It happens around once a month: The debilitating phone call, followed by the insane sales call.
Let me start off by telling you that I really do believe in an open-door policy, and allowing sales people free access to planners and buyers. No appointment necessary. It’s their job to see you, and indeed your job to see them. Works for everyone – well, sometimes…
But this kind of thinking all ends up, as I say, at least once a month in the lav. Because there’s a repetitive experience that makes you want to open a wrist and bleed out – quickly! It involves a call that inevitably follows these lines:
“Hello, is this Henry Herber?”
“Okay. Hi, Henry. Blaze Gold here.”
(In a previous generation Blaze Gold would have gone by his actual name: Selwyn Goldberg.)
“Yeah, cool. Listen, today is your lucky day. I have the media opportunity of a lifetime for you. How are you set for later this morning?”
“No, that’s out. I need…”
“Okay, this afternoon?”
“Okay, tomorrow, Thursday, Friday, when?”
“Well, Friday at 9 would be okay, but what are you actually selling me, and for which client do you…?”
“Fabulous, Friday at 9 it is. Ciao, Henry!”
Friday dawns. At 09:10 switchboard tells me that Blaze phoned and is running a few minutes late. (Like I couldn’t tell that already.) When he finally arrives, Blaze (which you spell with two earrings) bombards me with deeply insightful questions such as:
“So what is it you guys actually do?”
“Which of your customers (we call them clients, but never mind) would be interested in advertising in – choose one of – my new outdoor medium which is scalp tattoos/a new clubbing magazine, which distributes 1,000 free copies every quarter in the North West province/ my porno mobisite that all three cellular networks are clamouring for (and are signing tomorrow)?”
“If I paid you 40 percent commission would it make a difference?” and “What does AMPS mean anyway?”
After ridding myself of young Blaze at 11:05, and swearing that if I ever see him again I’ll throttle him for wasting my time, I’m impressed to see an e-mail with the subject line “Thank you”. At least I reassure myself, there’s nothing wrong with his manners. Of course my mood is somewhat changed on opening the missive and reading, “Dear Henry, thank you…”
In all honesty, if I’m guilty of exaggeration, it’s only marginal. Every single media strategist and buyer will vouch for the global truth in my experience.
And eventually we get the proverbial straw, which I have to admit (unproudly) leads to:
“Hello is this Medium Shop?”
“No, The MediaShop.”
“Do you handle FNB?”
“No. (We actually handle ABSA.)”
“Standard Bank?” “No”
“Old Mutual?” “No”
“Liberty Life?” “No”
“African Bank?” “No”
“Well do you handle any clients at all, ‘cause I’m beginning to think I’m wasting my time?”
“(Sigh)… tell you what… f*ck off!” I have a strange feeling we’ve all done it. And though your reaction causes you to look around guiltily in case anyone in the office heard you, somehow there is a real sense of satisfaction, isn’t there? I have to believe that, given the billions invested by marketers in advertising, things surely don’t have to be this bad; that there is a modicum of mentoring and training going on out there in the world of the media owner.
There is no doubt that the “average” is now the mediocre; that this poses huge opportunity is a certainty. This is really a specialised industry, and sales ain’t just sales. Competition in this industry is not the same as that for widget salesmen, where the only person who can screw it up for you is the competitor widget salesmen.
Here, even if you’re selling outdoor, you need to know about all the outdoor companies, plus newspapers, TV, radio, cinema, the entire spectrum of new media, magazines, ambient, and whatever is invented tomorrow. Plus, you’d better understand marketing, sales, communication, advertising and media objectives and strategy. Hell, and you don’t believe we need to train anyone?
Harry Herber is the group managing director at The MediaShop.
- This column first appeared in The Media magazine (February 2009).