We were already in this nice 30-person agency conducting a new business training session, setting up a Spark.

Winning at the tour

Bypass the RFP, go directly to the finals.

The session was going great, when over lunch the president asked me about a “little opportunity” that had just landed in their lap: a good prospect, with billings estimated at $5 million, was dropping by the agency.

The agency had already been out to the prospect’s office, and this was viewed as a chance to showcase all the great work the agency had done. They were in full production to deliver a traditional capabilities presentation via PowerPoint. The president was wondering if I could take a look at the over 50 slides they had. To make matters worse, the agency was still finishing up a move into new offices, and the place looked like a wreck. And on top of all that, we only had two days before the prospect would walk through the door. Ouch. Not a good time for an ad agency tour.

Based on an understanding of the circumstances and feedback from the team, we profiled the personality type of the contact as a very traditional Logo. Logos like informal, relaxed, person-to-person intimate meetings. Do not “deck” this prospect with PowerPoint slides. The premise of the meeting was somewhat informal. Requiring this person to sit in the dark and have slides flicked at them by a team he didn’t know would be a huge mistake.

After discussing it over with the president, we suspended the rest of the training and switched into overdrive to prep the space for a winning tour and redo the presentation. Travel plans were rearranged in order to stick around to help. A tour was organized to highlight the agency’s capabilities, experience and staff to be consistent with the prospect’s personality profile (Logo).

We then set to work on a strategic development process that would serve to transition into a discussion concerning “how we would work with you if we had your account.” The agency was then instructed to demonstrate, in a highly visual way, how they had initiated the process, and results uncovered to-date. Minding the informal nature of the meeting, the level of personal interaction was raised and the tone of the presentation was conversational – not over-polished. Just chatting.

Finally, we showed the agency how to use the tour and presentation to attempt to win the account on the spot. Tough to do with Logos (they are naturally cautious), but you never know. Sometimes it’s worth a shot. You can’t get what you want if you never ask.

Over the next two days, the agency looked like an active tornado was spinning in the middle of the offices. We had cleaners, painters, freelancers and staff all running hard. With a little luck, magic, and perhaps a bit of “don’t look behind that curtain” we pulled it off. They were set. Tour staged. Staff was up to speed on their roll. Research was done. Refreshments were planned. Everything looked great.

The agency successfully executed the tour, the presentation of their strategic process and an explanation of the findings to-date. 

The results were startling. Unknown to the agency, the prospect had already issued an RFP inviting twenty other agencies to respond. It turns out this visit to the agency was just a courtesy call; the contact was prepared to tell the agency they would not be invited to participate. Something nice that only Logos will do.

Although they did not win the business in that meeting, the agency did succeed in gaining an invitation into the pitch, and has been given a pass directly to the finals. Bypass the RFP, go directly to the finals. Furthermore, the prospect committed to attending a “field research” session planned for the next week. In this and subsequent sessions, the contact looked to work out the details of the brand with the agency.

The final presentation is still a few weeks away. The other agencies participating in the RFP haven’t a clue. What are your chances if you are one of the competing agencies? Winning the formal presentation will require a different approach, and we’re working with the agency as they prepare for this winning presentation.

NOTE: They did win the account. Wasn’t even close.

A Proper Ad Agency Tour Sets Up a Strong Close

Make closing a key part of your tour. End up in the large conference room demonstrating how you would work if you had the account. Perhaps it’s Benefit Testing or a special process of your own. The close isn’t “give us your account” but “let’s continue the process we have started together.” Make the first step simple and inexpensive. Continuing together to complete the research phase is a good way to close the account.

Most agency offices are very neutral. Too vanilla. You need to take a stand and say what you do or how you do it. Some firms call themselves the “brand builders.” Others are the agency of last resort because they get all the tough communication problems. Likewise you should stand for something. And that position should be carried throughout your offices.

If you would like more tips on how to win, how best to prospect for new business, or just to bounce some ideas around on how best to grow, give us a call at 412.897.9329 or email [email protected]


Photo by MovedByGrace