Monday, February 11, 2013

Dear Vendor: Listen First, Discuss Second

How would I act if I were on the client side?

Having spent my career on the vendor side of the table talking with marketers and technologists about their needs I recently sat on the other side. And it was quite the eye-opening experience.

We were listening to pitches to develop research around shopper marketing and the path-to-purchase and here's what I noticed.
  1. While there was a project brief and opportunity to discuss in detail well before presenting, the opening gambit consisted of canned scripts.  "We're this; we've worked with them; we do the stuff you asked for."  Boring and not relevant; we did our homework - that's why you were invited in the first place. Cut to the chase.
  2. Our needs don't fit a standard model - in fact that's precisely why we're not doing the work ourselves - so presenting a canned approach doesn't help your cause much.  Teasing this out of a written brief might be difficult, but a little research on our company - and who would be in the meeting - would have shed some light. Do your homework.
  3. Style and personality matters a lot more than I thought.  Just like an ad agency, we know that whatever is pitched now won't ever see the light of day - there's work to be done to get it right.  We're looking at you asking the question:  'would you deliver the results and make our decision look good?' Project passion, not a project.
  4. The level of interest in the work ranged from:  "We don't do precisely that, we'll get back to you." to "That would be really different and cool."   I have respect for both answers, be honest with yourselves.  It is OK to not win our business if it isn't your business.  Fold or go all in.
  5. While we asked for pricing, it wasn't really meant to be the final number but rather a means of testing the assumptions - both yours and ours.  So, don't get upset that the rules of the game changed (usually by adding stuff we hadn't considered.) Custom doesn't come from a price list.
So, don't present at all.  Come in, sit down and ask questions and listen.

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