Try to see it my way. We can work it out.

The art of conversation is becoming underrated in new business today – which is great news for some of you who still value it.

I often sing this song in my head before a sales meeting.  It reminds me I need to see it their way first.  Then and only then perhaps we can work it out.

You should find yourself saying ‘we can work it out, can’t we?” a lot in new business.  They have a problem after all, right?  If it was easy to solve they’d have solved it already with their current agency maybe or internally.

So to see the problem their way – you need to ask questions. I think must people in new business get that. Problem is you all sound the same asking the same old questions.  Good questions get to the heart of the problem not skirt around it.

Let’s deal with it head on – they are trying to find an agency that wasn’t like the last one. Agreed? Isn’t that what they are trying to do?  Bring it up I say. Bring it up early.  You’ve just bought some credibility I think.  You just said I now what you have to do. I understand your role.

And how are they going to do this search?

Well, chances are they will do some combination of RFI, RFP, chemistry / tissue meetings, creds meetings and pitches?   Agreed? That’s what it looks like to me anyway.  But isn’t this how they choose their last agency, give or take? The one that’s now defunct. The one that they are giving the old heave ho to. The elbowed one?  The one they sent the Dear John letter to citing a break down in the relationship? Not that one surely? I’d bring that up if I was in your shoes Mister New Business person.

Isn’t it a part of your role to stop marketers making mistakes that are career limiting?  Do it sincerely and not like you are trying to get your rocks off by showing them up. But by asking if it makes sense to them? Or why wouldn’t the same mistakes happen again?

“Considering you most likely used these methods to pick an agency last time what makes you think it we will work out better this time?”

Isn’t that better than asking – how many people are you giving the RFI to or how many are pitching?  Suppose the answer you get are too high you know 6 or 7 etc – then you’re out right?  How about staying in the game and saying the whole process is questionable?

Let’s go further – How about asking “When I find myself in this situation where I am considering pitching I always remind myself of that last time I did and remember that the marketer I am talking to usually has a favourite agency he’d like to appoint but is forced to pitch by procurement to gauge market prices – is that what is happening here?”…”What stops you just appointing your favourite agency based on their previous work, how they understand you and of course chemistry?”

At some stage they’ll tell you it is process that makes them behave this way.  But if we have already shown the process is at best fallible and at its worse the road to insanity.  “And what happens if you end up here again in less than two years or will you be gone by then?”

However, maybe, just maybe, we can work it out? Life is very short for fussing and fighting my friends.  No need to fight but lets at least be straight with each other.


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Is this what your new business programme looks like?


New Business Programme-1Is this what your new business programme looks like, give or take?

Quite crammed isn’t it, wouldn’t you say like, quite crammed isn’t it. Quite crammed I say, what do you reckon now? Crammed? I’d say it was.

So where should you spending you new business budget?

Maybe you should look at where most of your new business comes from instead of guessing.

Or doing activities because other agencies are.

Approx –  85%% of agency business comes from referrals, that’s the green stuff in the mind-map.

Yet agencies spend most their time and resources on the other colours. They still have value by the way but evidence show that they are less successful than getting referrals.

Anyway at least you’re busy, right. Nothing like being busy is there.

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The Homer Simpson loop for (agency) new business people

I heard it said on linked-in last week that the demand for new business people is about to rocket, it was on linked-in so it must be true right?  Oh and a recruiter said it too, let that be proof if proof be need be.

What I wonder is will the agencies looking for yet another new business person make the same mistakes as last time?  Of course some will say “what mistake?” We don’t make mistakes here, how very dare you Jim.

Well, did you or did you not employ a new business person in the past for about 9 to 12 months then have to ‘let them go” because results were not forthcoming?  Yes, yes you did.

And nothing unusual in that at all is there? It’s the norm in fact. But could it be avoided?

For the record I have been let go in the past too, in fact way more than once.  But I think I can now see why. Maybe you’ll agree, maybe you won’t, let see if this rings any bells.

The reasons you gave last time for that new business person (who you loved when you hired) not working out was something vague like “not quite working out, or tried hard but, but,but or didn’t quite understand our offering” or something that pretty much lets everyone (including you) off the hook for hiring them. Because all of these things could have been picked up at interview stage, no?  Why else interview? So how were they missed?

However, the biggest mistake you are most likely to commit – just like last time – is to employ someone just like the last person (give or take) and set them the very same task using the pretty much same methods and wonder why they pretty much failed too?  You can play the ‘this time is different’ card but in all likelihood it isn’t. What’s changed? In reality nothing.

You will give the same resource and empowerment (yeah right) as last time.  It will go something like this.  Put together a wish list of brands we’d love to work for, you can make it as simple or s complex as you like, however that it was it is – a wish list. Gold, silver and bronze prospects, ring any bells?

Then you’ll send them stuff in one form or another, right? A DM piece or an e-mail with a link to join your agency mailing list.  Just like the last person did.  You may even chase up with a few cold calls.  You may even have a new proposition who knows.  But will results change? Granted you’ll get a bit more SEO savvy and blog heavy too.

The way agencies tend to grow historically is a  mixture of incoming referrals and incoming cold opportunities.  But we know empirically referrals close circa 85% of the time and colds close 6% of the time and some never close at all – no decisions etc.

So a new business person looks great when referral opps come in compared to cold opps but this is just luck, right? If you are the new business person when the referrals come in you’re made and if you are unlucky enough to just pick up the cold ones then the likelihood is you will fail. Because you spend you time chasing those prospects like a headless chicken wearing rose tinted spectacles on a wild goose chase. Admit it, we’ve all done it.

Problem is that the opportunities come in  higeldy piggeldey not normally distributed and agencies don’t qualify by how the leads come in – and they should.

Typically they still qualify the old way e.g. by spend or if the decision makers is involved or if they have a brief or if your agency has relevant sector experience, if the prospect said nice things about their work / website etc..

In all likelihood all those boxes get ticked because why else would they have sent you the RFI / brief?

And they need you on the list to keep procurement happy – them’s the rules today, they must have 4-5 agencies per project even if they know who they are going to use and you maybe just cannon fodder. Vendor beware!

And of course you as a new business person is delighted because you hit a KPI and that keeps your boss off your back at the next pipeline status meeting and the new business functions now looks functional. Phew!

Agencies love proxy KPI’s – quantity of e-mails/ DMs – qty e-mails opened, qty or RFIs or RFPs, qty of briefs, qty of meetings, qty of pitches. So you cant blame new business people for hitting them by hook or by crook.

So if referrals and cold leads come in and are not identified as different qualitatively because of their statistical close possibilities and they don’t come in equal measure what happens is this –  depending which leads the new business person picks up randomly, referred versus cold, will determine their success rate way over and above what you asked for in you job spec. Typically being passionate, determined, GSOH, team player, experienced at working in agencies, good at building rapport and relationships and so on will have less impact then the qualifying criteria.

So the mistake that looms for agencies now is whether they can move towards qualify leads by strength of referral over the typical metrics and put in place methods of marketing that are supported and guided by referral qualifiers. Or they will fire and hire again and again till one gets lucky i.e. hits a run of referrals.

For example as we have spoken about many time on the blog is your current new business person given access to all your clients to ask for referrals or do they monitor all the client facing teams progress on asking clients for internal and external referrals?  Most new business comes in via referrals and yet having no method in place to capitalise on this is bonkers / dysfunctional and it’s so easy if you dovetail it will client servicing protocols like NPS.

Direct marketing is the same – instead of looking at wish list brands to DM instead looking at who your current client knows on linked-in for example.  Then send an e-mail to the new contact quoting a reference from your current client.  Doesn’t that make more sense?

Because if that much needed prospect calls in as a referral you are more likely (85% ish)to close that business than the cold one 6% ish) and yet agencies spend the exact same time, money and heart ache with each.  But you need to repeat the same process with the cold one up to 16 times.  And in my experience the cold one gives you the run around far more because there is no trust there like there is with the referral.  A referral transfers trust and that is what business relationships are built on.

So do you think agencies will make the same mistake when hiring new business people? Will you?  Time to be smart this time? Of course it is.

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New Business / Splitting the Atom

atomDo you know how physicists split an atom?

No, me neither,  That is why I have wisely used that analogy to talk about how agencies can find more clients.

Of all the hundreds of agencies that I have worked with over the last 12 or so years one thing stands out. And that is they all told me that the majority of their work comes from referrals, often 70-90% of it.  It is often the way the owners set the business up in the first place.

Many agencies are set up the good old fashion way, where two or three people nab a client or two do a sneaky deal, jump ship and hey presto new agency with two clients on-board in no time. Ring any bells?

Then over time chance referrals come their way.  Sometimes their client often a Marketing Director leaves their employer to work elsewhere and bring their favoured agency with them.

Sometimes a Marketing Director tells another that is not in the same sector as them about his preferred agency, then a meeting ensues and hey presto we got ourselves another one.

So in a way (wish me luck I am going in) that person who moves around and gives referrals is like an atom.

That atom (person) pays the agency money but also he has a referral value too. So the true value of that person (atom) is how many referrals they give you over time that you close into business. The higher that value the higher its atomic value. Great referrers are like plutonium.

Like plutonium they are valuable and need to be looked after because they are so full of energy (referral value).  Unlike plutonium they are not radioactive or that hard to find. You probably have at least three under you nose and you don’t even realise it. I repeat they are not radioactive so worry not.

If an agency traced where all there referrals and work came from they may find that one to three people (atoms) have supplied all their energy (referral value).

If they now compare this cost of sale which is negligible to all the time and cost they have spent on direct marketing, going to events and what not it is truly depressing.

Noticeably some atoms split on their own i.e. they move around a bit to other jobs and bring you with them or they tell others about you on occasions, releasing more energy your way.

But what would happen if we consciously tried to split the atom?

What if we realised that the value of our client is not just the money they spend with you per year but also the people they know that they may be comfortable introducing you to.

If you look at your current client list and then work out how many atoms – I mean people – you know across all your clients, then we get an idea of their mass and we know that E (energy)= mass x speed of light squared right?  We might not need the speed of light bit granted, but hey.

So to release the energy from that mass we need to ask for referrals face to face – or we can wait and wait for the referrals to occur naturally.

What I am suggesting is that if you continue to do great work for a client they may move on and take you with them.  You may of course have issues dealing with the incoming marketing director but by and large agencies in my experience an agency grows when people move around not always of course but largely.

But also that if you learn to have conversations with your best clients about who they’d feel comfortable referring you to we are shaking (gently) some of that energy out of them.  We are splitting the atom. Phew –  I made it, well sort of.

Luckily asking for referrals is not nearly so complex, although to some it takes a while getting used to.

The truth is people rarely mind giving referrals if you make it easy for them to do so and you ask nicely and sincerely. By being clear about who you’d like to meet and how they can help facilitate it effortlessly.  They don’t want have to go into deep thought to do you a favour of a referral – they don’t want it to be particle physics, they want an easy process.

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Can you reason someone out of their beliefs?

Sam Harris makes an interesting point here – that people often prefer to change their mind in private. Rather than do it when they are face to face with you.

This should be interesting to new business people.  If you are face to face selling and you spell out a contradiction in the prospect’s current thinking, don’t expect a certificate for your efforts there and then.  Understand that they maybe uncomfortable with what you had said.

As is noted in this video on Aristotle you may find using wit and humility to bring them out of their discomfort, saying for example something like – ” Hey everyone gets un-comfortable when I tell them that or show them the true figures or hint at a contradiction in their thinking…I sometimes wonder if I should do it at all?”  Or “I think you took that quite well, the last person I told that – kicked me out!”

You still have to be brave enough to spell out the contradiction in the first place most new business people don’t have the guts to do this.

However, if you are brave enough to speak the truth,  you also have to mop up the atmosphere as the vibe can be sucked out of the room. Kind of medicine then sugar I think.

Interesting to me is that people do this very ‘naturally’ in most of their lives but when it comes to business dealing they stiffen up. If they give a friend a home truth and they can see them cower they then mop up a bit.

To answer Sam’s question who hasn’t changed their beliefs over the years?I shudder when I think of some of my beliefs last week let alone those I held growing up.

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Which virtues do new business people need?

Aristotle noted that virtue sits between two vices and to be persuasive one should have the right about of certain traits.  I reckon these traits that need to be practiced and taught would benefit new business people in agencies. For example you need to be courageous but not fool hardy. Witty but not a buffoon.

Aristotle lists 11 key traits as courage, temperance, magnificence, magnanimity, pride, patience, truthfulness, wittiness, friendliness, modesty, righteous indignation. Looks like I have some work to do. And that’s the point really. You have to keep practicing.

To be persuasive in rhetoric Aristotle noted that you have deal with the emotional side of a problem as well as the rational, you need to be witty and you need to use examples to make your point.  Sounds pretty good to me. Sounds like selling. No point humiliating (Socrates style) the person you are in conversation with and similarly no point in agreeing when you don’t. It takes skill and patience.

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The dysfunctional new business system.

dysfunctionalWhy do agencies use the same practices over and over for gaining new business despite the evidence that says it doesn’t work. Well not very well at least.  Let me put forward one of my explanations.

Chances are in my experience that agencies actually know they need to be proactive to gain new clients.  The most obvious way to do this is to contact people (Marketing Directors) who they know buy similar services to theirs.  Makes sense, right? How hard can it be?

How do we do that though?  Well, lets put a list together of potentials brands, which brands would we like to work for right?  The list get procured and even cleaned maybe.  Then the decision is made to DM them a thought piece or a case study showing their value to the receiving marketers.  In short ‘we did this for brand x – we could do the same or better for you’.  Then follow-up with an e-mail or phone call.

In short the agency is asking – How about it then?  We look good don’t we?  We maybe be better than what you have currently… so  let’s meet.

All very reasonable you might say, right?  This is what we do, isn’t it?

But if we look at how marketers buy they rarely say we wait for direct approaches from agencies, do they?  Of course not.

In fact my evidence is that most agencies buy from either a referred agency that was recommended to them or they go to an intermediary for advice.

Note that most agencies say their clients come from a referral. So ‘they’ buy like that and agencies sell like that,  albeit unconsciously to some extent.

But even before a marketer and their team look for a new agency they ALL  have to agree something is broken. Something is not quite right isn’t enough, it has to be broken. Because if it isn’t they will find a work round or fix the issue internally.

This is because the system is sacrosanct.  A system (group of working people) is largely made up of written and importantly unwritten rules and beliefs that makes them carry on behaving in a particular way even if dysfunctional.

Because to change the way they go about working would contravene the un-written rules and beliefs of the system.  No change occurs until everyone in the system sits down and communicates that the system is broken and they need outside help. Until this has happened things stay the same.

A sure sign that the system prefers to stay dysfunctional is when people say stuff like “that is how we have always done it!” or “I have seen it worked before” or “others do it like this too” or “we are going to try it one more time” or “this method is easier to set up” or “if we change this then we will also have to change abc too” It is worth noting if one thing is a system changes then other things change too – changes are consequential!

So even if you meet a prospect and they see you as sliced bread, unless the people in the system agrees it needs a fix from outside and not inside it stays dysfunctional or at least settles for not being more effective than it could be. This kills sales people, I can save them x or make them x and yet they wont change! Ring any bells? Annoying isn’t it?

Being dysfunctional is not unusual you know.  And it is fine, in a way, we are all a bit dysfunctional with cognitive dissonances for example.  Individuals continue to do the practices they need to really stop right up until they get a kick up the pants from a loved one or a doctor, right?

And agencies are the same.  They can see the evidence that most of their work comes from referral (80% seems the average) and yet they have no method in place to get more referrals.  They prefer to hire and fire new business folk constantly, who spend their 18 months tenure being pro-active doing DMs e-mails and cold calls.

They spend a disproportionate amount of time and money on these activities not to mention the cost of meeting the tyre kickers that DM brings in. All to make sure they hit their meeting quota. The way to build DM lists should be based on who your current clients knows but that is for another day.

They’d rather do this than asking their current clients for referrals which is the #1 method by miles and miles (over 10 times more effective) that marketing directors use to choose their agencies.

But why?  Well, because agencies have proxy KPIs like all businesses do. You won’t win a piece of business if you are not proactive remember.  You need to approach someone, they need to agree to meet you, then you have to jump through some hoops then you pitch and then you win or lose.  That is the process give or take, right?

Problem is that the agency sets KPIs to make the process goal driven. For example we need 4 meetings a month and 2 pitches a quarter.  So in that process there is a new business team or person (perhaps you dear reader) doing all they can to hit a target.  By hook or by crook those numbers need to be hit, if not the new business person is in the firing line.

If you haven’t ever been in the firing line well done you.  Most of us have felt that pressure – so we chase harder we spam more and chase even harder to make these numbers by any means necessary.  Quality of prospect goes out the window and the KPIs become sacrosanct because that is the system.  The system is now brilliantly dysfunctional. And you’re trapped in it.

It is not until the agency is willing to put down tools and look at how marketers buy, largely through referrals that they may even consider changing.  It is not until they tot up the full cost of being proactive via direct approaches that the sting may cause them to change and get outside help.  Until then they will keep doing the same old, same old, round and round because the rules of being proactive via direct marketing and chasing the goals that have been set arbitrarily are institutionalised. “That is just the way we do it.'”

Most agency systems are kept dysfunctional by the people at the top because they don’t have to do run the new business programme. Clearly they want them to work but they have no skin in the game to actually run them. New business is a silo activity in some agencies.

Yes the C-suite they run the meetings where the new business team get a bollocking or a gee up but they don’t have to chase the prospects do they? They set the targets and move them when things are getting tough, who hasn’t had the conversation about the need for more meeting or more pitches?

To implement a referral marketing programme agencies need to make considerable change.  The programme will re-assign those in the new business department to different roles.  The programme will involve those at the top of the agency structure so they have skin in the game too, ouch!

Also the programme increases the chance of winning new clients so more pressure is put on recruiting new team members who actually do the work.  Using the qualifying metric of ‘are we referred’ instead of do they have money and do they look like a great brand (they always do) will likely mean not hitting your current meeting KPIs but it will insure that when you are referred to the marketer and their team they have already decided to change.  They have already decided their system is dysfunctional and have decided to look outside their system for help.


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What is a MOOC?

I am currently doing a MOOC. What is that you say? Yep a MOOC. It stands for Massive   Open Online Course.

I am doing my via a company called Coursera, you should take a look.

I have been pleasantly surprised by the quality and vigourousness fo the course and have changed my mind to so degree about on-line learning.  I was very sceptical But I am less so now.

The course I took was called Reason and Persuasion – Thinking Through Three dialogues by Plato and it was run by The National University of Singapore.

So we have been reading Plato.  Which as you may know already is really reading about Socrates in dialogues with other characters.

Much of the focus as always with Socrates is what is good. Or what is virtue or what is holy.

In ancient Greece many things could be considered virtuous if they worked well.  So a knife that cut well would be virtuous because it was good at its purpose. A good doctor healed the sick and so on.

And this got me thinking about agencies?  If you are to be good, then you must be good at your purpose, right?

So what is the purpose of an advertising agency?

Socrates has a conversation in The Republic about what it is to be just. Is a just man a good man? Surely.  And doesn’t any skill require a man to be just? Surely.

Is justice a proponent of being honest and to be honest don’t we need to have a degree of critical thinking? Surely.

I think this is what ‘advertsimg has lost today it sense of purpsoe and it’s relationship to honesty because it lacks critical thinking. It’s purpose today, reading many agencies websites are nebulous at best and deviate from purpose.

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Let’s grow up and argue a bit shall we?



The above is a snippet from a 60s US Show called The Firing Line hosted by William Buckley Jr.

It is worth watching the whole interview, Chomsky and Buckley are great debaters and the topic of whether the US should be involved with Vietnam or not at the time was a  hot one.  Other episodes worth watch are with Norman Mailer, featuring Kerouac (pissed) and Thomas Sowell.

Motion – Should there be more open head to head debates in the world of advertising and marketing?

I for one think there should be.  There is way too much ‘me too’ in marketing and a lack of scientific rigour when it comes to beliefs inside agencies. Worse still brands and agencies are wasting resources in time and money let alone talent.

Below are my suggestion of topics that I feel should be debated today. I need your help t0 A) add more topics and B) add people you’d like to see in the debates I listed or the debates you’d like to see.

Then all we need is an agency with big enough balls and space to host for say 200 people? Perhaps there is an agency that would like 200 or so smart people trotting trough their agency each week?

Surely if we all got involved that would be a cinch and they could fund bigger events with bigger names – who knows?

1) Traditional media v Social media

Motion – Social media is over rated as a marketing tool?

2) Neuroscience v philosophy

Motion – Will neuroscience add less to marketing than the humanities?

3) Emotional advertising v Rational advertising

Motion – People buy emotionally they simply post rationalise their emotional decisions

4) Profit v Responsibilities

Motion – Brands have social responsibilities and can they be a force for good?

5) Career v Job

Motion – Advertising is no place for creative people anymore.

6) Millennials v Gen X +

Motion – Advertising needs to be aimed more at older people.

7) Retainer v pay by results

Motions – Agencies need to take some of the risk and reward involved with advertising and marketing.

Interested in attending or helping or just add ideas in the comments from topics or people who should be talking. Perhaps share it with someone who would be.

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What would Socrates make of an RFI?


I have just read Meno. It is one of Plato’s dialogues.

Socrates has a conversation with Meno about whether a man can be taught virtue or is it a result of practice or is it in one’s nature? And is knowledge a virtue.

Socrates starts by asking Meno to define virtue or what is good. Meno is able to give examples of good but not what good is. And even who is good but really why.

Are things good because the God’s say the are good or do the Gods say things because they are good?

Eventually this leads to the situation where Meno says “How will you look for it (good), Socrates, if you do not know at all what it is? How will you aim to search for something you do not know at all? If you should meet with it, how will you know that this is the thing that you did not know?

I wondered what it would be like if Socrates and Meno were faced with finding a new  agency and were tasked with creating an RFI for Meno’s company..

I am stealing this idea from Rebecca Newberger Goldstein’s great book Plato at the Googleplex – Why Philosophy wont go away - clip here.

Meno: Thanks for helping with this Socrates I need a wise man to help me on this.

Socrates: Why Meno all I know is that I am not wise. And nor I claim to be.  There are many out their who claim to be wise and I have talked and walked with them and upon questioning they know less than I. And I know little or nothing in comparison to their claims.

Meno: Who are these sophists of who you speak Socrates, for I would like to avoid them?

Socrates: They are the judges. Those who award gongs and such like to agencies for their advertising?

Meno: Are there others too?

Socrates: Yes there are many but our goal today is not to jest at their expense. And for it is too easy and it is best done by the comedian Charlie Booker.

Meno: So how do I write an RFI that I can send to suitor agencies to satisfy my need that they are good?

Socrates: Good you say?

Meno: Yes. Good is my desire.

Socrates: What is good Meno? Is this a fair place to start our enquiry?

Meno: Yes it is.

Socrates: Then by Zeus Meno – tell me what you know about good. And don’t skimp or try to mess with me.  Keep you thoughts clear and direct so I may not mistake you. And do not try to sell me bluffs, be straight and tidy with your words.

Meno:  Then I shall.  I have began to create this RFI – a request for information –  so I can tell if a suitor agency has the way that I desire. To find out if it is good or not.

Socrates: Go on, where have you got to?

Meno: Question 1 – What is the size of your agency?

Socrates: In regards to people working there or financially?

Meno: Both have been requested.

Socrates: And this is Question 1? Does question 1 denote its importance?

Meno: Not really.

Socrates: So you decided in your search for ‘good’ to start with the unimportant. I am curious to why, Meno?

Meno: Well, I think we need an agency of a certain size and then all the other components of ‘good’ are likely to be their too.

Socrates: So size sounds important to you right?

Meno: Yes it seems so.

Socrates: What size were you hoping for?

Meno: 30 ish – um – less that 100 more than 10.

Socrates: I said speak clearly and directly. It appears you wish to tease me or bluff me. Tell me about size – How big is a good agency that you seek? Vagueness cannot be helpful in this matter can it?

Meno: No vagueness is not for this matter. I may have been mistaken to correlate big with good? Are you saying big agencies are not good?

Socrates – By Zeus I said nothing of the sort nor would I? But why do you feel size is important in this matter? Why would you have it as Question 1?

Socrates: How many people do you require to do your work? Do you require the whole agency that you employ?

Meno: Only a fool would believe that they need the whole agency Socrates. Are you trying to make me seem a fool. It has been said you like to tease men and show them to be foolish so you can seem wise?

Socrates: I am not. I just wish to help you find a good agency. If you could have one man in the history of advertising on your business who would it be?

Meno: By Zeus – there are so many and yet I do have one man for you Socrates.

Socrates: So tell. As perhaps that could be the first and only question.

Meno: How so?

Socrates: Well tell me this person’s name.

Meno: Well, his name is David Abbott. Alas he has passed to that other world where he  sits beside Athena and Hermes, no doubt.

Socrates: This is a calamity. I thought our task would be made easy with Question 1 – “Is your name David Abbott?”  But could it be said we want something of his like? Could we take his traits and request them?

Meno:  What as Question 1?

Socrates: Unless you wish to pursue size, as the most important question in your RFI?  You have just told me haven’t you  that size is irrelevant as one man would do – if he was of certain quality. Or are you bluffing me once more? I thought we agreed you would be clear and direct? Size is of no importance in your request unless you can do it with no person at all?

Meno: No that must be a minimum of one. Size is of no hope in my quest.

Socrates: What else? Can we just write are you a bit like David Abbott?

Meno: I fear we can’t just write that?  Because I fear when money is at stake they ‘d say yes and I’d gain nothing in my trajectory towards good.

Socrates: What made Mister Abbot good?

Meno: He was a great copy-writer. An ad man.

Socrates – That tells me what he was not what made him great?  Pray to Zeus you are not going to request great copy-writing skills?

Socrates: Surely they’d all confirm they have these qualities since it is what you desire. And a sure thing of many traders is that they play fast and loose with the truth when gold and silver is of a concern. Many a man believe themselves to be like the Gods. I would not be surprised to hear an ad exec say he is Zeus –  impossible is nothing for them.

Meno: He had good character – he was principled –  he understood the role of advertising in business – he had a way with words.

Socrates – And you knowing this will help you write a better RFI?
How will you turn these in to questions that may help you select those who do and don’t fit?  Don’t all traders say they are of good character and understand the purpose of their business?

Socrates: Do they not all have modern statements that hint at being principled like the Gods?  And yet I am aware of principles being abandoned for gold coins at the drop of Aphrodite’s toga.

Meno: I share your concern. In fact my previous agency who was here say only 3 years declared itself fit to this descriptions of the Gods and yet they erred and delivered nothing that was good. If anything it was unholy work.

Socrates: How so? How did it come to be that they were the antithesis of good where previously they looked so God like?

Meno: Well the relationship just fell apart really?

Socrates; I plead with you Meno to speak clearly once more.  When you say the relationship – the relationship between what? You and him on a personal level or on a business level. The word relationship on its own is meaningless, no?

Meno: I saw little in return for my money over the 3 year period. And yet he is a nice, kind man in other ways.

Socrates: So you were expecting a relationship between their advertising that you spend money on and a return for this spend measure in silver and gold from paying customers to whom they advertise to on your behalf. Relationships are a measure of cause and effect are they not?

Meno: Yes, Socrates they are.

Socrates: You were paying them gold and silver to cause an effect on your business and yet they did not. So you part with them because they did not cause what you were hoping for. This is the failure of a business relationship not a personal one. Is the man still not kind?

Meno: Agreed he is.  Tis the truth I swear.

Socrates: So the agency looked of good character.  And they told you that they had created such work as to make a God smile in the past.  Had they been awarded by the Sophists of whom I spoke earlier?

Meno: Indeed they had.

Socrates: And when you met them they seemed as if they may be of David Abbott calibre? They had the copy-writing skills of a God like him?

Meno: Well, I never met the copywriters. I met the agency heads, the counters of gold and silver there. They told me of their teams who are ambitious to be God like copywriters.

Socrates: By Zeus! And did their work look like that of a God’s?

Meno: It had awards.

Socrates: From whom?

Meno: Well, whom you call the wise fools – the sophists.

Meno: By Zeus – I don’t know what to look for – I don’t know how to find good. How will I look for it if I don’t know what it is? How will I know it when I am in front of it?

Socrates: Don’t despair Meno, you are making more progress, more than most because you now at least know that you do not know and we can talk like men and not like fools. We know we are not Gods but we are good men, no?

Meno: Are you teasing me asking if I am ‘good’?

Socrates: A bit.

Meno: Knew it.

Socrates: You have progressed further than most Meno honestly.  Let us continue?

Meno: Okay.

Socrates: Whom in the agency do you feel you need to meet whatever their employee or financial number?

Meno: Their copywriters? The Creatives!

Socrates: Good. All of them?

Meno: The ones that will be assigned to my business?

Socrates: By Zeus yes.  Now we need to ascertain if he has the character of Abbot, correct?

Meno: I could ask him questions?

Socrates: Yes and what would you ask?

Meno: I could ask them as sure as day about their credentials and if they understand advertising?

Socrates: And what will they answer to your questions? Will they deny they understand advertising , will they show you poor credentials, will they tell you they are of poor keeping and have failed a client in the name of silver and gold like your incumbent? When you request references will they give you bad ones? Speak clearly Meno for I am keen to know you answer.

Meno: Surely not Socrates. My dilemma gets worse I fear.

Socrates: Am I being helpful? Tell me and be clear and direct how have I helped you, if at all?

Meno: Why, you have been a great help Socrates. I feel clarity in a way but lost also. But how, I don’t know.  You have done nothing but asked taxing questions to me. I know at least how to avoid certain paths. Yet you asked me questions and me not you. And yet I called you in here to do the opposite, I swear.

Socrates: And would you think it should be the other way around?  Wouldn’t you think that if you wanted to get help from me you would be asking me all the questions. And yet in fact it is the other way around that has illuminated your issues and helped you avoided dead ends?

Meno: Yes. Yes. By Zeus – you have done little but questioned me. Annoying at times I swear. Yet questions that fitted so well to my predicament and you have not swerved from the path of truth and you have not requested gold and silver.

Socrates: This is true. So what would you request of the Creatives?

Meno: That they ask me questions about my problem? So we are set – find a Creative  and give them my problem and see if they ask me questions that illuminate it. Or if they live by false prophets and awards?

Socrates: So we are set?

Meno: I think so.

Socrates: Where will you start your search? Who are you aware of that may fit such a bill?

Meno: I am unsure.

Socrates: How could someone be like David Abbott?

Meno: His disciples.! The young who he trained –  the copy-writers who speak like he does.  Those that defend his ideas. I could invite them to question me?

Socrates: So the RFI?

Meno: I need it not. I must go out there and find what I am unsure of finding. But looking for those that can question me well, to help me avoid the paths that lead towards disaster.

Socrates: “I think so too, Meno. I do not insist my argument is right in all other respect, but I would contend at all costs in both word and deed as far as I could that we will be better men, braver and less idle, if we believe that one must search for the things one does not know, rather than if we believe that it is not possible to find out what we do not know and that we must not look for it.

Meno: In this too I think you are right Socrates.

Thanks to John Holbo – Associate Professor at the National University of Singapore who runs a 6 week MOOC on Coursea.  – Reason and Persuasion: Thinking Through Three Dialogues by Plato.

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