Compensation · Sales Rants

SalesRants 7: Doing the Devil’s Work

Carpentry fantasies are good and well, but let’s be honest—if he had a hammer, Secret Sales Guy would probably use it to pound out another commission

The Devil’s Work
I was just reading back through the Secret Sales Guy archive, and boy—until now, I had no idea just how depraved Your Man on the Inside sounds. Obsessed with money. Bitter, perhaps? Maybe. I suppose that when you’re doing the Devil’s work, there are times when the dark rewards don’t outweigh the means by which you earn them.

To further the good/evil theme I seem to be building here, I should mention that I always wanted to be a carpenter (yes, just like Jesus). You see, at the end of a tough day, the carpenter gets to see the result of his labor. The amount and quality of his work are on display for the world to see. There is no mystery in carpentry.

Conversely, at the end of my day, it is impossible to tell how many widgets or DVD players I have helped to sell. How many faulty pieces of software? How many overpriced laptops?


The carpenter knows that thousands of meals will be set upon the dinner table he constructs; one can see the patina of life in the scrape from a steak knife, the ring left from a glass of beer. When the owner of the beloved family dinner table dies, his heirs will squabble over its disposition—after all, this simple piece of carved wood has, through time and use, become more than the sum of its parts.

The July issue of my magazine will be unceremoniously chucked in the trash in a few weeks time.

For those of us on the business side of publishing, our fulfillment comes in the form of the monthly commission check and the occasional year-end bonus. There, written unmistakably to the right of a dollar sign, is the validation of all of our hard work—its worth easily quantified by the social status of our peers, the sticker price on our automobile, and the hotness of our respective significant others.

Cynical? Perhaps. But I can barely swing a hammer, so how the hell would I pull off being a carpenter, anyway?

Do Not Feed Media Sales Guy
Leave it to my editor to call this column “SalesRants.” In a retrospective mood, I looked even further back into the archives. The name is oddly apropos. Maybe it’s a good angle—that whole Glengarry, Glen Ross thing. A ranting, egomaniacal salesman, hellbent on his next commission check—ready to say or do anything to close the next sale.

This column is basically a freak show. Go ahead… Peek behind the curtain, and have a look at the simpering maniac. Please don’t put your fingers through the bars, folks, unless they’re filled with crisp hundred dollar bills.

Do editorial, production, and marketing people have a similar outlook? Are they also cynical, putting in their 10 hours a day with nothing else in mind but their own advancement?

Or, do I have it completely wrong? Might I be speaking with a larger voice? Do editorial, production, and marketing people have a similar outlook? Are they also cynical, putting in their 10 hours a day with nothing else in mind but their own advancement—working to quell that constant, nagging feeling, reminding them that a minute wasted is a dollar less earned?

I could really give a shit, to be honest. You want to know how we sales folks really, truly feel? You want a peek inside the media sales cage? Better read the sign before the curtain draws open, so at least you’ll know what to expect:

1) Do not feed the Media Sales Guy—he has already eaten a hearty lunch with one of his many clients.
2) The material on the floor of the cage is editorial, or filler. That’s what goes in between the ads we sell.
3) The production department exists to give us deadlines, so we can sell more ads in the magazine. We can get them fired, but not the other way around.
4) Beware of the Publisher. He is not your friend—he is just another salesperson, but with more “side duties.”
5) Do not respond if the salesman approaches you with offers of “remnant space.” That is just a way of selling you a cheap ad without shame.

[This post originally appeared in MediaBistro, 7/12/2006]

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