THINKPIECE: Instead of telling potential clients what they need, how about asking them what they want?

Imagine you’re interviewing candidates for a key position. You’ve narrowed the selection based on resumes and your staff’s recommendations.

Imagine you’re interviewing candidates for a key position. You’ve narrowed the selection based on resumes and your staff’s recommendations.

Imagine you’re interviewing candidates for a key position. You’ve

narrowed the selection based on resumes and your staff’s

recommendations.



You’re convinced that any of them could do the job. Now you just want to

determine the right chemistry.



To your surprise, sitting in front of you is not the candidate, but his

or her older brother, who assures you that the younger sibling can do

everything you need - with the elder’s support, of course. You ask to

meet the candidate, and he is brought in. But every time you ask a

question, the older brother answers for him or interrupts to ’clarify.’

Before long, the time you’ve allotted is up and you leave, scratching

your head as you eliminate him from consideration.



This is just one of the scenarios that too often unfolds for PR managers

seeking the best firms to meet their organization’s needs. I’ve

sometimes been amazed at the simple missteps agencies make during the

selection process.



Too often, principals rely on a standard Power Point presentation,

spending too much time talking about their capabilities and too little

time finding out what my staff and I need. Then, when we want to meet

the actual account team who would work with us, they are either not

available or not allowed to speak. During a recent selection, I asked

for time with the manager of the agency’s regional office. While that

manager did attend the meeting, the principal did not allow for the

interaction I needed to make a final decision.



At other times, the selection has been affected by the presence or

absence of common courtesies. Once, I was deciding between three firms

in a very large city. On the way to one, I got lost because no one told

me the agency had moved its offices. One of the principals repeatedly

took calls during the meeting and told me ’not to expect much coverage’

in one of our locations.



At another, the VP sat chatting away while drinking a Starbucks latte

without offering me so much as a glass of water. She never asked me what

I wanted, but proceeded to tell me what she thought we needed.



But at the third agency, the team leader greeted me at the door, asked

about my company’s philosophy and expectations, allowed team members to

participate, demonstrated how they could support my needs and expressed

a sincere and enthusiastic desire for the business. On top of that, when

I reached my hotel room at the end of a very long day, I was surprised

by the delivery of a fresh plate of cookies and a thank you for having

been considered. No need to guess who I chose



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