Who's important in the beauty parade..?
I met a bloke the other day from a company pitching its PR account (as a fair few are right now). Having been through the pitch process...and as a man who's worked with PR agencies previously...he was musing about the member of the pitch team upon which you should focus most attention.
Oddly, it's not the one with the biggest knockers. And he certainly didn't think it should be the cocky board director arriving hot-foot it from the last pitch...nor the associate director given the job of talking through the strategic approach. He didn't even think it was the account director. He reckoned that the best bet was to test the mettle of the account manager. If the account manager was decent, the client would be able to whip the executives along and pick and choose the more senior resource he needed, if any.
I don't think it's quite that simplistic. I do agree that in a pitch situation you can generally ignore the input of a board director (likely to be fairly generic in any case) and, if there's one in the room, the associate director too. The likelihood of seeing either after the pitch is slim and, if you do, they'll be that expensive that you won't want to see them again...
For me, the key thing to test is the tightness of the AD/AM/AE team, rather than any one individual within it. Do they have a good dynamic..? Do they seem to like each other...is there some chemistry? Is it obvious that they've worked together for a while and complement each other..?
In my experience, a team with these attributes is much more likely to work for each other...and working for each other comes before working for the client. If the client then does its job...being inclusive, tough but fair, celebrating success, saying 'thanks' once in a while...then it'll find itself a team that will give it all the attention it wants and which is also likely to stay together as a unit longer than the average. Controversial as it might be to say (but it's human nature...) agency teams work harder for clients that they like.
Remember people, there's no 'i' in team. But there is a 'me'...and 'tea' and 'meat'.
I think we can all learn something from that.