“We got very good at telling people what we wanted them to know, and we forgot to consider what they wanted us to understand.”
— Bernadette Jiwa in Meaningful: The Story Of Ideas That Fly
With the end of the year fast approaching, media sales people like myself are spending our days following up, circling back, and checking in with agency and brand partners, anxiously hoping for a shot to get that last deal through before Q4 comes to a close. The conversations are predictable:
“Is there anything coming up we can help you with?”
“Do you have any questions regarding the proposal I sent?”
“Wanted to send over some additional info I think you’ll find compelling.”
In a nutshell: we email, call, and pitch until we’re exasperated; we educate, pass along additional materials, and patiently await decisions. And despite all this work, we find ourselves hoping and wishing that our deals go through. One might wonder why after so much work and effort we would be left hoping; shouldn’t we be confident that our hard work would pay off? I have found that more than often, it does not. Seeing this reality repeat itself, I couldn’t help but think:
Are we truly listening? Are we really asking the right questions? Do we fully understand what our customers and partners are asking of us?
In order to do our jobs to the best of our ability, we must internalize that agency and brand partners have tasked us with creating and building useful solutions that help solve their biggest problems and answer their most daunting questions. In essence, they are depending on us. And so, we must consider: Are we fighting to close deals, or are we providing useful solutions? Are we hustling to meet a sales quota, or are we adding value by helping our partners communicate with their users in more meaningful ways?
I’ll let Bernadette Jiwa sum it up:
“The best way to get attention, then, is to give it unconditionally first. To really understand the worldview of your customers and colleagues. To anticipate what people need and want. To do things without considering what the payback might be down the line. To create without always calculating what the return on investment will be tomorrow. To stop expecting before caring and to reap what we sow. To start whispering ‘I see you’ instead of screeching ‘LOOK AT ME.’”
What Ms. Jiwa is saying here is that if we begin to put our clients’ goals before our own, if we truly make their concerns our concerns, we will see a level of commitment, openness, and effort on the part of our partner agencies that is surely absent when solely putting our own agendas forward. So: let’s all do a better job of considering what our partners need us to understand, take what we have, and get to work making it better.
I know I will be.
Director of West Coast Partnerships