||The Fine Art of Navigating Client/Agency Dynamics
The best, brightest, and most successful sellers know the fastest and most efficient way to secure the largest partnership dollars is usually through the client.
But what savvy sellers also know is that the client/agency ecosystem is a delicate one, and relationships must be developed strategically and navigated carefully.
True partnerships are based on communication and trust and grow when each piece of the account is engaged in some strategic way. When it comes time for that big marketing planning meeting to decide who makes the plan, your company, product and solution can only prevail if you've done the work required to develop relationships with each of the stakeholders, including:
In doing so, it's important to research the personnel that influence an account and to take stock of both your team's breadth of coverage and the depth of the relationships therein. Undertaking a critical analysis of each area of the account, even to the extent of creating an actual scoring system, will provide a holistic understanding of the account and will quickly make apparent its true revenue potential. A simple system that I have developed is called simply the "5X7."
- The client themselves (brand managers, in-house media teams, etc.)
- The media planning and buying agency
- The strategy team/agency
- The creative agency
- The mobile team
- The Hispanic team or agency partner
- The social media and PR teams
Utilizing this simple system, a seller sets up a grid of the 7 areas of an account that can and should be developed and ranks himself on a scale of 0-5 within each column. A zero score means you have had no interaction with that segment; a 5 is earned when you are invited to that group's home for Thanksgiving dinner.
The maximum score one can achieve on each account is 35, and it's been proven over time, through my experiences as both a coach and a seller, that as one progresses from zero to thirty-five, the revenue generated, repeated business attained and 'preferred partner' status achieved also increase. It takes smart, hard tactical and strategic work to develop these relationships and advance them to the point where you can maximize revenue for both your company and yourself over the long term.
Of course, we have all felt the frustration of not being able to penetrate the media agency circle, but once you have given your agency teams ample opportunities to engage with you, even if just for five minutes on the phone or in the lobby, you then should be looking for more diverse ways to penetrate other areas of the account. Still, before ever contacting a client directly -- even one you know -- it is appropriate and respectful to discuss with their media agency and strategy teams first, giving them an opportunity to be a part of shaping an offering and acting as an ally in driving through an idea.
In closing, while the above may seem so incredibly simple and "master of the obvious," experience has shown that it is only a small percentage of sales professionals who are actually tracking how these relationships with accounts and personnel are growing (or shrinking). As long as you are constantly pushing the boulder up the hill, you will be guaranteed success, growth and ultimately, happiness on both a professional and personal level.
(Source: Brian McFarland, Marketing Daily Commentary, 09/11/13)