AdLand Suit is Dan Shute, a Board Account Director at Delaney Lund Knox Warren, a top ten London Advertising Agency. This is where I write about the life of a Suit - which can include pretty much anything. Delaney's didn't know I was doing this, but they do now. They still don't agree with everything I say though. They'd also probably rather I swore less.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Paying Them To Leave

The more erudite amongst you (or the Hot Shots! fans, at least) will recognise the Charlie Sheen reference in the title of this post. The great man was asked by a judge at one of his many court appearances (this was either a divorce hearing, or, quite possibly, the Heidi Fleiss trial - it's hard to keep track when it comes to Charlie Sheen, court hearings and prostitutes) why a man of his stature would need to pay women to have sex with him. He famously (and possibly apocryphally) explained that he didn't pay them to have sex, he paid them to leave afterwards.

I see two points coming out of this story, one industry-wide, and one Suit-specific. I'll deal with the Suit-specific element here, and leave the wider point for a later post.

Sheen's point was, of course, that his use of prostitutes differed from the traditional, or the expected. Other men might consider consulting a professional because they were otherwise unable to persuade women to sleep with them. Sheen, by contrast, suffered with women who wanted a post-coital relationship, when he wanted to, well, carry on being Charlie Sheen. The judge, focusing on the superficial issue, got the situation completely wrong.

And that's the point for Suits - don't rush your judgments. If a Client is making a massive fuss about a seemingly minor point in a meeting, don't just charge headfirst into a battle, but try and consider the wider view. Whilst he or she may be ranting about the size of a logo, is it possible that they feel they've been backed into a corner on other, more important points? Are there concerns about the strategy? Or is it something else entirely?

A good Suit not only picks his or her battles, but recognises when there's a battle to pick. It stems from a genuine desire to understand where the Client is coming from, and adapting your approach and offering accordingly. It's hard to learn how to be more understanding, just as it's hard to become more sensitive, more intuitive or more intelligent, but it's very easy to take a breath and not rush in. A little bit of perspective, a little bit of breathing time taken to look at something differently, and you might realise that the Client's (or indeed anybody else's) problem is something quite different from what's being expressed. And then you might even get to keep the logo as it is*.

*There's obviously a cheap joke to be made here about Suits being little more than smartly dressed pros, but here at ALS we're above stuff like that. That's part of the reason why I've never really liked the phrase 'Client Service'. It just sounds dirty.


lbhat said...

Great post (and blog). Dead right about 'good Suit not only picks his or her battles, but recognises when there's a battle to pick'. Too often suits get into work or a meeting with 'this client is an ars&@#hole' mentality - an attitude most probably picked from seniors in the agency. Sometimes a request that genuinely addresses a business need would be seen as nitpicking or being difficult.

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