Since the clock struck midnight on Jan. 1, I’ve seen a lot of articles trying to predict the future of agencies. And I’ve uncovered a common theme: Agencies need to be better this year. They need to be faster, smarter, more digitally minded, and more client-focused.
But like any New Year’s goals, it isn’t just about adding better practices; it’s about ending the bad ones, too. Unfortunately for most agencies, they’ve become desensitized to their biggest vice: pushiness.
As an agency, you may think you’re just accommodating, but research showsthat clients find aggressive sales tactics to be downright pushy. What’s more, pushiness is the No. 1 thing that drives a marketing decision maker to hire, fire, recommend, or ignore an agency.
What do I mean by “pushy?” Of course, you can’t change your aggressive actions if you don’t know what they are. The same study found that people view everything from overt bragging to a lack of communication as pushy. They also define pushy agency behavior as always trying to sell something, making decisions without final approval, making empty promises, and pushing your own agenda.
While these actions may help you close deals faster, they’re hurting you more than you realize, and they can actually cause major problems in the long run. Here are some consequences of assertive sales tactics:
They erode trust. Brash behavior often gives off the impression that you don’t have your clients’ best interests at heart.
They reduce client retention. When you turn clients off with your pushy attitude, it makes it easier for another agency to sneak its way in.
They damage your reputation. The industry is relatively small, and if your client complains about your pushy tactics to friends, it could damage your future prospects.
They make it harder to sell creative ideas. If you’re always spouting off new ideas that never happen, clients won’t listen when you really do have a great idea.
They hurt the entire industry’s reputation. It’s bad for everyone when even one agency sends negative messages. One poor experience with an agency can make companies swear off all agencies.
How to stop being abrasive in 2015? You might not think you’re being pushy, but it doesn’t hurt to do a quick self-reflection to keep yourself in check. Here are several steps you can take to evaluate your company and make necessary changes:
Question yourself. Go through the above behaviors with your team, and honestly try to determine whether any of them apply to you.
Ask clients better and more questions. Have candid conversations, and be transparent. You can even set up monthly meetings to gather feedback. Approach these relationships more like partnerships, and resist the temptation to value your ideas and opinions over your clients’.
Practice accountability. As the leader, it’s your job to speak up if someone gets too close to the pushy zone. But you should also empower your colleagues to hold one another to higher standards.
Listen better and more often. Active listening will automatically dispel pushiness. But it’s not enough to just ask questions; you need to listen carefully to responses to fully understand your clients’ needs.
Take “no” for an answer. Accept when a client says “no” or pushes back. You’re not helping anyone if you manipulate clients into saying “yes” when they shouldn’t.
If you don’t meet these heightened standards, you might as well shut down your agency and save yourself the pain of a slow decline into bankruptcy. But if you want to stay competitive, take this advice and enhance your strategy. All these tactics will help you stop being pushy, but the heart of the issue is how much you value clients’ best interests. You should be an expert who helps grow clients’ businesses, not an outsider who’s trying to take over.
This post was written by Drew McLellan and first appeared on MediaPost.