7 ways to piss potential business clients off

September 4, 2015 Content Marketing 5 comments

6 Ways to Piss Potential Clients Off
Courtesy of Ace of Sales

How do account managers in agencies end up infuriating their clients? What can agencies do to avoid becoming gossip client fodder?

As a long-time marcoms director in my previous incarnation, I get approached quite frequently by advertising and marketing agencies offering all kinds of wares. They include anything from design and advertising agencies, web developers, digital marketers, PR consultancies, workshop and conference organisers to video production houses, gifts suppliers and printers.

Often the “modes of attack” of these advertising and PR agencies range from emails to cold calls to unsolicited LinkedIn and Facebook messages. While there are some who end up getting the business, the majority fail to make the cut.

Why do these advertising, marketing, PR and digital agencies fail to secure the deal? Let me recount some of their common mistakes.

#1 Ignorance is Not Bliss

The greatest mistake agency hacks make is their failure to put themselves in the client’s shoes. Naturally, it isn’t possible for them to know everything that their potential client does.

However, they should at least attempt to learn some of the basics, namely:

  1. The nature of their client’s business. A doctor works very differently from a renovation contractor or a private education provider.
  2. Their targeted prospect’s position in the company. Is he or she the CEO, a senior manager, a line manager, or the executive directly in charge of the area of work? You may be surprised to know that the person with the most “purchasing decision power” in the organisation may not be the guy at the top, but the one recommending vendors to his bosses. 🙂
  3. The organisational set up. Is the organisation an MNC, SME, government agency or non-profit? How many staff does it have? Does it have a regional role? Are the offices here mainly sales offices or do they also have production facilities?
  4. Who their client’s customers are. What are their profiles like? How do they reach these customers? What is their biggest challenge?
  5. The buying and budgeting cycle of clients. It is pointless to approach clients when they have just allocated their entire year’s budget to various projects.

#2 Excessive Trumpet Tooting

Failing to understand your target client is one thing. Speaking non-stop about how great your agency are is another.

Nobody likes boasters. Not especially when you haven’t already won the trust and acceptance of your potential client.

While you should certainly demonstrate your credentials to your client, it should only be done subtly towards the end of your pitch. Weave it in by telling stories of other clients and how they have achieved business nirvana with your product or service. If possible, include testimonials from satisfied customers and encourage your potential client to talk to them.

Don’t worry about your client not finding out how good you are. They will definitely dig up if they are seriously thinking of hiring your agency or subscribing to your services!

#3 Deceiving Your Client

What’s even worse than boasting to your potential customer is deceit.

In the business world, integrity is paramount. Cheaters are losers. They lose trust, credibility, respect and ultimately, the business.

When virtually everything can be discovered with a Google search or a phone call, agencies dealing with marketing or PR services need to be mindful about what they present. While some amount of puffery may be inevitable, embellishing the truth should be frowned upon.

On the contrary, admitting your weaknesses may sometimes be a good thing. Of course, this shouldn’t overwhelm your overall pitch – you do want the business after all! However, letting your client know the compromises and trade-offs for different product or service options makes your offerings more real and genuine.

#4 Being Elusive and Opaque

Mystique is a great quality to have if you’re dating somebody. It may also work well in consumer businesses like perfumes, restaurants, or hotels.

Unfortunately, being mysterious works terribly if you’re an advertising, digital, or PR agency pitching your services or products to a client organisation. The lack of transparency may make clients smell a rat and reduce trust.

In today’s open and transparent world where almost nothing escapes the all-seeing eye of Google, it pays to be clear about who you are, what you do, and what you are offering. Don’t fudge.

If you don’t have enough time to describe everything to your potential client, it may be useful to point him or her to resources where more information can be found.

#5 Failing to Prepare

On the occasion where a meeting with a potential client is secured, agency sales or account managers sometimes squander that opportunity by failing to prepare.

Their pitch leaves out critical details about their client. Or they lack depth or breadth in their coverage of client issues. Or they do not know the full extent of their product’s technical or user specifications.

Or worse – the demonstration which they hope to dazzle their client has a few bugs and error messages.

By turning up for a meeting without an idea of what the client may ask for, you are not only wasting your client’s time but diminishing his or her impression of you. And that can never be a good thing.

#6 Having Zero Staff Empowerment

The other bugbear of clients arrives when they meet agency representatives who are powerless minions. Imagine the following scenario (which I can assure you is very real):

Client: “Can you customise this with my logo in this size and colour?”

Agency: “Sorry, I have to go back and check first.”

Client: “What about the quantities? Can I order 700 sets instead of 1,000?”

Agency: “Not sure. Let me check back with my boss.”

Client: “How soon can you deliver this?”

Agency: “Dunno leh. I have to talk to my production folks.”

Client tears his hair out, further increasing the size of his bald patch. He also storms out of the room.

#7 Poor Follow Up

Last but certainly not least, clients get extremely frustrated when PR or marketing agencies fail to follow up. What’s even worse is when agencies forget what was discussed at the meeting and messes up the details.

If your potential client takes time off his or her busy schedule to meet you, the least you could do is to follow up quickly with what was discussed. And please take down notes during the meeting if your memory is poor!

What are the other ways in which we can piss off a client? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

By Walter
Founder of Cooler Insights, I am a geek marketer with almost 24 years of senior management experience in marketing, public relations and strategic planning. Since becoming an entrepreneur 5 years ago, my team and I have helped 58 companies and over 2,200 trainees in digital marketing, focusing on content, social media and brand storytelling.


  1. The post is interesting. It looks at 7 ways to piss potential business clients off. You can find the experience shared by a director. He says that advertising and marketing agencies approach him by offering all kinds of wares and they contain anything from design and advertising agencies, web developers, digital marketers, PR consultancies, and workshops and conference organizers to video production houses, gifts suppliers and printers.

  2. Really nice article! I’ve learned a lot from it! I like such articles which can help people with their business, I wish we had such subjects in college. Instead, we have a lot of unnecessary assignments, which I never do by myself. The site WritingJudge and their reviews help me find a good service.

Join The Discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>