Amy says: This is a common complaint among agency folks. Why does someone even reach out to you if they haven't a clue of what THEY are going to get out of it?!? The way I see it, you are hosting the meeting so you can take the lead when necessary to make it more useful. When you get the "who are your clients" questions, redirect the conversation to creating goals and an agenda for the meeting quickly that you both agree on. Also, inform your "guest" what your time limitations are so that you can get back to doing what you need to do.
Then the meeting can actually begin. Share some top-level information about your client portfolio and be honest about how YOU see things fitting or not. Regarding vague or general presentations, it is really up to you to make the assessment of relevance of the offering based on your experience. By being unprepared, the sales rep really lost all advantage in the meeting.
It could be that the person across the table from you is completely incompetent, or it could be that they just took the red-eye in from the West Coast and the printer at the business center at their hotel was out of paper. But I'm sure they will be grateful for the structure you provide to make up for their lack of preparation. And in the end, the meeting will be either worth it for you and your clients or it won't -- but at least you have made the effort to find out and move forward.
Jason, why, why must sales reps do this to us?
Jason says: Well, do you offer donuts at these meetings? I know I can't function without snacks. Seriously, while I can't vouch for the skill of all salespeople, let alone their reading and comprehension levels, I can offer an offensive plan to avoid these problems in the future.
Allow me to officially and unequivocally set the process down in stone for how ALL such meetings should take place from this day forward in our industry. If you work at an agency and a vendor contacts you to schedule a meeting, tell the seller:
a. The client(s) with whom you are actively working.
b. The timeline you are working under and at what stage you are in the process (e.g., goal-setting, discovery, brainstorming, active planning, launch, post-mortem).
c. The goals this client wishes to achieve for this campaign AND their overall business, including the target audience and their psychographic variables.
d. The work your agency has been contracted to perform (media, creative, planning/buying, PR, special events, etc.).
e. How success will be measured.
f. Any overarching, "don't even think about asking us to work with _____ (insert your offensive noun here)" factors that may exist.
By the way, this should be the format used not just in an agency/publisher meeting, but in any buyer/seller transaction where, for example, software or services may also be pitched.
In reference to our question, it doesn't sound like any of the above is being accomplished ever, let alone at the time these meetings are set. I might ask the questioner why you would expect someone from another company to come into a meeting knowing your clients' objectives if you (the person who owns the client relationship) did not share those objectives with the rep. OK, perhaps they read in MediaPost or Delaney that the client wants to reach X and Y, but is that really sufficient to build a credible idea or proposal?
In fact, how was this meeting set up anyway? If the seller made the contact without ever knowing who the client was, that is some magical phone or email sales work. Or did your assistant just put them on your calendar blindly after being cold-called? If so, I would talk to your assistant and re-set his/her job responsibilities.
Alas, this is not entirely unfamiliar territory for those on the sales side. In this business, it is often difficult to ascertain who exactly is doing the media buying for a certain client. It is imperative in this economy for digital sellers to be exhaustive in the search for advertising dollars. Over the years, I have had salespeople garner digital advertising revenue from budgets originally intended for magazine, TV, outdoor, and PR. So please try not to blame the salesperson for sometimes casting a wide net in their efforts.
In short, it is your fault. (You didn't actually think I would take the buyer's side here, did you?) I kid. Both sides need to work together to plan an efficient, mutually beneficial meeting. As my wise Uncle Steven oft told me when I was new to the business world, "Remember the 6 P's: Proper Planning Prevents P*&% Poor Performance." And donuts aren't a bad idea either.*********************************
We want to highlight what's going on behind the scenes in the community of ad sellers, media buyers, technology vendors and buyers.
Over the years we've come to see that truth is certainly stranger than fiction -- so we want to hear from YOU. Please submit your true stories of the good, bad and ugly that fill our days and nights. The ground rules are simple: you tell us the truth and we'll never reveal you. Submit your story to firstname.lastname@example.org, but don't include your name or company or any overly identifying features of the real characters -- just whose team you play for (buyer or seller of technology or media). Only Amy, Jason and our editor will see the stories.