SalesRants 9: CrockBerry

If you believe there’s a connection between the workplace power you wield and the constant buzz of your mobile device, Secret Sales Guy’s got a bridge to sell you

CrockBerry
Like many conscientious sales guys, your Man on the Inside checks his email early and often. My standard operating procedure is to perform a quick check of my corporate email—accessed via the Web on my painfully slow home computer—before bed, and then take a perfunctory look once I awake to check my calendar and wipe away any emails from former Nigerian government officials, horny housewives, and the like. This way, I can enjoy my 50-minute Metro North ride in splendor—just me, a Wall Street Journal, and (if I’m feely frisky) the occasional sales proposal or two.

What really gets me pig-biting mad, however (if I may borrow that classic turn of phrase from columnist Ed Anger of Weekly World News fame) are my fellow media sales brethren who have bought into the BlackBerry phenomenon.

Let’s be honest, shall we? Nobody — and I mean nobody — is that busy.

 

I commute with a few guys who you would expect are that busy, actually. One of them is the general counsel of a highly successful financial services firm. My next-door neighbor is the CTO of one of the world’s biggest banks, and another friend owns a fairly large architecture and design firm. All of these guys, down to a man, carries a “CrackBerry.”

So, what do they use them for? For some, it’s checking the sports scores. Others frequent USGA’s Web site to find their buddy’s posted handicap. For still others, it’s to wistfully retrieve that lone bachelor party “eVite,” or to send a harried message to their contractor for failing—yet again—to show up at the appointed time for their kitchen redesign meeting. Is there the occasional work email somewhere in there during the off-hours? Sure. Will the world keep turning if its recipient gets whatever needs doing done as soon as they step into the office? You bet.

That’s not the point, however.

These days, if you’re not hurriedly smacking digits into a $400 piece of plastic during your leisure time and remain accessible at the drop of an email, you are very much out. You are not important; not a part of the rolling American capital machine, ready to throw down the occasional 18-hour day for the team. Without a BlackBerry, you certainly don’t have stock options, and you sure as shit don’t have a director-level title. No BlackBerry, Treo, or Motorola Q? You are not part of America’s grand scheme to bludgeon the pleasure out of every minute of the great American workday. You are not a “gorilla for the scrilla.” You are a low-level cretin who can’t afford the $49/month data plan in the first place; a two-bit player. If you were a timepiece, you’d be a Swatch, not a Patek Philippe.

Today, it’s how frequently your device summons you, rather than the act of simply toting it around. Its clarion call signifies your personal worth as a businessperson, not just your ability to afford a cool phone.

Deep down, I think this represents the inner monologue of the CrackBerry Clan: They are IMPORTANT. People NEED TO GET IN TOUCH with them. They must ALWAYS BE ACCESSIBLE. Those who are BlackBerry-bereft? Not playaz. Just cogs in the machine. Voicemail is good enough for them. Like a monkey in Skinner’s box, their importance, their INDISPENSABILITY, is affirmed with each belt-vibration from the ‘Berry. Each millimeter of thumb callus that rises as they “reply to all” on the 7:23 to Grand Central is another scabrous layer they build between themselves and their peers. BlackBerries are expensive, but accessible. The status difference between the $400 mobile email device of today and the brick-like, $5,000 mobile phone of 1982 is huge: today, it’s how frequently your device summons you, rather than simply toting it around. Its clarion call signifies your personal worth as a businessperson, not just your ability to afford a cool phone.

Don’t get me wrong, though. There are times when a BlackBerry or Treo comes in handy. Jimmy*, my faithful friend of 25 years (and currently crack technology salesman) finds his extremely valuable when “out in the field making calls.” The fact that those sales calls are occasionally made to me, and sometimes occur within spitting distance of a Guinness tap isn’t known to his Boss, who assumes (and rightly so), that the quick return of his email queries indicates Jimmy’s diligence and hearty respect for authority. The mobile email device is also useful on a fifty-minute train ride, or in the midst of a trade show—especially when you’ve forgotten the booth number of your 8am appointment. Yes, the BlackBerry is a boon in many ways.

So, how about your intrepid and diligent Man on the Inside? Do I use a BlackBerry, Treo, or other insipid communications device? Nope. I still have the free phone they gave me with my 3-year plan. It has several advantages. First of all, one cannot use it to send or receive annoying “texts”; ditto for email messages. Secondly, since I seldom answer my phone at all, nobody bothers trying to contact me on it. Thirdly, since only seven people know my cell number, if the phone actually rings, I know exactly who it is that wants to get in touch with me—there are no surprises. Want to talk to me about work-related issues? Want to buy something? Call me between 9AM and 6PM. After that, all ways to reach me go dark.

From 9 to 6, I am every inch the Big Media Company guy—even bringing work to do on my half-hour lunch break. Believe me—Big Media Company gets its money’s worth. But before 9 and after 6? That’s my time, baby. Call me as often as you like, and enjoy your stay in voicemail oblivion ’til I’m back on the clock.

[This post originally appeared in MediaBistro, 7/26/2006]

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