, agencies make in the hope that next time you’re face-to-face with a client, you go in prepared and about to walk away with their business. You go in prepared and ready to work on that business together. 

1. Do your research

Brands value their history and all they’ve achieved. And you should too. Don’t wait for onboarding to do your research. Get ahead of the game and brush up on the things they care about.

Yes, you could be the future of their advertising, but you shouldn’t be dismissing the past. Get under the skin of the brand and learn about who they are, and who they want to be too. Understand their market and the key challenges they face. Because understanding them makes it that bit easier to convince the client you’re the right people to solve them. 

2. Lose the jargon - and listen!

Be sincere and don’t revert back to anything you’d tell just anyone. You didn’t recycle the work you submitted, so why would you recycle the spiel?

Tailor everything so they’re assured you’d go the extra mile for them. Don’t use up your time telling them what your agency is all about either; we’ve told them, and chances are they’ve done their research. Instead, open up a dialogue. Listen to them. A client recently fed back to us that they were turned off by the “agency chest beating” in a chemistry meeting.

Pride can be a great value to have, especially when you’ve worked hard - but you don’t win business on ego, and listening is as important as talking. 

3. Get the chemistry right

Brands aren’t mad about pitches. For them it can be an upheaval, and a process they’ve not gone through for several years. They want to have a long-lasting partnership, and why wouldn’t they? As an agency, you surely want the same.

So make sure you send the right team to a client meeting. If you have a meeting with five entrepreneurial 20-something female marketers, don’t send five middle-aged men to talk with them.

The ideas should never be in short supply at your agency and the same goes for your personnel. Clients are paying more and more attention to the diversity and culture of agencies, especially in this meeting. Take this as an opportunity to assure them there’s more to your agency than the strategy and the idea, that it’s about the people too. 

4. The same goes for your team

Team chemistry is far greater than ensuring you’re not missed off the next tea round. The way you work with your colleagues can convince a client that you’re the right team for them.

We recently had negative feedback from a client about the interactions they witnessed between senior agency people and more junior ones. They don’t want to see tension, fractures or confused faces. And they don’t want to see hierarchy. They want to see minds working together to create something exciting.

That doesn’t mean it has to be all in harmony; when is creativity ever harmonious? But it does mean put the egos aside and think about the best, most cohesive group of people to put a client at ease, and help them to focus on the important stuff. If you’re looking to get the chemistry right with them, make sure it’s right with you first.

5. Be collaborative

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that clients are out of ideas. Quite the opposite.

Marketers today are more knowledgeable than ever and certainly aren’t looking to be told what to do. Collaboration should be the tone of your meeting with them. By listening, learning and showing your willingness to work collaboratively, you will do more for yourself than strong-arming them to change the direction of their business.

Think about heritage. If a company was established 160 years ago, they won’t want someone to come in and raze their business to the ground. And think of more recent experiences too, showing your ability to listen and research. But rest assured, if you go into the meeting unwilling to change your ideas, you’ll be met with the exact same response.

6. Show them you want it

If you choose just one of these tips to take onboard, it’s this one. Show the client you want the business.

You’d be surprised by the number of clients who tell us they felt an agency just didn’t want their business enough. They know you work with other clients, so you should be prepared to show the client what specifically makes you want them. Your meeting should be infused with hunger and passion.

Don’t be sycophantic, but show them why you’re there. Your job as advertisers will be to convince hundreds of thousands of people about their brand. Show them you’re up to the task. 

A good meeting has the potential to change how your agency is perceived and to garner a reputation for being one of the most enthusiastic, personable, diverse and collaborative teams in the industry. Don’t waste it.