I have a secret to share.
In my spare time, as well as when I’m entrenched at work, I am constantly trying to figure out the best ways to read peoples’ minds! Thankfully, these skills are for the wholesome reason of getting the most out of myself and my skills for my clients and their customers.
Having just finished reading ‘Methods of Persuasion: How to use psychology to influence human behaviour’ by Nick Kolenda, I’ve taken an Account Manager’s look at it from the perspective of the agency–client relationship, although these lessons could be applied to interactions outside of agency life, and outside of work life altogether.
As an Account Manager, the job requires input from a lot of different people and requires management of sometimes conflicting interests. Ultimately, it’s about establishing genuine relationships and achieving shared goals. When it works it works, and it’s super rewarding.
The book suggests 7 strategies using everyday techniques, but for the purpose of agency-client interactions I have written about 5.
1. Set the stage
Do you ever find that if you smile into a mirror, the person looking back at you smiles back? Yeah me too. Start your meeting by putting everyone at ease, a smile and some chit chat matters!
If you’re about to present something potentially ground breaking, set an open-minded mood by talking about the new experimental restaurant you tried over the weekend and loved or the rock climbing adventure your friend went on that changed their life.
Start strong because as we all know: first impressions count, even if it’s the first impression for the thousandth time. Let them know to expect something great. Don’t promise the world but create a feeling of optimism and a feeling that something exciting is afoot.
2. Show some attitude
Keep your body language consistent with how you would like to be mirrored. This works the same in your attitude and outlook. If everyone in the meeting from the agency is exhibiting signs of excitement and anticipation, it’s more likely to translate to the client, resulting in a collective feeling of excitement.
3. Apply pressure
You’ve started well by having your interaction face-to-face. When your meetings or presentations are in person you have the chance to motivate your client to mimic your non-verbal behaviour as explained in step 2. Give compliments (genuine ones) and do favours where possible..
Introduce repetition, each time something is proposed or spoken about it is processed more quickly and is more likely that a positive attitude will be developed towards the material.
Tailor your delivery to the requirements of your client; Do they love the details and reading through meaty documents? Or do they prefer beautiful presentations with rich imagery and examples? Do they like to decide on the spot or deliberate and come back to you?
‘It’s all in the details’
For this kind of audience, arm them with their favourite coffee or cup of tea (with or without a bacon and egg roll, as needed!)
Tell a story to make the presentation more compelling, this way you’re more likely to spark empathy in your client (or any human, we’re predictable that way). Make sure your arguments are strong and well supported and present two-sided arguments where possible to paint the whole picture.
If your client likes to make decisions on the spot, don’t go too hard too early, and save your best points for last. If they prefer to deliberate, present your killer idea up front to make sure it stays with them to digest after they’ve left.
‘The cover comes first’
If first impressions count, enhance the mood. One of my favourite phrases from Kolenda’s book is ‘develop naïve optimism and irrational exuberance.’ Be excited about your ideas and your client will be too. Make sure your presentation is looking incredible, aesthetics is incredibly important.
Provide justification for the contents of the presentation, but most importantly provide the goods to get their heart racing. (They’ll probably appreciate that bacon and egg roll and a coffee too…)
5. Incentivise (Apply more pressure)
I’m not talking bribery here, but to get decisions made and get great work rolling, set limitations on decision time and make the choices easier to make by not presenting too many, or making sure options are well categorised.
In summary, I think that even though as account managers our job is to be the gatekeepers between agency and client, the more important role is creating and fostering relationships in which a unique style of working can be tailored to suit each individual.
This will develop the relationship far beyond supplier – client, to a place where we can become entwined in shared expectations and enjoy the process of getting great work out into the world to delight customers.