The Switch: Towards a yes-yes relationship
by Alistair Mokoena (@AlistairMokoena) What would happen if both clients and agencies were more instinctively inclined to say “yes” instead of “no”? Would clients end up with poor work? Would agencies end up financially ruined? I don’t think so. Saying yes doesn’t make you weak or easy. Saying yes makes you a willing and enabling partner.
A better place
I believe that the world would be a better place if we had more “yes-people” than “no-people.” By yes-people I’m referring to those who ‘play to win’, as opposed to those who ‘avoid losing’.
People who go through life avoiding losing tend to operate from a place of fear, insecurity, desperation and impoverishment. People who play to win, though, see the world as a source of abundance and endless possibilities. They are self-assured and, as a result, more trusting of other people’s intentions.
People who avoid losing are either prone to say no to everything or they become people pleasers in order to avoid losing approval. They tend to agree with everything because they want to be liked. Their obsession with approval often comes at a cost.
Personal vs professional
On a personal level, being a people-pleaser results in unhappiness and self-loathing. On a professional level, they tend to be a liability because they overpromise and make commitments on behalf of their colleagues.
Being a yes person requires self-assurance and confidence. For client to buy creative work, they need to trust their own judgment and have the courage of their conviction. This comes from years of experience and from knowing that they are working with a good communication partner.
Agency people also have to have the confidence to back themselves to deliver, when given a tough brief with a tight deadline.
Be more entrepreneurial
I’m not suggesting that we should commit to deadlines on the spot without first checking with traffic. What I am suggesting is that we should be more entrepreneurial in our approach.
Entrepreneurs look for reasons to say yes to opportunities. They don’t look for reasons that something cannot be done. They fight for every bit of additional revenue. They are solution-oriented and they are in business to serve.
My observation is that our industry is full of “no-people” and “people-pleasers” on both sides of the fence. Those clients who do not have the courage to give us honest feedback tend to sugarcoat everything — only to have their bosses bomb the work down the line. This ineptitude makes us hugely inefficient and robs us of an opportunity to solve clients’ problems quickly.
Be willing to help
It’s important, in any relationship, to first declare your willingness to help before you think of reasons not to help. The best insurance company is one that looks for reasons to pay out claims, and not one that looks for a way out of paying.
Clients come to us for business and communications solutions. Very often, clients are on the receiving end of criticism from their colleagues. This is based upon the perception that marketers are seen as slow, ineffective and unreliable. It puts them on the back foot.
So, when they come to us for help, we need to understand the pressure they are under so that we may help them. We are often their only trusted allies. So, imagine their frustration when their best ally’s instinctive response is “No, I can’t help you” instead of “I completely understand where you are coming from and promise to find a solution to your problem that serves both of us”?
The relationship that agencies have with clients is in many ways similar to the relationship between employers and employees. At face value, these two parties seem as if they sit on opposite ends of the fence, fighting for competing interests.
In reality, employees and employers actually want the same thing. They both want to create and derive the most value from the workplace. The same is true for clients and agencies.
We all want to get maximum value out of the creative process. The problem is we don’t always feel that are our interests are valued and protected. We often feel as if we give more than we receive.
Understanding and respect
My suggestion is that we have to ensure that our partners understand and respect what matters to us.
For clients who respect and understand that I run a business which is made up of human beings who come to the office to do great work and be appreciated for it; that I run a business that has shareholders who expect a decent return for their investment; that I also run a business which belongs to a proud industry that wants to be respected for having high standards — know that there’s nothing I won’t do for them.
I will look for every reason and opportunity to say yes, and I will walk to the ends of the earth for them.
Alistair Mokoena (@AlistairMokoena) — a Unilever-trained Chartered Marketer with lots of blue-chip marketing experience — joined Ogilvy & Mather Johannesburg as MD in January 2015). Formerly, he was MD of FCB Joburg. One of his favourite pastimes is driving around in the bush, photographing wild animals. Alistair, who switched from client- to agency side at the end of 2012, contributes the monthly “The Switch” column, covering relationships inside agencies and between agencies and clients, to MarkLives.com.
— MarkLives’ round-up of top ad and media industry news and opinion in your mailbox every Monday and Thursday. Sign up here!