How to Drive Your Clients Crazy

On a recent Tuesday morning I met with an insurance company executive who had a gripe to share.

I told your competitor a month ago that I wanted a weather sponsorship without commercials. Just 5 seconds that says, “This weather report is brought to you by [name of the agency].” I didn’t want any commercials — just the mentions. He came back with a big package with a bunch of commercials. It’s like he didn’t even hear me. So I sent him away.

Two days later I heard a variation on that theme from a home improvement company owner:

We’re a franchise, and we’re required to use our home office for everything we do online. I’d love to run on your station, but all I need is TV ads. If you try to add your “digital package” [at this point she made air quotes with her fingers] I’m just going to make you take it out, so don’t waste my time or yours.

I told her it sounded like she’d been through this before.

“Oh, yeah,” she said, rolling her eyes. “I tell everyone who comes in that we’ve got online covered. It doesn’t matter what I tell ’em. All the radio people… and the TV people… and the newspaper people keep trying to push their ‘digital solutions’ on me. They don’t listen. Drives me crazy.”

salespeople who don't listen drive customers crazy

Photo by Innovated Captures/dpc

Are you listening when your client talks?

The best salespeople learn to negotiate with two separate parties to get a sale done: the client, and station management.

  • Your company may have a policy that “every pitch has to include digital.” Can you convince your manager to make an exception in an exceptional case? Don’t assume — try before you go back.
  • Maybe your standard weather sponsorship package always includes commercials. Is there a way around that? Find out — if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

On his company blog, Jim Doyle recently wrote about a very successful attorney he interviewed.

…this attorney talked about his impressions of sales reps over the 20 years he’d been advertising. He said, “The best were the ones who really paid attention to what I said and didn’t try to sell me stuff that didn’t fit with my target or challenges. The worst never seemed to ever pay attention to what I had told them was important in my business.”

I get it. Sometimes your management won’t budge, and you simply won’t be able to deliver exactly what the client asked for. What then?

Some AE’s are scared to deliver bad news. They just show up with their standard package and hope that the customer doesn’t remember what they asked for in the last meeting. Some don’t go back at all.

Both are losing strategies.

Your best approach is to deliver the news in person as quickly as you can, and openly acknowledge the discrepancy.

Look the client right in the eye and say, “I know exactly what you asked for last time. I heard you. Unfortunately, we can’t deliver it just that way — and believe me, I tried. Here’s how close we can get, and this is how you’ll benefit if you do it this way. I hope it’s close enough, because we want to earn your business. If it’s not, I’ll understand.”

Who knows? Maybe the customer will surprise you and agree.

Even if the answer’s no, you’ll preserve the relationship, and the client’s respect… as one of those rare salespeople who listens.

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3 thoughts on “How to Drive Your Clients Crazy

  1. Pretty simple common sense – glad to see you posting it Phil. A good reminder for us all. Let’s hope that a great number of advertising professionals find the time to read it! Regards, Todd

    • I would also like a great number of advertising professionals to read the article — feel free to pass it around!