Friday, July 11, 2008

Client Service And Conversation

While conversation is a common word to describe blogging, it's every bit as important when it comes to presenting your capabilities to a prospective client. What's more, it's a prospect predictor to who you are and the kind of client service you'll provide.

Having been on the client side, let me just say there's nothing more insufferable for a prospect than sitting through a 40+ slide PowerPoint presentation about agency capabilities. I especially liked being talked AT for 40 minutes and told to hold all questions until the end, so as not to disrupt the flow of the presentation. As if there actually were a flow.

Here are ten tips for your next agency capabilities presentation:

1. It's the prospect's meeting, not yours. You're there only to impart information that's relevant to them, not to expound upon what fascinates you about your own firm.

2. Engage in an actual conversation. Toss the PowerPoint. (Or if you can't help yourself, at least minimize it). Get to know one another. Everyone thinks capabilities are about qualifications. Maybe it's actually about capabilities. Are you capable of being fun, likable, smart, funny, human, etc.? Would I want to spend two hours with you in a car? Or would I likely jump out of the moving vehicle?

3. See to it that everyone in the room is well prepared about the prospect as well as its competitors, industry trends, etc.

4. Illustrate, don't explain. Tell interesting (short) anecdotes to make your point.

5. Show rather than tell. If you want someone to think you're creative, actually BE creative in every aspect of what you do rather simply list it in Times Roman as some kind of core agency strength.

6. Structure your presentation/conversation not in terms of what you want to TELL them, but in terms of the take-aways. Think of it in the bigger picture as it relates to the two or three conclusions you want the prospect to reach about you.

7. Ask great questions. In my mind, he/she who asks the best questions will make it to the next round every time.

8. Use the time to carefully evaluate the prospect in terms of whether it's a good fit for you.

9. Be yourselves, otherwise you'll never really know.

10. If you think it will be a good fit, then go after this prospect with a smart follow-up strategy - something specific to your meeting and designed to advance the relationship.

Let me know how it goes!

7 comments:

  1. Great advice, Leo. Thanks for sharing this!

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  2. Glad you found it helpful! Now you can "share it forward." If we're successful at spreading the word, we have a shot at eliminating the insufferably boring/self indulgent agency capabilities presentation from the face of the earth.

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  3. Implicit in a lot of your points is something that I believe should be stated explicitely - LISTEN. Don't just ask questions, but listen to the answers. People like to talk about themselves - so giving the client a chance to input helps in gaining rapport and makes you more likeable. It also enables you to be flexible (which the 40+ PP slides do not) and adapt your presentation to address the issues the client highlights if you give them a chance to talk too. Nice post.

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  4. Heather, thanks for weighing in. I couldn't agree more. The most important aspect of setting up a dialogue versus talking AT your audience is the listening part. Not only to give the impression that you're listening, but to actually BE listening with your ears, eyes and heart and gaining important insights for the future. Implied maybe, but to your point it should have been stated directly.

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  5. Leo, I think you've overly complicated things. Your #2 is the only thing that matters: chemistry, chemistry, chemistry. Now achieving chemistry is the challenge. How many times have you seen someone drone on and on and on with their PowerPoint pitch, oblivious to the fact that they were losing the audience? Key to achieving the chemistry: understand your audience as much as you can going in, and then read and react. In this Internet era, it's inexcusable not to have a great dossier on the people you're meeting with. Be prepared. And then react in the moment. If something's gaining traction, stick with it.

    And be bold. At the end of the day, all of the pitches sound alike. Once they decide they like you, they're going to ask themselves "but do they offer us anything." They want you to win. Make sure you've given them enough to validate their chemistry.

    All else being equal, though, I've been chemistry trump ideas every time. You don't have to choose...but chemistry, chemistry, chemistry.

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  6. Thanks Jonathan! I could have titled the post "Conversation And Chemistry" which certainly would have been appropriate. I think the points offer clarity as to how to allow some level of chemistry to happen. To your point, if the client wouldn't want to spend two hours with you in a car, you stand little chance of winning the business - good ideas notwithstanding.

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  7. Ampatzis PanagiotisJuly 14, 2008 at 2:42 PM

    That's amazing info. Thanks for the advice. These will be my guidelines for my presentations from now on!

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