The Happy Heisman.

Every advertising sales boss in history has pushed every advertising seller to reach and persuade more senior customers. Don't get stuck with the transactional buyers, they say. I want you seeing clients and the people who run accounts at the agency. So the sellers dutifully arrange those meetings: they prepare, they research, they drop names, they bring in the big guns from their own organizations. And too often, something unexpected happens.


Well, actually it doesn't feel like nothing when it's happening. What it feels like is progress. It feels like the client likes you and supports the idea. It feels like they really want to see it happen. It feels like you're getting a benevolent recommendation for further action on your program. What you're really getting is the Happy Heisman.

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Many sellers of a certain age can identify with getting the Heisman, being pushed away or deflected by the customer. (As illustrated by the pose of the famous Heisman Trophy, of course.) When the client or senior agency director says Be sure the team sees this or Once we have budget we'll take a look at this, they're really just giving you a soft exit. There's no real upside for them to say This will never happen... that would just invite a longer conversation. A much safer bet to offer gaudy good wishes as you leave the conference room.

It doesn't have to end like this. A couple of strategic changes can help.

What exactly did you ask for? If you didn't know precisely what you wanted this client to do at the end of your meeting, they're not going to figure it out for you. If you're asking her to recommend your program or approve the budget for it, you need to ask questions using those specific verbs. 100% of questions that go unasked go unanswered.

Not so fast... The very moment when a client says something supportive is exactly when most sellers stop selling. But it's actually when you should start. Ask the client to stay with the deal. I appreciate your support on this. But when someone in your position steps away it's too easy for the wheels to come off. May I keep you involved? Can I connect with you every other week to see that this is moving forward? You'll know quickly how committed or serious this customer really is.

Go big. Big decision makers want to make big decisions. Too often we bring a junior agenda to a senior meeting. The client really doesn't give a shit about whether you get on the media plan or not. Make sure that your solution is level appropriate and makes the marketer or agency better, and isn't just an improvement to the plan or CPM.

And remember, the opposite of yes isn't no. The opposite of yes is anything other than yes.