Many agency search firms use what’s commonly called the “cattle call”…no, I’m not referring to the practice of getting a boat load of agencies to submit RFIs early in the process. I’m referring to the “mass conference call” where all agencies are on a joint call and are allowed to ask questions of the Marketer about the search.

Not only is this bad practice (as agencies will tend to be reluctant to ask questions out of fear of being looked at as not smart), but it also masks potential issues relative to how the agency might ultimately work with you if they’re hired.

I was recently managing one-on-one “Chemistry/Q&A” calls with the four agencies that are involved in a search we’re managing.  All agencies came in fairly “even” in terms of their skill sets – and of course, they will clearly separate out in the end, when they all run through their pitches – but during this call, there was some clear foreshadowing of what each of these agencies could be like to work with if partnering with this client.

Two of the agencies came in very disorganized, suggesting that this might be the way they operate once brought on board to manage the client’s business.  One of the two less organized agencies also got too far down into the weeds with their questioning, suggesting that they might have a hard time seeing the big picture if hired.

One of the other two agencies came into the call talking about the store checks they had conducted, offering ideas during the course of the call, and were very enthusiastic during the course of the call, leaving the client very enthusiastic about their efforts.

While these insights are by no means a “decider”, they do (and should) fall into the consideration set when evaluating an agency for hire.  How an agency acts prior to hire can be indicative of how they’ll operate once you start paying their fees.

If you are managing the search yourself – or just considering a couple of different agencies, go through this step yourself.  See what kinds of questions they ask, how organized their process is for questioning, and try and get a read on their level of enthusiasm and passion for the business.  Is one person doing all the asking, or are many involved?  This too paints a picture of what kind of team you’re likely to get.  Bottom line, do your homework – or get someone who will do it the right way for you.