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Marketing Lessons Professional Services Firms Can Learn From Mad Men – “Signal 30”

This episode, directed smartly by John Slattery (Roger Sterling) is a classic. Pete Campbell is yet again one of the biggest creepers on the small screen – this time flirting with a high school girl while attending a driving safety class. Mothers hide your daughters indeed.

We also find Lane – essentially the agency’s COO – unexpectedly developing business. Lane, who is British, is dragged along to a bar full of Brits to watch soccer. He ends up enjoying himself and returning to the office with an unexpected dividend – a business lead. It seems Jaguar may be interested in Sterling Draper Cooper Pryce’s expertise. The lesson here is that you just never know where the next lead will come, so you need to be ready with your elevator speech and a business card at all times.

There is a great line told by a huckster on The Simpsons and voiced by the late Phil Hartman – “A town with money is a little like the mule with the spinning wheel. No one knows how he got it, and danged if he knows how to use it.” Well, much is the case with a Lane and this potential client. Enter the great Roger Sterling.

Roger gives Lane some great advice, very well summed up by Esquire in this blog posting:

  1. Find out everything you can about him before you get there; if you still like him, let it show.
  2. Order a Scotch rocks and water. Drink half. When it turns see-through, order another.
  3. Then it’s kind of like being on a date. It’s best to smile and sit there like you’ve got no place to go, and just let them talk. Somewhere in the middle of the entree, they’ll throw out something revealing.
  4. Wait till dessert to pounce. Let him know you’ve got the same problem he has, whatever it is. Then you’re in a conspiracy, which is the basis of a “friendship.”
  5. If for some reason he’s more reserved, flip the script: Feed him your own personal morsel.
  6. Get your answers; be nice to the waiter; don’t let him near the check.

The reality is that there is a method and a strategy that should be employed when dining with clients and prospects.  Just one lesson here is that you have homework to do before you walk through the door. You need to read and digest your companion’s biography. You need to search for all mentions – including social media – of them online. Perhaps, most importantly, you need to identify what issues are likely important to them and just how you can be a problem solver.

A well-done dining situation (in this case it sadly did not work out for Lane) can yield enormous dividends. The reason why Roger was so successful in his career is that he listened to his clients and spent time with them – even if it was in places of ill repute at times. Business relationships won’t work if they are cold and calculated.  Take it from Roger. Truly his advice is Sterling’s Gold.

Michael Bond

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