Published: Thursday 30th October 2014

Winning Hearts and Minds

The good news is that you’ve got your first date, so how do you create a frisson that will leave the client wanting more? After all, you’re looking for a longer- term commitment and they’re checking out whether you’re the one to commit to, so it’s a serious business.

So serious in fact that a chemistry meeting is effectively a pitch. There may not be a brief as such, but the deal is that you commit to it in the same way. That means the same application of thought, creativity and planning if you’re to progress to the next stage. It’s also about the fine art of balancing salesmanship with the need to be authentic, engaging and, ultimately, personable. After all, this is what chemistry is all about, an engagement of both the heart and the mind.

Five tips to help create the right chemistry:

1.  Research your attendees

With so much data available, it’s easy to build an extensive profile of the clients’ experience, previous agency relationships, published opinion pieces, profiles in trade and/or business press.

2. Field the right team

Your team should comprise people with relevant experience and ideally mirror theirs, taking into account seniority, skills, backgrounds and gender. As client procurement teams are more often than not key players in any pitch process, you may need to field your FD or equivalent. Obvious point but one worth making, treat all the clients as equals. You just never know who the key decision makers are.

3. Your credentials

This is about selling. Fact is, you are selling your story, your approach, your work, your successes. Make sure there is a good narrative flow, that case studies and testimonials are credible, that you include measures of effectiveness as well as awards celebrating creative excellence.

Of course clients are only really interested in how you can help them grow their business, and keep their reputations intact. So what you show should be self-selecting, set largely within the context of their business.

4. Be you

This is your chance to engage them with your story, so think about making it personal and authentic. If you’ve made it to the chemistry, they’ll no doubt believe you have the requisite skills for the job. If chemistry is largely about whether they’re going to like and enjoy working with you, they’ll need some insight into exactly who you are. This is where your culture comes into play.

Subtle things also count. How you interact as a team, whether you enjoy being together, listen to each other, create an interesting dynamic. You need to focus on your own team chemistry.

5. Insights and ideas

Providing insights into the issues facing the client’s market, sector and brand is where the majority of time should be spent. You won’t have a brief so you can’t have the answers, but you can test out ideas. You need to demonstrate that you have immersed yourselves in their business, affording you the opportunity to be thought provoking and laying the ground for discussion. This is where the first date naturally ends, progressing, chemistry permitting, to that next stage.

Janine Abrahams