I can’t do my job without great vendor relationships, but I could do my job a lot better if vendors focused on building relationships first and selling later.
Over the course of a year, I’ll get about a thousand pitches from vendors. The great ones lead to vendors becoming partners. The bad pitches get deleted. The worst get forwarded around.
In light of that, here’s my wish list for vendors. Vendors that follow the list will win more business. Granted, the best vendors don’t need this list at all, but most can use at least a few reminders.
BEFORE THE MEETING
1) Do your homework. Google whom you’re meeting with. Find shared connections on LinkedIn. Look at recent agency news.
2) Be personal. A one-line description of what you do is so much more effective than a form letter.
3) Ask questions. It’s in my best interest to make the meeting as productive as possible, so if I can help with that in any way, I will.
4) Listen. I may tell you that just because I have the word “media” in my title doesn’t mean I’m a media buyer. That’s probably an indication that you shouldn’t keep telling me about your CPMs. This is just one of the more egregious and oft-repeated examples.
5) Confirm meetings. The element of surprise is vastly overrated.
DURING THE VISIT
6) Show up five minutes early. If you’re on time, you’re late, given the time it usually takes to set up.
7) BYOD: Bring your own dongle.
8) Show, don’t sell. Share live demos of the site or app whenever possible. Make it interactive.
9) Get to your examples early. I love the meetings where the vendor says, “You guys are really well ahead of the curve, so you don’t need our 20 slides on making the case for social media,” and then they spend the next half hour on those 20 slides. Cut the set-up and get right to what you’re doing.
10) Co-create. Often, the best meetings I’m in involve impromptu brainstorms. You’re the product experts; we’re the experts on our clients’ needs and plans. Seize the opportunity to bring the two together.
11) Food helps. In his bestselling book “Influence,” Robert Cialdini wrote, “Using what [psychologist Gregory Razran] termed the ‘luncheon technique,’ he found that his subjects became fonder of the people and things they experienced while they were eating.” And then there’s the illustrious Jenna from “30 Rock,” who timelessly said, “Me want food!” Both apply equally well.
FOLLOWING UP & ONGOING COMMUNICATION
12) Send follow-up collateral in a timely manner. The same day is preferred. If it’s a week later, you risk losing any interest from the initial meeting.
13) Attach small files. Whenever possible, do what you can to make your attachments smaller. I’ve begged and bribed my IT department enough to be able to accept 10MB files, but I can’t quickly forward those to anyone else.
14) Ask before subscribing people to your newsletter. If you’re worried about the response, maybe you don’t need a newsletter. I can’t tell you how often I unsubscribe to these. You know why I don’t need to read newsletters? Because great vendors keep me current with personal updates.
15) Respond fast. If two days go by without a response, I may not remember why I reached out in the first place. Agencies suffer from chronic attention deficit disorder. If you’ll be tied up, send a note saying when a full response will come, or forward the inquiry to someone with more bandwidth.
16) Send case studies. At a Social Times conference years ago, I was on a panel where the last question asked was, “What advice would you give the vendors in the room?” I answered, “Three words: send case studies.” I meant and still mean this in the broad sense. Send live examples. Send results with the client’s name omitted if there are privacy concerns. Send a great idea you pitched someone else and want to repurpose until you find a buyer. Whatever it is, this is the most important kind of message you can send. When they’re especially interesting, I forward these updates to anyone working on relevant clients’ accounts.
These are starting points. As my CEO would say, they’re table stakes. Practicing these will eliminate a lot of pain points for agencies. Fortunately my job involves far more pleasure than pain.
To the hundreds of vendors I actively work with, I can’t do my job without you. I admire your entrepreneurialism, vision, responsiveness, creativity, showmanship, support, and, in the best cases, friendship. I’m excited to create great experiences together in the year ahead and beyond.
All common-sense suggestions, but all worth repeating. Good post.
David, your reminders/tips are appreciated! Happy holidays
Right as I was about to comment that 15 should be 16, you changed the title on the website link. Great post, I would love to get feedback from publishers I pitched for my various clients. Would add 1 more: "be genuine and passionate"
Great read David. I always find your posts insightful. That said, someday I'll have to grab a cup of coffee with you to tell you what it's REALLY like trying to be a salesperson in this environment. While I agree "sellers" could do a better job, there's a responsibility of "agencies" to be responsive and informative so "sellers" can be as prepared as you suggest. Too often emails and calls go unanswered, and establishing the relationship you suggest is impossible because although we're in the business of communications, it can't be called that when only one side is doing the talking.
Adding to "Confirm meetings". Inform the client who is in the call and not all the suddenly the vendor CEO speak asking to speak to higher up personal to finish evaluating a demo!
Thanks David. As Andrew commented, vendors need feedback from agencies. Securing a call, meeting or a lunch & learn can take months. If you show up and haven't done your homework, find another job.
Candid and honest. What every good "vendor" appreciates. Thank you for the fresh feedback... it will help many of us stay on point and get more good work done.
If only you'd stop calling us "vendors" (it seems so machine-like)... how about "partners" instead. This way it's client > agency > partner and we're all running in the same direction!