5 tips for turning a client’s “maybe” into a “yes”

Clients sometimes sabotage their own success. When they reject thoughtfully crafted deliverables or hesitate to pursue bigger projects, they impact an agency’s billings and may unintentionally hinder their own progress, victims of their own indecision. 

For agency reps, getting clients to say “yes” to approve deliverables or commit to a project’s renewal can feel like pulling teeth. To successfully turn that “ehh… we’re not sure” into a “let’s do it,” agencies can employ these five tips. 

Create competitive anxiety

Companies like to benchmark themselves against their competitors. As a result, businesses in every industry move in herds. When one company does something, everyone else follows. And agencies can use this to their advantage.

“It helps to point out what competitors are doing (or not) in order to convince a client to take specific steps,” says Jerome Pineau, principal at marketing consultancy Big Digital Umbrella. By turning competitive threats into action items, agencies can encourage customers to follow their competitor’s lead or to take a first-mover advantage.

Preemptively explain rationale

Approving project deliverables can be a tedious process. A single “wrong” detail can cause perpetual back-and-forth that further postpones a project’s completion.

“Clients don’t want to hear ‘we did XYZ, what do you think?'” says A.J. Ghergich, founder of SEO, social media and content marketing agency Ghergich & Co. “Clients need to be told why you did XYZ. If you back up your actions with sound reasoning, you get through the approval stage faster.”

Rather than expose yourself to criticism by asking customers for their opinion, demonstrate confidence when you share project deliverables by explaining the rationale behind your actions. By defending your actions first, you discourage clients from trying to find fault in your work.

Outline long-term benefits

Cost is always a major concern for clients, but savvy agency reps know how to frame an increase in cost as a smart long-term investment.

“For the times when we know we have to push [clients] beyond their comfort zone to get that extra little bit that will make a campaign soar or a website sing, we start by providing strategic rationale for the investment, explain the potential ROI and are generally pretty successful at getting them to trust us as the experts,” says Jen Jonsson, COO of full service marketing agency GYK Antler.

When clients can envision the long-term opportunity, they will spend less time telling you they don’t have the budget and, instead, will spend time convincing their manager to give them more money.

Eliminate false negatives

When companies have a bad experience, they tend to be scarred for life. “’Last time it failed for us’ are words we hear a lot,” says Bryan Bedera, president of public relations firm Amplify Relations. Fearful of making the same mistake twice, clients immediately reject proposals that recommend revisiting past campaigns or strategies. But when Bedera senses a client is reluctant to try something again, he knows it’s “time for an autopsy.”

He suggests, “Call a face to face meeting, ask the client to bring everything they have from last time, and then work with the client to take apart the old campaign, showing what went wrong last time, how the technology has changed, and how our team can fix those problems. This doesn’t just get you the business, it lets you climb up the value ladder, showing you can be more than just an ad vendor but a true partner for their organization.”

Similarly, Angela Harless, managing director of advertising and marketing agency AcrobatAnt, believes, “As an agency, we need to take the time to understand why what they did previously may have failed and address those concerns. A simple ‘trust us’ isn’t enough. If the media buy was wrong, the creative or messaging was off or whatever the reason for the previous failure, we need to be prepared to explain why. If we don’t understand why it failed, it is possible that our effort will fail as well.”

Ultimately, agencies must be able to identify previous failures and feel confident that they can turn around underperforming marketing channels.

Craft a contingency plan

To ease customer reservations, an easy out is critical, especially when clients are wary of repeat mistakes.

“I get to the crux of why something didn’t work in the past and what the lessons learned were,” says Ritika Puri, co-founder and CEO of Storyhackers, a company focused on storytelling, content marketing, and business education. “My co-founder and I then build these data points into contingencies moving forward. We have check points built into our pricing models to make it easy for our clients to opt out early, and we also run tests before deploying anything in full.” This works because clients are more comfortable accepting proposals that are commitment-free.

But what also helps is having a backup plan in case anything goes wrong, as well as a plan to further increase a campaign’s yield if things go right. Puri explains, “Marketing is such a blank canvas, and one subtlety can yield a dramatic change in results. We make an effort to understand the mechanics of something in detail—my co-founder is especially good at this—and pre-empt potential issues (and failures) on both sides.”

Post by Danny Wong

Danny Wong is an entrepreneur, marketer, and writer. He is the co-founder of Blank Label (an award winning menswear company focusing on luxury made-to-measure garments) and does marketing at Grapevine (a platform that drives eCommerce, helping retailers partner with YouTube celebrities). Tweet him @dannywong1190

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