Building a Strong Relationship With Your Agent: 5 Tips For the First Meeting

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Mediabistro is partnering up with IF Management for a series of TVSpy posts. IF Management, a TVSpy advertiser, is a New York-based on-air media talent representation firm. Each month, IF’s agents and executives will share thoughts, advice and observations about the industry from the perspective of a top talent agency. Got an idea for a topic? Let us know:

You’ve identified a talent agent you want to work with and caught his or her attention. Now you’re on to the next step: meeting your prospective agent in person. Meeting anyone for the first time can be nerve-wracking, and meeting an agent who could have his or her hand in your professional life for years to come can be even more daunting. Read on for five tips that will help you prepare for that first meeting — and help you ensure your relationship with your agent is pleasant and productive for years to come.

Do your research. If we’re meeting with you, we’ve had at least one conversation over the phone, and you’re serious about us potentially representing you. If you know any of the agency’s clients personally, or even through a connection, you should definitely reach out to them. It’s also worthwhile to familiarize yourself with other clients and find one or two that were in a similar place to you in the past. That way, you can ask about their path and how you compare.

Ask tons of questions. We’re looking for clients who want to be heavily involved in the process. It’s never a good sign when a potential client doesn’t have many questions, especially if it’s someone who’s never had an agent before. There are so many vagaries about this process and what’s expected from both sides. Write a list of every possible question you have (both about the agency and industry), and remember, there are NO dumb questions.

Don’t be afraid to push the envelope. If you feel you’re getting stock answers that are not very specific to you or the question you asked, don’t hesitate to ask for more detail. Everything should be done in a polite discourse, but if you aren’t getting the information you feel you need, say so. It’s not something a good agent will take offense to — they share a similar goal in trying to get as much information as possible about you, both personally and professionally.

Treat the agent as a potential life partner. The most important component of a successful agent-client relationship is the ability to communicate openly. This business is predicated on failure, and there are going to be a lot of jobs you go for that you will not get. When that happens, the agent and client need to be able to talk honestly about what happened to correct it for the next opportunity. You might think your agent wasn’t aggressive enough, or they might believe you haven’t effectively implemented feedback that was previously given on your work. Because of the mutual trust and faith in the process, every conversation should be constructive to some extent. Think of an agent as your professional spouse – you need to find someone you want to be in that foxhole with.

Dig into their personal life. You can learn a lot about someone by finding out how they were raised, what made them want to get in this business, and any profound moments that shaped their attitude towards life. You should try and get to know what makes your agent tick: what their own professional goals are, their philosophical approach towards representation, and how they go about marketing their clients. If they’re dating someone or married, ask about their spouse and how they met. When things get personal, they’re more inclined to let their guard down and really let you in. It’s in those instances where you really get a sense for the agent’s values and integrity.

For more from IF Management, find them on Twitter @IFManagement.