Taking more inspiration from LinkedIn: Lindsey Slaby from Sunday Dinner (who you should follow), threw out a great question on LinkedIn: Is a chemistry meeting more challenging than an actual pitch?

I would say yes.  Lindsey initially points out, “There’s most likely no brief. And the wrong approach quickly eliminates an invitation to further discussions.”

Both points, very true.  And I would take a step back and point out a bigger-picture issue:

Agencies who don’t view these opportunities as a chemistry meeting

Speaking from my own experience, I’ve talked to and seen firms who walk into initial meetings and claim they immediately know whether it’s worthwhile.

And they base that worth on whether or not there is an immediate work opportunity. (We discuss this in our video series actually: 3 Takeaways – Ep #8 – No Work-In-Hand ≠ A Bad Meeting.)

Let’s get two things out of the way: 1) Sure, there are some meetings that quickly go nowhere, wrong fit out of the gate for example and 2) absolutely, the point of any meeting with a prospect is to get the work.

Having said that, when there is an initial fit on paper, in terms of your ideal client parameters, too many firms walk into these meetings with pre-determined notions of how it should go.

Lindsey throws out a few notable questions as well:

Do you talk about your POV on the business without knowing the actual challenge (risky!)

Indeed it is-you have to close the laptop and ask some questions first.

Do we pop open our capabilities deck?

See above, answer is no, unless they specifically request it, but even then, you have to ask some initial questions.

The word chemistry is so important here.

That’s how you must treat first meetings. Of course you want the work, but are they the right fit, and are you?  Don’t go straight for the ask, find out what you’re even asking first.

Along those lines, I really like this comment on Lindsey’s post:

I Love Chemistry Meetings. It stresses the simple reality of humans hiring other humans based on thoughtful, agile discussion versus the deliverables-based methods that have become more of the norm.

I realize that ultimately you do need to get to the ask, I don’t want to get too ethereal here, but another comment from a former CMO speaks directly to the right path:

I like to see a team that asks a lot of questions, shares some other solutions they have created and, perhaps most importantly, the thought process or pathway that got them to the message or desired set of outcomes. Finally, I feel that asking what success looks (or even feels) like is critical so all parties get aligned in the beginning.

Agreed.

When you go into these meetings, keep that word, chemistry, in mind. And in some of those meetings, you’ll find out there’s not a fit.  Was it a waste of time?  I would say not, all things being equal.

Lindsey sums it up well:

It feels a bit like a place where there is less care given to set the agency up for success and yet, it’s so so important. Taking the time to explain the purpose of this meeting, expectations, and creating some guardrails to what is in vs out feels increasingly important so these meetings truly focus on … chemistry.