PR agencies know the ropes. You get invited to pitch for a certain account against other firms. You then throw a ton of time and effort into it. At some point it becomes clear that you’ve been chosen by the internal team and then you are passed over to procurement to ‘dot the Is and cross the Ts.’ In most cases that process is also quite familiar. Procurement comes with a huge list of things they want agencies to give up (most of them involve some form of discount). Now most procurement departments are quite reasonable while some push things to the limit. I don’t really blame them, after all it’s their job. But what this can result in is a situation where you simply can’t accept the terms the procurement people are seeking and you have to walk away. This is frustrating for everyone concerned. Should we therefore consider negotiating the contract and financial terms before pitching? I appreciate that may mean more work for procurement as they may have to try and negotiate with all the potential vendors. However, they could also simply say these are our terms and if you accept them you can pitch. If you don’t then you should withdraw now. Such an approach would save everyone a LOT of time and money and would result in clients only getting pitches from people willing to accept their terms. As I say, I have nothing against procurement departments being aggressive. Again, it’s their job to get the best deal for their business. What is frustrating for the agency is this notion that if you win the pitch that you should then be prepared to sign up to terms that don’t work for your business. To be clear, this post doesn’t relate to a certain pitch we’ve been involved in. In truth it related to several that have taken place in the last few months. Just want to propose a better way for client and the agency to get engaged.
One of the Next Fifteen agencies just won a good piece of business. When the client called the losing finalists for the business, one of the firms was gracious and thanked the client for allowing them to take part and said they knew the agency they had chosen was a good firm but that they were obviously disappointed to lose etc. The other losing firm was much less gracious and told the client they’d made a bad choice etc. Guess how the client reacted? You got it. The client thought the first agency was professional and would certainly consider them for any future work. They thought the second agency was rude and arrogant and someone they’d never again consider.
This isn’t the first time I’ve heard such a tale. In every case the agency that takes defeat badly suffers even more in the long run. Meanwhile the ones who are gracious keep doors open for the future. Is the lesson really that hard to learn?