Compensation · Sales · Sales Management · Sales Rants · T&E

SalesRants 3: Big Man, Small Ball

This week, reverse psychology’s the name of the game for our ad man on the inside.

Big Marketing Man

Eric Blumstein* is staring at me over the top of his Diet Coke (no fruit) and telling me in no uncertain terms how important he is. With me is Rod, the World’s Most Amiable Sales Director, and I’m not exactly sure he’s getting just how big a prick Blumstein is being.

Having just put in his first year, Blumstein’s about the fourth man down the marketing totem pole at Big Electronics Company. His boss’ timely promotion has left him holding the keys to a fairly sizable marketing budget, a portion of which is responsible for 5 percent of our total annual gross revenue. Bottom line? Without Blumstein’s complete enthusiasm for the majority of our elaborate, big-money sponsorships and programs, we’re in serious trouble. Therefore, we must acknowledge Blumstein’s marketing wisdom and let him dot all the “i’s” and cross all the “t’s” he wants to. So far, Blumstein seems determined to do a whole lot of crossin’ and dottin’ before the fall media-buying season.

Sporting a wannabe-hipster goatee and carefully arranged hair meant to simulate bedhead, Blumstein takes a measured sip of his diet soda and brushes an errant piece of tuna tartar from his chin. I am deep into my second scotch-and-soda of this casual meeting and trying to let Rod, Blumstein’s direct sales rep, absorb most of his blather. At one point, Blumstein actually says “Everything goes through me.” Wow. This bastard is cocky as hell. However, it could be a reaction to our selling a sizable sponsorship behind his back to his ad agency.

As Blumstein goes on, it is hard not to think about the fact that my assistant probably outearns him, and I chastise myself for such a base notion. Later on, I think of this when I start the 90-slide PowerPoint presentation that will be the price of admission into Blumstein’s marketing party. God, this is no way to live.

**

Small Ball
Do you sell ads? Then you know this hoary old chestnut as well as the next space representative: “There is no bigger pain in the ass than the small advertiser.” Yes, it’s true. You’ll sell a $500,000 program (large, even by No. 1 Industry Mag standards) in a week to Grey Advertising or OMD, and never hear from them again until the next quarter. But, dare to sell an 1/8-page B&W vertical to Small Company, and they will call incessantly at all hours of the night. You can count on this more than the fact that I am going to start my day with a Camel Filter and a cup of coffee (black and sweet, just like World’s Most Amiable Sales Director Rod).

 

The small company can’t really afford the ad in the first place (which is why they pay up front); is actually genuinely counting on the ad to bring them business (now they call it “ROI”); and is counting on glorious No. 1 Industry Mag to partner with them to raise their fortunes in the business. By the time the negotiations are over and you factor in all the long-distance phone calls, time spent, and the occasional T&E, you have generally lost money on the ad. The kicker? If Small Company doesn’t sell a dozen widgets or whatever (which they track mercilessly using “ad codes” and the like), then you will never hear from them again—they’ll be in No. 3 Industry Mag, where the 1/8-pages are selling briskly at $250 each, rather than the $1,850 a pop you command.

How about not selling them at all? I’m trying this now, based on this book about “firing your customers.” Perversely, once you tell clients that you don’t need their business, they stop negotiating and buy something. The old reverse psychology never fails, does it? Now, if I can only figure out how to make the bastards stop calling Rod.

**

Rod, the World’s Most Amiable Sales Director
I am sitting with Rod, the World’s Most Amiable Sales Director, at an Italian restaurant in the West 20s. We are having our monthly lunch with Tad Tramanto, one of our smaller, but more regular advertisers. Rod is wearing his uniform: a crisply pressed Brooks Brothers striped button-down under a handsome blue blazer, a pair of dressy blue jeans, and some expensive English bench made lace-ups. Maintaining “office casual” attire is something Rod does extremely well, unlike many of our colleagues at Big Publishing Company.

Rod is top boy at No. 1 Industry Mag, and has been bringing in close to $2 million annually for the past several years—a Herculean sales effort for a niche book like ours—and one that brings Rod a respectable, but not extravagant, salary that edges just above the six-figure mark. Along with his salary, Rod receives a healthy benefits package, a decent T&E account, a laptop computer, 20-odd vacation and personal days, and the promise that Big Publishing Company’ll clink the retirement jar to the tune of a 5 percent matching contribution. It’s not a king’s ransom by any stretch of the imagination, but it has afforded Rod a decent lifestyle and, not to be discounted, a sense of stability and predictability not easy to find in New York’s volatile job market.

Hailing from South America by way of London, Rod is an extremely handsome black man of refinement and culture, well-spoken, and possessed of real charm. He is, in a word, amiable—the perfect salesman.

I have personally seen him close $20,000 worth of business within 20 minutes to get himself out of a tight spot.

Rod’s sales history and account list reveals his ability to attract—and, more importantly, keep—advertising clients. Rod rarely gets a new one, but when he does, they usually stick around for a while. Rod’s client base is like a thriving garden, one which he tends and nurtures on a daily basis. Because of his well-tended client base, Rod’s one of a select breed of salespeople who can pull in favors when they’re needed, and I have personally seen him close $20,000 worth of business within 20 minutes to get himself out of a tight spot.

When you are competing against 10 other magazines, a big part of whether you get the business comes down to relationships. Rod’s specialty is creating and nurturing those relationships to the point where he’s not just a salesperson, but a trusted confidant, adviser, and—more often than not—friend. This is something that cannot be trained into a salesperson: either you’ve got it or you don’t. Every magazine needs a Rod—preferably two or three of them.

[This post originally appeared in MediaBistro, 6/14/2006]

P&L Management · Sales · Sales Rants · Sales Tactics · T&E

SalesRants 2: Glanda the Bad Witch

Our ad man on the inside divulges how the magazine sales world turns

Buck* and the Heinous Gap Button-Down
The hangover is tremendous, almost biblical. The first number I see on my phone this morning is Buck, the Underboss. Buck is a handsome gay man in his early forties, trying to hold down the corporate look with his own personal flair. That means an Armani two-button suit with the jacket left at home, and a $280 Zegna dress shirt unbuttoned 2 notches to reveal a manly, yet manicured, patch of chest hair. Despite the fact that I consider myself the epitome of the man’s man—with a slight paunch conveying the gravitas of my over 40 years, yet athletic enough to reach a basketball rim with a modicum of effort—I am cowed by the mere sight of extension 8495 on my QualComm handset.

It could be the budget. As the owner of our $10,000,000 P&L, I am expected to know—with utter authority—what is going on in the business at any time. At this point, I barely know what month it is, never mind the expected revenues in June or, perhaps, why our sales T&E is trending 30 percent above average, year-to-date. Vegas comes to mind, and my heartburn shifts from low-grade churn to storm-tossed ship. I’m starting to get the mouth-sweats.

Buck can’t format his PowerPoint for the CEO. Everything he tries to cut-and-paste comes up with the wrong alignment. Will I pop by and have a look? I realize that, thanks to my tendency to leave the house with exactly eight minutes to get to the railroad station, I haven’t been to the dry cleaner in three weeks. My sartorial situation has become so grim that I’m currently sporting a Gap button-down approximately one neck size too small and three years out of date. Buck will definitely notice. Goddamn it.

I wipe the sheen of hangover sweat from my forehead and trudge into Buck’s office to help fix his presentation.

**

Glanda the Bad Witch
Glanda pops into my office at her usual time. In other words, a time when I am least likely to have 10 seconds to spare for her bullshit. I should have taken my laptop home last night, but the thought of schlepping it onto the subway, then taking it on another train was too much to bear. I have under 30 minutes to catch up on 50 some-odd emails before my next meeting, and only a few are the kind from Nigerian nationals that get the immediate-delete treatment.

Glanda hovers in my doorway, ready to make inane conversation and/or tell me just how hard she’s working. As one of the lazier people I’ve ever encountered (and I come from an Irish-American family from lower Manhattan), Glanda commences the day’s Recounting of the Hardships almost immediately. In at 8:30. Amazing, especially with the subways being what they were. Did the line-up-report, too. Not easy, she’ll have me know, with no additional help. As per usual, Glanda strums her tiny violin like she’s playing a Clash ballad.

Yes, it has to be done in two days. No, she can’t hire anyone—the budget is too tapped out this month. Glanda’s friendly gaze turns deadly…

I sense something amiss. Glanda seems more worked up than usual. Probably because I assigned a 1,500-piece mailing to her, and she wants to get out of it by hiring a few temps to stuff the envelopes. Yes, it has to be done in two days. No, she can’t hire anyone—the budget is too tapped out this month. Glanda’s friendly gaze turns deadly, and suddenly she is looking at me as though I just murdered the family pet.

“Happy Assistant’s Day,” she snarls. Oh, shit.

[This post originally appeared in MediaBistro, 6/5/2006]