How to Win Clients and Influence Partners

A Field Guide for the Curious PDTer

It starts with you

 
This article is not for account managers or those who spend 60% of their days facing clients. This article is for those who exist within the Pixel Dreams universe. Those who aim to extend their skill set and potential beyond what their specific discipline requires.

This article is for you, PDTer. You who wants to uphold and honour the PD reputation in every interaction. Be it a partner, a delivery man, a teammate, or a client, the principles below are intended to demystify what it takes to bring the old-school PD mentality into every experience.

This journey began with a question: “What makes a good account manager at PD?”

Answers were offered. Breadcrumbs were laid. A good account manager:

  • Instills trust. 
  • Carries themselves with confidence. 
  • Has a great sense of humour.
  • Leads with gratitude. 

The responses, while all correct, were incomplete. It turns out, we were asking the wrong question.

What makes a good account manager at PD?
Why do people love working with the Pixel Dreams Team across the board?

A multiverse of possibilities opened to us. Below is what lies behind Multiverse One: We put partners first.

While each teammate’s creative output looks different, we aim to keep our partner experience at the same standard across the board – by drawing on old-school hosting traditions. Our actions are led by the notion that interactions, whether in person, over the phone or in video, are spaces we hold open for our partners. It’s our duty to ensure anyone and everyone has an enjoyable and valuable experience from the moment we say hello, to the moment we say our goodbyes.

Below are what our partners have come to expect from PD, including tactics to strengthen your connections, increase potency in your work, and believe it or not, have a lot more fun along the way (especially when our happy partners come back for more).

The goal is to thrill with our skills, both in discipline and hosting. What’s the PD secret sauce that our partners have come to expect? Read on to find out.
 


 

1. As a partner, I want to feel that you care about me, then my business

 
There are many ways to show someone you care about them first and their business second. By showing that you care, you build trust and rapport, and you form stronger relationships. When people like each other, the work is better.

 

People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
 

I. As a PDTer, I lead with curiosity.

 
In the throes of work, it’s easy to forget that our partners’ requests are a small part of a larger picture. Our clients have their own goals separate from that of the organization. They have their own reasons for being where they are, for working as hard as they do. Do you know these reasons? Do you know what’s at stake for your client if the project succeeds? If it fails?

Be inquisitive, explore the ‘why’ behind their requests. Once you look beyond the ‘client-agency’ relationship into the ‘partners-collaborating’ dynamic, it’s easier to uncover why our collaborations are important to them, and then the business. In knowing the context, you can do better by our partners in everything.
 

🌶 Bite-sized tip 🌶
Holding back because you’re scared of looking stupid? That’s your ego talking. And while sometimes your ego is right, there’s only one way to find out – by asking your question anyway. Prompt our partners further, follow up with another question to continue a particular line of thinking. At worst, your team will jump in to save any social fumble. At best, you’ve woven another thread in the fabric of our relationship because you are leading with curiosity. Congratulations!

 

II. As a PDTer, I can connect on topics outside of work.

 
Everyone has their share of dreams, anxieties, quirks and hangups, no matter their place in life. How quickly can you discover a similarity with a partner? This could be anything from discussing your love of animals to sharing a funny story from your childhood. You might be surprised how much you have in common.

You will spend over a third of your life at work. What an enriching life it could be if you form connections with partners outside of the topic of ‘work’. Yes, we’re here to do our jobs. We’re also here to improve and enrich the lives of our families, partners, and ourselves. That begins with elevating our experiences with one another.
 

🌶 Bite-sized tip 🌶
If you can feel yourself holding back, odds are, other people can feel it too. Share your story or experience and others will follow suit.

 

III. As a PDTer I lead with gratitude.

 
The universe of human relationships is as straightforward as a circle and feels just as holesome when you get it right. Along the way, you’ll earn a lifetime of experiences. Some will be easily learned, most will be a painful process and all of it is necessary in your own growth. You can reduce much of the (unnecessary) pain along the way by leading with one thing: Gratitude.

 

At the heart of every frustration lies a basic structure:
the collision of a wish with an unyielding reality.
 

Gratitude is your greatest ally in times of uncertainty and your greatest partner in times of fortune. Let it be your North star. Your guiding light. And let those with whom you’re interacting feel the depth of our gratitude for their presence in our community. This will stay with them longer than any catchy headline, timeless design or productive project.
 

🌶 Bite-sized tip 🌶
Feeling frustrated is as effective as asking a stop sign to do your taxes. It’s also an indicator that you’ve checked out of Gratitude Hotel. What can you do instead? Shift your focus to this new opportunity to challenge yourself. Gratitude is a learned skill, so get to training!

 


 

2. As a partner, I want to see you as an expert

 
How many experts have you heard proclaim that they are experts? Probably not many. They’re too busy showing you, and themselves, that they’re A Players in whatever they set their mind to. Below are ways you can start acting the part.

I. As a PDTer, I look professional.

 
In many cultures, the care and attention one places on their appearance is reflective of the level of respect they hold for those they interact with. PD is one of those cultures.

 

All it takes is a tenth of a second to make judgments.
 

If you don’t believe that your appearance influences others’ perceptions of you, let us introduce you to social science. Specifically, Willis and Todorov’s study during their time at Princeton which found that all it takes is a tenth of a second to make judgments on someone’s appearance and abilities. Set the PDT up for success by sweating the small stuff.
 

🌶 Bite-sized tip 🌶
Do you want the small stuff to be the Cheeto dust on your sweatshirt or the shirt you intentionally chose to match our client’s brand colours? Keep 2-3 key pieces in your wardrobe that you can reach for ahead of meetings. If uncertain, opt for more formal clothing than you think is needed. It’s better to be overdressed than underdressed.

 

II. As a PDTer, I lead with facts not feelings.

 
Leading with facts means supporting your position with data and evidence, rather than on emotions or personal biases. Of course, we cannot completely detach ourselves from our biases and tastes. Nor should we want to. Each person’s worldview brings a special touch to their work. Use this worldview as a supplemental factor in making data-based decisions. When you lead with facts, you are more likely to consider available evidence before making a decision, and you are also more likely to be able to explain your decision-making process to others.
 

🌶 Bite-sized tip 🌶
Can you defend your work by pointing to best practices, statistics, or sources or are you relying on your ‘feelings’? Providing factual reasoning keeps conversations focused on what’s best for the objective at hand vs. whose feelings are more ‘valid’.

 

III. As a PDTer, I encourage healthy debate.

 
Keyword: Debate. Not argue.

Argue is what you do with your boyfriend.
Debate is what you do when you collaborate with a partner to reach the best possible solution to a challenge.

Incredible ideas are birthed when creative experts in their own field debate with those who are experts in theirs. We can’t get to the best when we operate as ‘yes’ people, or when we’re so attached to our idea that we’re blinded to all other possibilities.
 

🌶 Bite-sized tip 🌶
Are you fighting for your idea, or to get to the best solution? Sometimes we let our fear of being wrong stop us from uncovering the latter. Awareness of this common pitfall is often the antidote to it. If you’re wrong, congratulations, you’ve just expanded your reality. If you’re right, that’s okay. Maybe you’ll expand your reality next time!

 


 

3. As a partner, I trust that you have my back

 
Trust. It takes a lifetime to build, and moments to break. Great work doesn’t drive great relationships. Great relationships drive great work. What actions support a PDTer in their journey to building trust?
 

I. As a PDTer, I move towards the pain.

 
It’s a natural instinct to avoid pain. If a hot stove hurts a child’s hand, they are apt to avoid it in the future. However, in business, moving away from pain can be a sign of weakness. This does not mean that we should intentionally create painful circumstances, but rather, upon its revelation, address it quickly. Why? Because pain signals an opportunity to learn, it means finding compassion and understanding and, most importantly, it tells our partners “we have your back, even when it’s not sunshine and lollipops.”

We’re lucky at Pixel Dreams. Our partners are rarely looking for someone to fault. Instead, they are looking for answers. What happened? How do we intend to solve the situation at hand? Will this cost me? What are our next steps? The sooner you address these questions, the better your chances of retaining credibility, and most of all, trust
 

🌶 Bite-sized tip 🌶
What are the common characteristics of situations you avoid? Do they have to do with money? Do you avoid creative reviews because your ego simply can’t take it? Everyone has an avoidance pattern. The sooner you uncover your avoidance patterns, the sooner you can cover your weakness.

 

II. As a PDTer, I have the courage to make decisions.

 
As much as possible, we guide our clients, and do the work on their behalf. Not to rob them of being included in the process, but to make them feel confident that we have them covered as we push forward towards their goals. This means empowering them to make decisions, while identifying our position, should they leave the decision to us.
 

🌶 Bite-sized tip 🌶
You’ve been working on a banner. The deadline is approaching and your client likes to approve banners before they go live on their high-traffic blog. There’s one hitch: They’ve become unresponsive. What do you do?
 
Option 01: Follow up with client. Opt out of uploading the banner because you didn’t receive final approval to post. Deadline: missed.
Option 02: Follow up with client. Upload the banner when the deadline nears, letting them know it’s live and updates can be made after the fact, should there be any.
 
Which option do you think our partners would appreciate?

 

III. As a PDTer, I go above and beyond the call of duty.

 
Historically, the most successful PDTers are those who understand that their jobs begin where the job descriptions end. These teammates look beyond what’s asked of them. This can mean staying late to help customers with a challenge they’re facing, volunteering for a difficult or unpopular task to ease the day of a busy teammate, or pushing forward on future, peripheral tasks because you’re anticipating the needs of others.

 

What else can I do to push the ask at hand to 120% completion?
 

🌶 Bite-sized tip 🌶
You’d be surprised at the answer to the question above. If you catch yourself thinking ‘that’s not my job’, you’re probably not going above and beyond the call of duty. What a lovely opportunity to reevaluate your priorities.

 


 

4. As a partner, I seek to work with straight shooters

 
Communication is the cornerstone of any successful partnership. In order to work effectively with a partner, we must be able to openly and honestly communicate with each other. This includes listening to understand each other, and sharing our thoughts when asked. Only by having excellent communication can we build a strong and lasting partnership.

I. As a PDTer, I eliminate ambiguities like it’s my day job (because it is).

 
Ambiguous terrain is dangerous to cross. How many times have you agreed on something only to discover the other party understood your conversation completely differently? A surefire way to avoid ambiguities is to over-communicate. Summarize the conversation with others before you go your separate ways. Outline the next steps and major milestones stemming from your discussions. Often, when we think we’re over-communicating, we’re communicating the perfect amount.
 

🌶 Bite-sized tip 🌶
Feel like a broken record? Good. People’s memories are creative. If there is a misalignment in perspective, then repeating discussions for confirmation keeps everyone’s memories aligned in the long run.PS. This is where contact reports come in handy.

 

II. As a PDTer, I communicate with confidence.

 
To come across as confident does not require you to feel confidence deep in your bones. It requires you to go through the motions, to showcase key behaviours like:

  • Rehearsing your sh*t until you know your material inside and out.
  • Telling partners what you are going to show them (and why) before showing them.
  • Using full sentences, void of filler terms like ‘ummm’, ‘ah’ or ‘like’.
  • Speaking with resonance and confidence, not a shaky Bambi-legs whisper.

 

It is a rare person who can wing it and do well. Most seemingly casual presenters invest in practice time. So if you want or need to work without a net, make sure you take time to prepare.
 

🌶 Bite-sized tip 🌶
Those who have watched recordings of themselves in meetings know how painful it can be. They have benefitted from this pain. Watching yourself in meetings demystifies how your presence is undermining (or supporting) your communication skills.

 

III. As a PDTer, I can steer conversations like it’s an art.

 
Conversations are a two-way street, and steering them in the direction you want is a learned skill. Whether you’re trying to diffuse a tense situation or get a group to focus on a specific topic, listen intently to what they’re saying, take a breath, and begin with questions to get people back to where the conversation should go.

 

She who asks the questions controls the conversation.
 

🌶 Bite-sized tip 🌶
Great questions to begin your conversation steering journey:

  • Tell me more.
  • It sounds like << repeat their position >>.
  • Can you elaborate?
  • Is it safe to assume << insert assumption >>?

 


 

There you have it. A handful of tactics to support you in your journey to being the best damn PD host our clients could ever ask for.
 

A story on the lasting art of hosting

 
The year is somewhere north of 2017. Pixel Dreams HQ is buzzing with a group of energetic misfits looking to prove something. Prove what? To whom? That’s a question for another article.

A figure enters the office unannounced. He’s a stranger to most (if you were to line everyone in a row to ask them this gentleman’s name, 30% would be a shockingly good hit rate). How does that influence the welcome received upon his entry? It doesn’t.

He unlaces one shoe. Before he can get to the other, a deluge of people hits. Enveloping arms, slaps on the back, toothy grins and offers for “water, coffee, food?”

In the midst of the activity, a message was sent: You are welcome here. Make yourself comfortable.

 

One of my first memories of PD office was walking in the door, not knowing a single person at Pixel Dreams. Everyone stood up, said hello and started asking me questions. I thought ‘this is an interesting and cool palace.’
 

This gentleman now works at Pixel Dreams and looks on this moment fondly. A testament that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
 

Further study

 

MasterClasses

  • Chris Voss Teaches Negotiation
  • Bobbi Brown Teaches Makeup and Beauty
  • Jeff Goodby & Rich Silverstein Teach Advertising and Creativity
  • Daniel Pink Teaches Sales and Persuasion

 

Book recommendations

 

5 Dysfunctions Of A Team, Patrick Lencioni
Extreme Ownership, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin
The Obstacle is the Way, Ryan Holiday
The Art of Client Service, Robert Solomon
Meditations, Marcus Aurelius
Difficult Conversations, Bruce Patton, Douglas Stone, and Sheila Heen
Ego is the Enemy, Ryan Holiday
How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie
The Prince, Machiavelli

The Author

Sarah Eskandarpour
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