How do people buy from agencies?

September 19, 2019

Having worked in agency sales for 16 years, listening to the reasons why brands buy from agencies we believe they have a massive blindspot!  Most of them do a reasonable job of communicating the rational reasons someone should buy from them, but do a very poor job of tapping into the emotional side of buyers. In the buyer’s brain, the rational side needs to act like a ‘tick-box’ – it’s a necessity before they can even progress along he sales journey.  They start by asking themselves the following questions:

  • Can they solve my problem?
  • What services do they offer?
  • How much does it cost?
  • What’s their process?
  • Have they got experience?
  • How long will it take?


Once you’ve delivered on these requirements, the buyer starts asking different questions. They want to know that they’re safe working with you.  At the heart of this, they are asking themselves, can they trust you?  They may have already made assumptions on you based on your website or if they have come into contact with any of your marketing touchpoints or employees. But there is nothing more important that the first face-to-face meeting and that’s when they start asking themselves more emotional questions:

  • Are you being honest?
  • Could they work with you?
  • Do your values align?
  • What’s their gut telling them?
  • Is this a potential long term partnership?
  • Do they like you?
  • Do they trust you?

In our experience, agencies ignore or de-prioritise these questions when they sell.  They are quick to show their 50 slide, emotionless Powerpoint deck, that they forget to connect to people.  They’re so convinced that their knowledge and solution is better than everyone else’s, that they forget to listen and pick up the signals.  And they’re so desperate for the win, that they don’t accept that they might not be right partner.  It’s falling into a routine sales process as opposed to  stepping back to truly understand the business and buyer in front them.  The key to selling is asking the killer questions that get under the skin of the opportunity; and when you do that, you open up a window of opportunity for you to walk through.  When people let you in to their personal thoughts, feelings and the internal challenges of an organisation, it means you have earned their trust and you can now tailor your approach to focus on the real problem (Spoiler Alert: the real problem isn’t written in the brief).


So, what do you need to show?

On the rational side you need to be able to communicate…

  • Service offering
  • Challenges you can solve
  • Case Studies of proven examples
  • Experience and credibility
  • Process and how you would manage the relationship
  • Price and scope clearly articulated
  • Insight and understanding into the client’s business and market


But as I say, most of you have got that down. To win emotionally, you need to demonstrate…

Authenticity – Are you trying to be something you’re not to close the deal?

Passion – do you believe in what you’re selling?

Vulnerability – Can you show weaknesses and where you might not have the answers?

Honesty – Have you told a few white lies?

Openness – Are you being completely transparent even if it means demonstrating weakness?


Agencies struggle with these because they don’t put other people first above the needs of their own business and people. They assume the client can’t handle some home truths or being forthright will lose them the pitch. They also think showing weakness and vulnerabilities will lose them the pitch.  They don’t stick to their beliefs and they let others change their thinking because they think that’s what people want to hear.  What happens is their beliefs and ideas get eroded away and they become an amalgamation of everyone’s thinking just trying to please everyone by sitting on the fence.  And once this happens, buyers (and others) start to lose faith. They lose trust. And then they really do lose the pitch.  Or they win and end up working with an arsehole.

You should believe in something so wholeheartedly, and in doing so, you will either find out if the client isn’t right for you or you’ll win the pitch.  When you get the emotional side right, you can’t lose.

But what we tend to do is retreat back into our comfort zone and become subservient to clients. This is how unemotional agencies describe themselves…

  • The online first creative agency
  • We are an integrated advertising and marketing agency
  • An Award-Winning Web Design Agency based in xxxx
  • Delivering digital advantage
  • A straight-talking digital marketing agency
  • A Results Driven, Award Winning, Digital Marketing Agency
  • We’re an innovation studio specialising in branding and digital experience design

And no, none of them appear in the first few pages of Google.

We can only advise you think more about what people are actually looking for when they buy.  Ditch the slides and start connecting with people who believe the same things as you.  You’ll only find them once you find your own story and start sharing it – not conforming to what everyone else is doing.  Try these on for starters:

  • Why did you start your business?
  • What are you pissed off about?
  • What are you proud of?
  • Who inspires you and why?
  • What are you trying to change?
  • What’s your point of view?

Now get out there and communicate it.

We give agencies the confidence they need to be themselves and tell their story with passion.

To help you improve your positioning, we have devised a tool to help you score it’s strength on the criteria we think you should be looking at.

Please complete your details below and we’ll send it to you.