(By Charlie Sislen) Agencies frequently control a great deal of a sales person’s success or failure. These transactional dollars can make or break your month, quarter, and most importantly your year. While agencies may wield some of this power, they are not invincible.
Let us remember that their role is to take a pile of someone else’s money and spend it on their behalf. The advertiser believes that this “expert” has more time, knowledge, and resources to spend their money more effectively. Sometimes this is true; other times, maybe not.
In this day and age, many agency buyers are overworked and stretched thin. The request, “I don’t have time for a pitch, just send me your schedule and rates” has become all too common. That is unfortunate for both the advertiser and the creative advertising outlet that may have the right plan for the account.
One obvious way around this it to pre-sell the value of your offering. However, some buyers never (and I mean never) have time to meet.
Therefore, price and perception may be all you can go on.
So what happens when the buyer says you are not on the buy?
First ask yourself, “Is my offering or my audience right for this advertiser?” If the answer is yes, then it is time to take action.
Remember, it is the advertiser’s money and not the buyer’s or agency’s. Determine if you have a strong enough position to go directly to the client. Realize that going around the agency and directly to the account can impact your relationship with that agency. Is it worth it? You can always ask permission to talk to the client, but you risk being shut down if they say “No!”
Ideally, you already have a relationship with the advertiser. If not, which is unfortunately typical, you cannot sound like a sales rep whining about being left off a buy. For sure, if you haven’t taken the time to nurture such a relationship, it is unlikely that you will get an appointment.
So, what do you do? Start by building a compelling case why your idea is right for the advertiser. The first step is to prepare a quick elevator pitch. It needs to be clear, concise, and convincing. And it needs to be ready to respond to any resistance. In your first contact the advertiser will likely tell you: “I have an agency. Deal with them. That is what I pay them for.” Do not throw the agency under the bus. Instead, explain that while you would be happy to work through the agency, you’ve found that you can build a more impactful campaign by getting to know the client directly and understanding their needs and goals. Make it about them.
If you get the next meeting, build a killer presentation. Do as much research about the account as possible, and ask questions.
Is there a risk by going directly to the client? Yes. However, great selling can make it worth it.
Charlie Sislen is a partner at Research Director, Inc. He can be reached at 410-956-0363 or by e-mail at [email protected]