Relationship Marketing – Unselling Yourself

Relationship Marketing - Unselling Yourself
Relationship Marketing – Unselling Yourself

Many self-proclaimed digital marketing gurus have flooded the marketing world with blogs sharing their so-called hacks on “Selling your Marketing” and “ Building the Perfect Marketing Relationship.” Although many marketing entrepreneurs would love to know how to build the perfect marketing relationship, we also know these “hacks” come straight from marketing 101 textbooks. Building a successful client relationship goes beyond the checklist of talking points and remembering the name of their first cat – the successful relationship is about cultivating a deeper more meaningful connection through the idea of “unselling” yourself.

How do you unsell?

Unselling yourself is a provocative phrase for good reason. When you think of selling a brand such as hand-made clothes, or a pen in an elevator what approaches do you believe to get the job done? Maybe it’s the complement factor when the owner talks about their favorite bell-bottom jeans in the store and how great you would look in them or maybe they tackle you with the urgency factor and let you know how fast their limited-edition products are flying off the shelves. Although these selling approaches do have their moments of success, they lack one important factor. Caring about the clients beyond the sale or in marketing – beyond the campaign.

The concept of unselling is discussed in Peter Bourkes’s famous book titled “Unselling”. Bourke picks apart all the classic tactics in sales marketing and reveals a tried and true way of selling – unsellling. Peter argues a successful marketing and client relationship involves problem-solving and truth-telling without having a single selling bone in your body.

The concept of unselling yourself to build a successful client relationship seems simple but is often misunderstood.  

Let’s walk through a scenario you have likely run into before. You walk into a retail store and the first thing happening is an employee comes running towards you and says “may I help you?” and in our human nature, we will likely say “nope, just looking!” As they walk away we shamefully blurt out “oh I actually could use some help, could you show me where the shirts are”-  and although their initial attempt was rejected, they come over to help. Can you think of a more approachable selling phrase than “may I help you?” … Maybe not – and yet when we feel like we are being approached, we still reject the employee’s initial and very approachable attempt. Why do we reject “may I help you” so often? Well, clients like to buy, not to be sold.

When a client inquires about a marketing campaign, a successful agency will be able to meet with the client to solve the problem, tell the truth, and be able to layout the best options. In other words, when they are looking to “buy” a new campaign, not be sold one, you will be successful if you can unsell yourself. Having a conversation about a bold marketing plan or a new strategy with a client can be an awkward conversation to have if you are used to selling yourself, your agency, and your marketing. Telling the truth and “unselling” your marketing prevails when you want your client to be successful and have a marketing relationship built upon trust.  

Having a healthy marketing-client relationship is all about trust built in the early stages. You can build stronger and longer relationships if you have the competency, and the willingness to lead them towards better choices. Your client has to believe you are competent, confident, and your primary goal is their success – not yours. As soon as you meet those conditions, it is amazing what clients will allow you to do and the willingness they will have to be led down a new journey to solve business problems.

So, how do you get to the heart of your client? How do you build a successful marketing-client relationship?

  1. Communicating to your client: When is the worst time for a client to figure out they did not have the right questions, did not know the necessary criteria to use, and the solution they picked did not provide some key function? After they sign the contract. This is why having trust in the early stages is vital for your client’s success. Building genuine respect and credence between you and your client is part of the client relationship process which is often overlooked or missed in the early stages. If you cannot communicate with your client, do not understand what is motivating them on certain decisions, if you cant influence some of the questions they’re asking, and you do not know what your client’s goals are, then the likelihood of your client’s success depletes. One of the obligations marketing agencies should strive towards is doing the best they can at the front end of the relationship to make sure there are no surprises  – which takes time, communication, influence, and confidence.
  2. Courage, confidence, and competence: A lot of sales-minded people get excited only when they get the next appointment. In other words, they string out conversations with clients without offering substantial solutions, hard to hear truths or any challenging questions due to the fear of ending the whole process before the “seller” reaches their solution or sale. If a marketing agency brings on new clients one after the other just to have more clients, there is no success in the agency or the client. Your goal should be your client’s success and trust within your own character. If you work as an account coordinator or manager in a marketing agency, make sure you establish yourself as being courageous, confident, and competent at the beginning of a relationship with a client so you can ask the hard questions.  Having these three traits proves to your client how their success is in your best interest and you know what you are doing. They may even let you take the wheel.
  3. Avoid being a subservient coordinator or manager: An overly accommodating marketing-client relationship is when the client says “jump” and you say “how high?”. Rather than being reactive and only celebrating when your client gives you time, build the initial courage, confidence, competence, and trust so you both can benefit from a more collaborative, healthy business relationship. When you establish yourself with these traits during the very first encounter and bring something valuable to the table, you can kick-start a healthy marketing-client relationship from the get-go. Strive to understand your client’s goals, personality struggles in the past, and remember to ask the “whys”, not the “how high’s.”

Take advantage of the beginning of your client’s relationship by creating trust.. It’s better than convincing them you have the best marketing ideas since sliced bread. Care about your client beyond the campaigns, the sales, and the surface-level conversations, and unsell yourself. Be a partner, not a seller.