Does Your Advertising Agency Use Interpersonal Chemistry To Win New Business?

Interpersonal Chemistry Is A Critical Factor In Winning New Advertising Accounts

So, you want to win that new account for your advertising agency. A critical factor to get to GO is to build interpersonal chemistry between you and your prospective client. Here are some insights from my book on pitching and an interview with a leader in building relationships with the right people whether they are prospective new clients or your own colleagues (which is a good thing when you are pitching).

You Probably Look Like The Next Agency

Chances are good that you will be up against look-alike agencies. You all probably share similar attributes, skills, and histories. You might even be wearing the same Armani suit or Tory Burch shoes or, today, tee-shirt.

Because of this, the ultimate selection factor is often based on personal vibes. The client wants to feel comfortable with and inspired by the agency’s culture and people. They are looking for a dedicated partner who will care as much about their business as they do. They want a confident agency that looks, acts, and feels right.

I can’t stress the chemistry thing enough. Here is what Avidan Strategies’ 2012 survey of agency search consultants revealed:

“Practically every consultant, or 96% of the sample, pointed to “chemistry” as the key factor for winning. But what exactly is chemistry? Generally speaking, it is simpatico between the client and agency teams.”

 So while you are thinking about how to express your agency’s core skills and style, remember that how you express who you are could be the make or break part of your pitch. I’ll talk more about chemistry later. But it is imperative that you keep personal chemistry in mind as you start to think through what this client really wants.

Here’s an interview with a chemistry specialist. Debra Weekley knows her stuff having honed it at Nike, Wieden+Kennedy and Saatchi and Saatchi, where we worked together.

The Chemistry Interview:

Debra Weekley – Principle at Connectivenrgy, LLC

Debra Weekley’s career includes Fortune 500 account management at Wieden+Kennedy and Saatchi & Saatchi. After her agency career, she took that time-honored leap to the client side and served in marketing and human resources leadership positions at Nike.

Debra’s Connectivenergy helps creative and entrepreneurial companies better connect as a team, with their markets, and deliver their best work. A consistent thread throughout her work is insightful, thoughtful, and creative facilitation. Her focus is on personal, interpersonal, team, and leadership development. One of her passions is helping younger professionals navigate this very competitive marketplace, as they become managers and leaders.

Read on. Debra will help you win more new accounts.

PL: How do you define personal chemistry?

 Debra: Personal chemistry is magical and a bit scientific. Magically, there are people with whom I immediately feel a strong attraction, common bond and make me want to jump right into deep engagement: they ‘get me,’ I ‘get them’. It’s memorable, immediate, and profound. Overtime, an important trust develops. Research shows that establishing similarity between people is a critical component of chemistry. A few other core components are mutual trust, empathy, being non-judgmental, and effortless communication. If the goal is to develop lasting partnerships, it is important to go even further. Feeling understood is an essential piece of establishing good relationships.

This is true in new business pitches where the agency has to demonstrate that they are strategically aligned with the client.

PL: How can chemistry between groups be managed or even rehearsed ahead of a presentation? 

Debra: Chemistry happens when people are attracted to one another. Usually, it’s because the other person or team provides something vital for them around something very important. Group chemistry, or group cohesion, happens when a varied group of people works together and make a united effort to accomplish the goals and objectives of the collective whole, like meeting specific marketing objectives. I think diversity a group is healthy and vital. Diversity, by definition, involves people of very different backgrounds, ways of thinking, and preferences in communications. Once this diversity is aligned towards a common cause (like memorable work on behalf of a client), chemistry kicks in.

Establishing group chemistry can be both learned and improved with clear communication and practice.

PL: Is there a way for an agency pitch team to act as a unit or will agencies always be dependent on the power of a charismatic leader like a Dan Wieden?

Debra: I think the best “unit” usually wins. This team has thoughtfully crafted an approach and smart options that show depth, breadth, and unique connection with the consumer. Most agencies have some sort of media-darling CEO, Star or spokesperson, but it’s the team that usually wins the pitch. I’ve often been in a situation where the Star can take a pitch to the point where the client is highly interested, but the client then engages with the rest of the team to find out if the initial love fest is sustainable through media planning, production, and even financial systems.

Dan Wieden is smart, skilled, and powerful with potential clients, and he works well in a team. At W+K we always agreed to our specific roles before pitches and picked our teams to best align with ‘what’ we knew about our potential clients. We were very careful to not trot out people, agency super stars, that the client would never see again. Besides Dan’s prescient, thoughtful brain, I think his biggest gift is his amazing listening skill. He listens and actually cares what a client, a market, or a community is REALLY saying. Having the agency CEO really listen inspires trust. Then, Dan can deliver his magic.

PL: Are there tools or exercises that an agency team can use to build their chemistry?

Debra: Yes, although it’s important to note that most off-the-shelf tools are designed to work with big corporations, because that’s where all the money is. I finally found one that works for smaller creative groups while I was at Nike. It’s an effectiveness system called Insights Discovery. It’s based on Jungian psychology and connects well with creative teams because it’s very visual, fun, and memorable… like many ads I know.

Agency chemistry is also very important. From my days as a client, I can tell you that it’s quite apparent when a team doesn’t have it’s own chemistry: you don’t want to buy people who don’t respect each other’s differences and don’t trust one another. Agencies are paid to have healthy team dynamics. The pitch must demonstrate this.

PL: How can an agency find the chemistry hot-buttons in a client organization?

Debra: The first thing to do is to ensure that all agency members really, really know themselves: their key value to the team, strengths, weaknesses, and communications preferences. Once people understand themselves, they can better identify when their own personal ‘lens’ might be getting in the way of a potential client connection.

PL: Can big-brained but introverted Creative people ever become compelling presenters?

Debra: Never try to change big-brained introverted Creative professionals. Their ability to listen, ponder the between-the-lines meaning, and then concoct a creative solution to a “boring” brief is powerful.

What you can do is take them (and other team members surrounding the Creative Director) through a training program so all learn how to better connect and adapt to someone who isn’t like them. Some of the best account managers I’ve known have been very Creative people who mastered the ability to connect and adapt their own style to the client and/or situation. Learning how to connect and adapt isn’t always easy and requires practice. This needs to be done well ahead of the pressure that comes from an imminent pitch.

Want More Ways to Win?

Go here for a sample: Buy this book. Win more pitches.


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