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The Importance of Pre-Selling

Question: We often look at having a good meeting as a metric of success.  How can we maximize the number of good meetings that we have?

Answer: This is an important question.  But, before answering it, remember that the end game is selling and producing ideas and work that grow the client’s business.  Good meetings are a means to that end, not an end in themselves.

That said, the perfect “good meeting” follows the Chinese ritual of meetings, in that the meeting becomes a formality because much of the work has been done before the meeting.  This is a result of a strong job of pre-selling.

There is no one right way to pre-sell, but here are some suggestions to help you along:

  • Establish on-going, periodic phone calls with the client to catch up on things and talk about the business.  Use these phone calls to do the pre-selling.  A separate phone call to specifically pre-sell can sometimes get a wary reaction from a client.
  • Agree with your creative team on what things they feel need to be pre-sold.  They will have good input and insight into things that may be contentious.  And you always want to keep the creatives in the loop so they are not “blind-sided” in the meeting.
  • In pre-selling the client, don’t give away the actual content of the work.  That needs to be saved for the meeting.  For example, you might tell them that they are going to see some provocative testimonial work that you think is exactly right for the brand, without revealing the specifics of who the endorsers are or how it’s going to be done.
  • The pre-selling should be positioned so as to whet the client’s appetite or make them eager to have the meeting so they can see what you’re talking about.  For example, “We’re going to be showing you three campaigns.  One of them is really ‘out of the box’ and I’m eager to see your reaction.” is a good way to pre-sell.
  • Don’t oversell.  It’s better to over-deliver than to over-promise.  Overselling will bring your judgment into question with the client and usually results in a bad meeting.

Of course, the ultimate reality here is that we hope that we know our clients well enough to know when they need to be pre-sold and what way is most effective.  But what’s clear is that effective pre-selling almost always makes for a positive meeting.



Bruce Kelley

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