You Deserve a Little Respect From Potential Clients

You Do Your Homework, Shouldn't They Do Theirs?

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So the other day -- out of the blue -- I received a call from the President of a CPG company. At first, I thought it would be a quick 5-minute conversation of tire kicking, but it actually turned into an hour long call that was in, a word, enjoyable.

The gentleman in question was considering including Squeaky on a very short list of agencies in the northeast that he wanted to meet to handle his product relaunch. Now, I receive calls like this every week. But unlike most of the calls I've vetted lately, this guy really did his homework. He not only knew all there was to know about my company -- even citing details about the client work we've handled in his industry – but he'd also read my AdAge blog, knew my personal interests and was genuinely interested in our agency's fit. I felt like the pretty girl at the dance and was excited to have a meaningful conversation with someone who respected my time as much as he did his own.

It got me pondering about why exactly I was so surprised in the first place. It seemed logical that he would do so since it's consistent with the time and resources we put into entertaining any potential client. I quickly realized that I have been conditioned over the last few years of fielding calls from the tiniest of companies to the world's largest, many of whom rarely took the time to do their homework. As a smaller agency we have to be open to all comers and as such we are enablers when we get a rogue call that states they heard about us and want us on their "short" list of 15 to answer a 20 page RFP. At the risk of sounding snarky, shouldn't a client who is serious about its brand, product or service do enough homework to make a refined list of vendors? Using a simple matrix, there can't be more than three to four agencies that really compare to each of our unique strengths.

It's a common ethos that we small agency owners make ourselves available and accessible. I -- like you --have held onto this for far too long, and I think it's about time we took a hard look at the reality before we spend any more time entertaining all comers. Smaller agencies typically don't have dedicated pitch teams; we have business owners and senior management who are required to field inquiries. Why don't we respect our time, even when the potential client doesn't? Yes, I know we are in a service business but why do we serve tire kickers? Why do we entertain anyone who hasn't done any homework? Why not call them out on it?

This phone call acted as a reminder that there are potential clients out there who respect your time as much as they do their own. Those are the ones who are worth the time commitment to meet, pitch and propose. Whether I win this guy's business or not, I'll remain grateful for having both his respect and consideration.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Anthony Del Monte is founder and president of Squeaky Wheel Media, New York.
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