This is a response to an article I recently read in PR Week – see here
My point is you’ll never understand selling unless you understand buying. How people buy (creative services) is where you should take the majority of your learning from to develop a new business strategy. It is most likely what you do for you clients in many ways.
How do marketers buy PR services ? Well if you work for a PR agency (or any creative agency) simply have a look at how you got most of your clients? I have done this evaluation for agencies and everyone has told me that 7o% to 90% of their clients come from referrals. So if that is how you get work that is how they must be buying work – QED.
What happens in my experience is that the client side marketers sit around a table, have a bit of a moan and a dig and decide it is time to get a new agency. In fact until they have all decided to change, things will start the same. Of course it should never have come to this if you were client servicing effectively.
Then they have to decide who to talk with. This is where the top marketer may have someone in mind already – be it from a referral or the agency that is of the moment. Or they might go and ask another trusted marketer for a referral.
Then to supplement the list other team members will go and SEO for ‘PR agency with food experience’ take the odd cold call that week or look in their inbox for a new business e-mail from an agency.
Now they have a list. You have to have a list, right? What would procurement say otherwise. The main reason why a prospect approaches you and this may sound harsh is so you can be column fodder. That is what the stats say isn’t it? Most of the time (70%+) you lose to the referred agency. So if you’re not the referred agency guess what?
So who do you think will win in the above scenario? Just on that limited information who is getting this gig? No understanding of BANTS (budget, authority, needs or timings) all still important mind. But who is going to get this win? Kind of obvious isn’t it? The referred agency.
You’d have never come to that realisation unless you looked at it from the buyers angle. And you never get this in post pitch feed back either. It is not like they’ll say – ” er, well we went with the referred agency you stood no chance, it is all about trust you see.” They give you the old “it was close but strategically etc…” yawn, yawn,
That is why it is so important that people who work in agencies are trained to be comfortable at asking for referrals at all levels. Because once you have a referral there is someone on the inside doing the selling for you. And people buy people they trust. And if that person is high enough up they will say things like – “I trust them because they work for John who I have known for years and they’ve done amazing things for him.” That trust has transferred from them to the agency. Where as when you say it, you just look like an exaggerating sales person.
In new business today you need every edge you can get. I do apologise for the corny picture, sometimes it has to be done.