If Pinocchio had been a client….

how big would his nose have grown?

Pinocchio’s nose grew each time he told a lie. During my conversations with agencies, and I’ve worked with 110+ agencies, I get to hear different lies that clients tell their agencies. I’m not talking about little fibs. I’m talking about lies that are whoppers. Some of these lies have serious financial implications for the agency yet typically have no financial cost to the client. Here are some examples:

“We can buy exactly the same cheaper elsewhere” This is a lie. What the client really means is they can buy similar, but not as good, cheaper elsewhere. Otherwise why bother talking to us? There is a reason why they want to buy from us. Why do clients say this? They expect us to drop our price to match the cheaper competitor. Sometimes there isn’t even another provider, it’s simply a bluff to make us drop our price for fear of losing the deal or sale.

“You came a close second” Telling the winning agency after a pitch that they’ve won is a pleasurable call for the client. Clients however can feel awkward to phone the losing agencies so they sometimes sugar-coat the message thinking the agencies will feel better if they believe they ‘came a close second’. If it was me I’d want to hear the real reason(s) I lost the pitch. Then I can learn and improve.

“We have to go out to pitch for statutory reasons” sometimes this is true especially for government, quasi government departments and some major corporates however there are a number of clients using this lie simply as an excuse. There are several cases I’ve learnt about where the client has later admitted the statutory review wasn’t the real reason for calling a pitch.

“There’s only four other agencies pitching” We subsequently learnt there were over a dozen other agencies pitching. What a waste of time for the majority of those agencies. Whose time and money was wasted? The agencies.

“That’s all we’ve got in the budget” sometimes/often/always* that’s a lie. My belief is clients tell lots of lies around budgets. What’s your experience? Typically clients hold back a safety margin, perhaps 10-20%. (I would do the same in their position)

*delete as required!

Lies, lying and liars have a special place in our culture. Think of the different songs around lying.

“Suspicious minds” Elvis. “Sweet little lies” Fleetwood Mac. “Lying eyes” Eagles – their lyrics included the words “You can’t hide your lyin’ eyes….there ain’t no way to hide your lyin’ eyes” Ideally meet clients face to face when it is easier to detect any lies.

Ultimately what’s this all about? Why do clients lie, why do any of us lie? Most of us want to avoid confrontation. We don’t want to cause a fuss or upset the other party. We ‘sanitise’ our message. Clients lie and mislead but so do most of us! You have to turn your ‘antennae’ up to full sensitivity to spot the lies that might cost you dearly.

Do these lies matter? Yes, especially if those lies incur your business, your agency, in unnecessary costs or wasted time? What can you do to protect you and your business from expensive lies? Anticipate, prepare and look out for lies. Ask open questions and watch their body language, especially their eyes.

Back to Pinocchio. Did you know Pinocchio, my favourite and Natasha, my daughter’s favourite Disney cartoon was Disney’s second major cartoon film. It came out in 1940 after Snow White in 1937.

Here’s a test for you? Can you go a day without lying?

What will you say when asked by the waiter “is everything alright?” Or “does my bum look big in this?” by your partner?

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