Sara Rude

Dating and Client Acquisition: An Eerily Similar Dance

By: Sara Rude | October 21, 2013 | 
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Dating and Client Acquisition: An Eerily Similar DanceBy Sara Rude

Client acquisition: Networking, RFPs, cold calling, LinkedIn, incoming inquiries. However you go about it, trying to identify a good new client, and then actually getting them on board, is an exhausting and costly process.

Remember the good old days when you could hand out a well-crafted paper note (preferably folded into an origami triangle) that simply asked you to circle yes or no in response to a life-altering question?

For example, “Would you like to be my boyfriend? I think you’re as cute as Jonathon Taylor-Thomas. Circle yes or no, and leave this note under the recycle bin. XOXO – Sara”

Wow, do I wish the client acquisition dance worked like that.

“Dear company with lots of marketing money, would you like to be our client? We think you could really use a good integrated marketing campaign. If you agree, please circle yes or no and drop this note off at our office between the hours of 8 am and 5 pm, Monday through Friday.”

Client Acquisition: Do You Come Here Often?

Obtaining new business is so parallel to dating it’s almost ridiculous. Timing is so crucial. The RFP process, in theory, should be the most lucrative way to win a new client – they are actively looking for an agency. But, as we’ve all undoubtedly experienced, an RFP process does not guarantee that the “most qualified” agency will win (although, we may be a little biased).

There are often internal politics involved, and sometimes, the organization requesting a proposal decides they aren’t ready to hire an agency. PS: Thanks for all the research, spec work, and marketing strategies you’ve just given us!

I’m OK, You’re OK

In addition, any healthy relationship has to be a mutually beneficial. Both parties have to buy into the idea of “give and take” and compromise. Gini Dietrich has written, in-depth, that when starting off with a new client, an agency and client need to work together to set realistic expectations. As PR professionals we know that obtaining meaningful media coverage and building a team of brand advocates takes some time… much like developing trust in a romantic relationship.

When feeling out a new client acquisition, if a potential client has unrealistic expectations they are not willing to negotiate on… well, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

I envision a conversation along the lines of something like this, “I’m so sorry, director of marketing at company, we cannot get you on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, featured in The Huffington Post, and create a “viral” video the likes of  ‘Gangnam Style’ in the first three months we will be working together. That’s just not realistic.” #BrutalTruth

Trust me, I know it’s hard to say no to new business. But, an important part of the process is vetting good clients in order to keep your business’ reputation and office morale in good standing. Nobody wants to work for the “crazy client.”

A’Courting We Will Go!

When dumping hours upon hours of unbillable time into new business ventures, we often ask ourselves, “Is this even worth it?” After months of “courting” a new client through networking, emails, meetings, and information sharing, it can be really exhausting. I get that. But, the cliché is true, as unfortunate as it is: Nothing worth having comes easily.

So, with vigor as powerful as if you’re courting Ryan Gosling or Kate Upton – keep at it. Share value, don’t just talk at prospective clients or sell to them nonstop; talk with them. Invite them to networking events that are relevant to their businesses, email them articles that they appear in and give them “free” (gasp!) advice. This all builds the ultimate foundations to a good relationship: trust and communication.

Truth is: The simple days of obtaining a new relationship through a simple “yes or no” note are far in the rearview mirror. But, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it.  At times, it’s exhausting and frustrating to try and land a new client, but the ones that are worth it will be a little hard to get.

About Sara Rude


Sara Rude is a public relations specialist at STIR Advertising & Integrated Messaging. She has been creating a buzz in the public relations world for more than 10 years. To Sara, public relations needs to be aggressive and creative, while having a targeted, strategic approach. When she's not knocking out incredibly innovative public relations campaigns, she can be found trying to keep up with her beautiful daughter, Molly, and rescue dog, Kirby.

  • Sjeanne06

    Ahhhh! You guys! I love the pic! #oldschool

    • Sjeanne06 It took me a long time to find one! I almost created old notes to take a picture of them. 🙂

      • Sjeanne06

        ginidietrich Sjeanne06 I would have HAPPILY (probably almost a little too enthusiastically) participated!! I would have probably had to YouTube how to fold those notes, though (it’s been a while…)

  • Looooove this one Sara – definitely ‘took me back’ to the good old days of note passing and crushes! LOL

    • Sjeanne06

      belllindsay Thanks!! I so very badly miss those days… Molly has just started getting the “circle yes or no” notes, and that, in addition to being involved in a LOT of new business pitches lately, inspired this blog.  (That reminds me, I need to know what Molly decided about joining a band with her BFF, Adelyn…)

  • Oh heck yes! I often liken my job to dating. Each first sales call is like a little first date, which is why I usually don’t have any interest in dating socially. The key to both- just keep asking them questions about themselves. Eventually, they will hand you the keys to the sale…or the need to walk away. Great post Sara!

    • Sjeanne06

      RebeccaTodd It’s funny, isn’t it? The similarities… I absolutely agree that the key is learning about the “other person” and trying to find that “thing” that they are looking for… it may be the key to a new sale, or a giant, waving red flag to move on; but, either way, listening is for sure important!

  • Hi Sarah! Let me start by saying, boy, am I glad I am NOT dating anymore. I like your comparison and I have to say that I actually enjoy the new business side of things … but relationships are absolutely crucial. You have to think about the rush of that first date all the way to the long-term commitment. It’s a time investment but when things come together … it’s like getting a call from someone you’ve had a crush on FOREVER. Total high.

    • Sjeanne06

      KateFinley You’re a lucky one Kate, dating can be as brutal as… well… new business sales, ha!  As it may seem like I’m complaining here, let me clarify that I absolutely love working on new business! Your comparison is so dead on – winning a great new account is like getting a call from a crush!!  It’s also much like getting a great media placement… I live for those highs!

  • I love, love, love it when you blog for us. You have such a refreshing look at this PR world of ours. It IS frustrating to do the song and dance – sometimes for months – only to have your ideas stolen or to be told you’re not the right fit. But I’ll tell you what, when you land that big whale, boy is it worth it!

    • Sjeanne06

      ginidietrich *Blushing* Thanks so much!  
      I absolutely love that you used the phrase, “land that big whale!” LOL! It’s so true (even though I still get excited about the marlins)!  When it happens it is just so, so great! It almost always makes up for those “losses,” that are, in reality, usually blessings in disguise.

  • Love this post. Great analogy and Jonathan Taylor-Thomas was pretty cute wasn’t he!

    • Sjeanne06

      LSSocialEngage Yes, yes he was! And, thank you!  I guess I needed to hear a new analogy other than “PR is like football..” Not that I don’t love football!  Have you seen JTT (as we hardcore crushes used to refer to him) lately? Still a total babe!  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/22/jonathan-taylor-thomas-fame_n_2933729.html

      • Sjeanne06 Ha! Yes well you were very successful coming up with the new analogy. I have not see JTT lately and unfortunately the video is not accessible to me due to location (Canada). I’ll have to go digging myself now. Thanks for sharing!

  • Oh man, I love this analogy! When I began my sales career way back when, the VP pulled all the new hires into his office and said, “A book on relationship selling would only be a single page,” implying that prospecting and closing sales was only about overcoming objections and highlighting benefits. From that moment, I was determined to prove him wrong, and I think I’ve done pretty well.

    • Sjeanne06

      jasonkonopinski Thanks Jason!  Also, thanks for providing a male perspective – I was a little curious who would be the first to step up… so, thanks!  
      I think we all have learned that closing sales and business development in “today’s world” is MUCH more than the “hard sell” that may have worked in the past… consumers are just too smart now (in a good way).  Glad it’s been working for you!

      • Sjeanne06 jasonkonopinski Ugh that old notion of close and rejection. Not a fan of that cycle myself. Shifting your goals to be learning and connecting take these off the table, I find. Of course, I do not even bring product to sales calls.

  • If this is true, I am so screwed. I’ve never been on a date in my life.

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