Looking for the Best Salesman? Find the Best Writer.

Today’s Dependence on Written Communication Means Your Next Great Salesperson May be an English Major

A headhunter recently asked me if she could help me recruit some new salespeople to our organization, and asked me what qualities I was looking for I told her, “Find me a great writer, and I’ll make a salesperson out of him.”

Why a writer? Look around. I’m riding on the 7:17 AM train from Cold Spring Harbor to Penn Station right now and, for the bulk of the 56 minute ride, 70% of the people on the train will be doing some writing—mostly pecking into their mobile devices. That’s a big change from 15 years ago. Back then, writing was something that happened in a more formal setting, when you sat in front of your workstation and crafted a memo, or wrote a proposal after a sales call. Back then, your prospects mostly communicated by phone—and would even answer it once in a while.

What does that mean for today’s online sales organization? A lot. First of all, your prospects are online…all day long. They are answering internal e-mails, reading newsletters, web browsing, checking their twitter feeds, and updating their Facebook status. They let phone calls go to voicemail, and comb through their messages once or twice a day. If you are in my business, your prospects are being assaulted by 30 e-mails a day from new start-up companies in the space, all promising to solve the problems of modern media, each with their own compelling value proposition. So, how do you break through all that noise and clutter, and get your prospect to acknowledge you?

Good writing.

Did you ever read an e-mail that made you laugh right off the bat, or had such a compelling subject line that you simply had to open it? How about an e-mail that felt like it was written exactly for you, or one that automatically answered a business question you’ve been asking for a while?  Those are the e-mails that get opened, read past the second line, and flagged in your inbox for later action….the ones that break through all the noise and make a connection. They are hard to write, and finding the people that can write them is even harder. But in a world where the written word is truly king, those that can communicate the most effectively in writing will be the leaders.

For Randy Daux, a recruiter with Howard Sloan Keller, the leading retained search firm in the media space, it’s all about knowing your audience. “Writing allows for a connection between writer and reader and is a demonstration not just of intelligence, but empathy and understanding, as well.  How many times has each of us read a cover letter or marketing email which, directed at a broad audience and without an understanding of our business objectives, we simply moved to the trash?  Competent, targeted, and emotive writing is capable of cutting through our increasingly frenetic and multi-tasked lives, and really making someone stand out.  Moreover, with everyone tied to a computer or iPhone (or Blackberry) 24/7, there’s little excuse for lack of communicative capability.”

Luckily, finding the best writers among your prospect list is fairly simple: look at their cover letters and judge them on the merits. Few candidates understand that, in sales, the easiest thing you can sell is yourself. If you can’t make a compelling argument for your own employment as a salesperson (knowing the “product” as well as you do), then I don’t want you selling something of mine. The cover letter is your gateway to understanding the way a good candidate thinks and, more importantly, expresses himself in written form. Here are some things to look for:

* Your Name: Did she get it right? Or are you “Whom it May Concern” or, worse yet, “Hiring Manager?” If your company has an “About Us” section, then your candidate should know who is in control of the hire, and address the cover letter appropriately. Even if you are not listed on the masthead, if your company has a phone number, then your candidate should be able to get the name and e-mail address of the hiring manager or HR person in charge of the hire. Would you let a salesman send a “To Whom it May Concern” e-mail to a prospect? Of course not.

* The Knowledge: Does your candidate know the first thing about your company and its hiring needs? Does she spell the company’s name correctly (don’t laugh…this is not uncommon), and know what the company does? Does the cover letter reference the actual job title in the body of the e-mail? Hint: if you get a cover letter for a “Sales Director” position that talks about “the exciting Director of Business Development position,” then you’ve just been mail-merged. Would you allow a salesperson to send 20 strategically important prospects a canned cover letter like that? No, you wouldn’t. Randy Duax, whose firm recruits for Pointroll, the Huffington Post, and The Knot, expresses a similar sentiment:  “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve Googled a sentence or two from a cover letter a candidate sent me to find it was copied and pasted from a stock cover letter/resume website.  If someone is going to put minimal effort into interfacing with me in such a fashion, how are they going to act when they’re actually in a sales role?”

* What Can I Do For You? Too many cover letters focus on the needs and skills of the salesperson, rather than the needs of the company that is hiring. You don’t have to be trained in the Huthwaite methodology to know that the first rule of sales is to get to know the customers’ problems before you try and solve them. The candidate that leaps right into his pitch without demonstrating knowledge of your needs is like a salesman who goes into a meeting and immediately leaps into a 30 slide PowerPoint. Do you want a salesforce that “sprays and prays,” or a consultative seller that can break down the digital media ecosystem, and explain your company’s place in it, relative to the issues your prospects are facing? The latter, of course. If your candidate leads by putting your needs before his, that’s one sign of a seasoned seller.

* The Close: Last, and never least, is the close. What is the “ask” your candidate is making? For an interview? Is the candidate’s “collateral” being left behind (her resume) compelling? Does the candidate reference anything besides her resume, or lead you to a place where you can find out more about her (a article or write paper she wrote, her LinkedIn page, or even an industry article you might be interested in)? Being a good salesperson means always getting a yes, no, or a continuation. Look at your candidate’s close, and see if it makes you want to take the next steps. If she can’t get to second base with you (an engaged “prospect” if there ever was one), then it’s likely that she can’t get there with one of your customers, either.

There are a lot of good salespeople out there, but few great ones. The great ones in the modern era are going to be the ones that can break through the clutter, and deliver the messages that your prospects want to read. They are the ones who not only communicate through e-mail the most powerfully, but the ones who write the Twitter messages that tend to get retweeted, and maintain a blog with their industry observations, and post the Facebook messages that don’t make you want to immediately “hide” them. The best salespeople know what you want, and deliver the content that addresses that need. Finding them is as easy as being a great reader.

[This article originally appeared in Adotas, 4/28/10]

SalesRants 14: Pigeon Feed

Swat ’em away, but they’ll still keep coming — those ‘pigeons’ of corporations that can’t stop flocking to consultants’ birdseed

Remember that television commercial featuring the two consultants talking to a corporate guy? It went something this like this:

Consultants: First you need to optimize your sales force using a state-of-the-art CRM tool, align your marketing message across multiple media to drive your quarterly goals, and implement a company-wide monitoring system to insure message optimization across multiple business units, resulting in huge gains across multiple metrics. This plan is sure to turn your business around.

Corporate Guy: Great! When can you start doing it?

Consultants: [Break down in gales of laughter]. We don’t actually do anything… we just tell you how to do it! [They dissolve in paroxysms of malevolent laughter].

Anyway, you get the drift. Despite the almost universal reckoning that corporate consultants do little more than sell glorified PowerPoint presentations full of the latest business jargon, companies such as my beloved Big Media Company continue to employ them. Let me introduce you to the very best consulting scam ever invented, one that Big Media Company fell for hook, line and sinker.

 

Scarily enough, it’s called “SPIN Selling.” “SPIN,” of course, is an acronym. Let me save you $500,000 and give you the S.P.I.N. Selling overview in a nutshell: First, find out what people want before you try and sell them something. Then, tailor your sales pitch to address their needs. Sounds simple, right?

Instead of barging into some agency, breaking out your media kit, and telling your customer your circulation, readership, and what special issues you have coming up, why not sit down over a cup of coffee and ask him a bunch of questions. Like: How is your business? (a Situation question); Is the price of paper leading to an increase in your costs? (Problem); Why is it important to solve this problem (Implication); and, If I lowered your rate, would this help you reach more potential customers? (Need/ payoff).

So, you SPIN a customer, slowly walking him through his situation, how it affects his business, and how you — his savior — may solve his problems using whatever it is you happen to be selling. It’s how probably 90 percent of all salesmen and 100 percent of successful ones approach their business. It’s called consultative sales or, put more simply, selling something that people need. What the company that sells the SPIN program offers, however, is more ingenious than anything that’s gone along with products I’ve ever hocked. They take what is a very straightforward and simple sales process (ask questions, provide answers) and pile a bunch of meaningless process and acronyms on top of it, creating a sales pseudoscience that, like Boggle, is “easy to learn, impossible to master.”

Let me tell you how it works (applicable not just to SPIN, but all bullshit media sales consultants and sales consulting in general): The Consultant comes into Big Media Company (the Pigeon) with a long list of corporate stooges who have used their product (IBM, Honeywell, or any Fortune 500 client whose size exceeds that of the Pigeon, and whose CEO is likely to be impressed by). The Consultant says they can increase sales by 20 percent a year using their new patented sale methodology. The Pigeon’s CEO cuts that estimate in half and still figures he’s up a few million net, even after paying the Consultant a healthy $500,000 fee. Soon enough, the Pigeon signs up, and mandates sales training for everyone on staff.

Naturally, since the test is based on the yet-untaught sales principles offered in the coursework, the results are terrible. Pigeon’s people are way behind the curve!

The Consultant comes in for about a month, and trains everyone, 20 at a time, using the same off-the-shelf Powerpoint presentation, with Pigeon’s name sprinkled throughout for that customized look. People are asked to take a test before the training to establish a “baseline” of sales effectiveness. Naturally, since the test is based on the yet-untaught sales principles offered in the coursework, the results are terrible. Pigeon’s people are way behind the curve! Compared to (insert Fortune 500 company’s results here), Big Media Company is a non-player in the 12th percentile!

The training commences, filled with obscure terminology and acronyms designed to turn what is essentially an easy-to-understand concept into something on which you can slap a patent. After the trainings are complete, another test is administered to make sure Pigeon’s salespeople have absorbed the expensive, mandated training. Lo and behold, the results come in, and Consultant has really made an impact! Compared to the initial baseline results, the latest monitoring shows that Pigeon’s staff is really embracing this new sales dynamic! Sadly, however, there is still work to be done. We show that IBM’s salespeople achieved a 15 percent higher result on their post-training assessment, so we recommend a further dose of advanced training (at a discounted rate of $250,000).

You get the gist. By the time Big Media Company — or any other Pigeon — realizes that their sales are about the same as last year, and that Consultant’s package is perhaps better suited to selling something like consulting services, rather than classified advertising, it’s too late.

Moral of story: Never buy something from a salesperson who is full of more shit than you.

[This post originally appeared in MediaBistro, 8/30/2006]

SalesRants 13: Between a Rock and a Sales Guy

When it comes to sticky sales scenarios, no conundrum’s too convoluted for Secret Sales Guy

First off, I want to personally thank all the readers who have written me to make suggestions and tell me how much they enjoy the column. In this round of questions, however, I swap the reader queries with some thorny scenarios I’ve heard fellow salesfolk puzzle over during my two decades in the field. You won’t find insights like these in your corporate handbook or at the next training, so read on for guidance that cuts through the crap advice usually on the media sales menu.

I am the associate publisher of small agricultural magazine that does around $3M a year in display advertising. Print sales are off, so we’re looking to add more banner capabilities to our Web site and hire an online salesperson to sell them. What qualities should I look for in this employee? Also, not being well-versed in matters online myself, can you recommend training for me?

It sounds as though your company has been bitten by the “new media” bug, and is getting ready to flush a shitload of cash down the toilet in the interest of “staying competitive.” As an avid reader of Pig International (and many other obscure controlled circulation trade magazines to which I subscribe just for the hell of it), I can tell you that the new media future in your farmers’ market looks dim for years—if not decades—to come.

The first thing to do, as your magazine’s AP, is set a really high commission plan for your salespeople (to incentivize growth) and, more critically, make sure you’re receiving a healthy override on all sales. The second thing is to discourage your company from hiring a “specialist” to sell this online advertising manure. Just because a guy can differentiate among rich media banner units and delivery systems doesn’t mean he’s worth a $75,000 base. Instead of gifting some nerd with nearly a hundred grand a year, hustle one of your sharper print guys into a Learning Annex course, then throw him some extra dough to make more online sales happen. You’ll wind up giving away half your banners to your best print advertisers as “value added,” anyway.

I’m the sales director for another big media company, managing the sales of three trade magazines, several Web sites, and a few supplements. I’ve been in the job for about three years now, laboring under a boss who is totally unsupportive. In fact, his decisions seem totally unrelated to the business, and I suspect he doesn’t really know what’s up. I’m afraid to go over his head, but I can’t take this situation. What should I do?

Obviously, what you should be doing is trying to get your boss canned, but that’s a complicated and lengthy process fraught with peril. As entertaining as it may be to load your boss up with faulty information and start planting mutinous seeds for a staff-wide revolt, such tactics are probably how your current boss got his job, and he may smell a rat. Remember, your incompetent boss was probably once just a soldier like you: young, hungry, and willing to upset the status quo to “make things happen.” Now he is a fat, corporate pig who’s been feasting for years from the management salary trough—neither willing nor able to snap at the hands that feed him.

If you have a modicum of talent and the willingness to trade your immortal soul for a shot at the bonus pool, you’ll be wind up in the same position someday. If all goes well, you will laugh cynically at this query and realize how naïve you once were. For now, you need to compare your political smarts with those of your boss and examine your situation from the perspective of senior management (i.e., “What’ll happen if we shitcan Mr. Fatcat Manager and replace him with Young Frustrated at a cheaper salary?”). If you can figure out the answer to that question, you’ll know what to do.

I’m thinking of getting into sales myself, but I wonder if it is fulfilling enough. What are your thoughts?

Is driving a brand new BMW 5-Series fulfilling? How about lingering over a $90 bottle of crisp French wine over a dozen oysters at an overpriced Hamptons eatery with a hot date? Or, perhaps, dropping $800 on an accessory sure to go out of style in three months? Are those things fulfilling? Of course they are. They are also the kinds of things that a successful career in sales can bring you.

There are thousands of very spiritually rewarding careers out there that can pay the bills—and some of them can earn you top dollar. However, for the average person without a load of specialized skills or an advanced degree, sales is the fast-track ticket to wealth.

With sales, someone basically sets you up with a computer, phone, desk, health insurance and an expense account, then prays that you can pull in four or five times your salary. The rest is up to you.

Look at me: decent enough education at an exclusive “you didn’t get into Yale, but…”-type Northeastern college, pretty good writing and social skills, and a smattering of business experience culled from a variety of mid-level positions at various publishing companies. Fits neatly into your typical mediabistro.com reader demographic, right? I’m pretty smart, but I’m certainly no genius, and since I opted out of paying another $60,000 for an MBA, my choices are limited: If I aspire to make some “real” money, it’s either sales or starting my own business.

With sales, someone basically sets you up with a computer, phone, desk, health insurance and an expense account, then prays that you can pull in four or five times your salary. The rest is up to you. If you are insanely motivated (by greed, mostly, but that’s okay), then you’ll find a way to move whatever it is you have to sell. Then you can watch the BMWs roll in. It’s a pretty fulfilling life. Make enough dough, and you can assuage your privileged guilt by giving some of it away to charity.

[This post originally appeared in MediaBistro, 8/23/2006]

SalesRants 12: Ask Secret Sales Guy

Answering your questions, Secret Sales Guy spills his own beans for a change, instead of everyone else’s

The “Ask Secret Sales Guy” question box saw its share of action at mediabistro.com’s recent marketing party in New York. Maybe I saw you there, submitting a question to your loyal and dedicated Man on the Inside. Though I received a number of intriguing questions, both at the party and via e-mail, this column has me speaking to the most basic ones.

Who the f*ck are you?
This was, by far, the most popular question. Unfortunately, it is also very difficult to answer. Secret Sales Guy is just another corporate wage slave. A former editor who put down the pen for the ad page, I have dedicated the last 10 years of my life to print and online media, and now manage a fairly profitable magazine group focused on consumer electronics. On the personal side, I am the father of two adorable children, and the husband of a cranky, yet cute, wife. I spend about three hours a day commuting from Westchester to go to Big Media Company. I enjoy fishing, writing, smoking, and eating foods heavy in saturated fats.

Considering the question more existentially, I guess you could say that I am a bit of a frustrated writer who turned to sales to support his family, but still yearns to make a respectable living with his pen. This hasn’t happened yet, but I still harbor fantasies of writing the Great American Novel or, perhaps moving to Armenia and taking a crack at the “Great Armenian English-Language Novel” if they don’t happen to have one of those yet. For now, I am grateful to be afforded the ability to offer my observations on the publishing business from an insider’s perspective and hopefully provide insight into the amusing world of advertising sales.

Where do you work?
I work for Big Media Company* here in New York City. Big Media Company began as an obscure family-run textbook publisher and gradually gobbled up enough companies over the years to become a huge, multinational corporation with dozens of offices, thousands of employees, and more bureaucrats than you can shake a stick at. Like all big media companies, mine dabbles in a bit of research, some television, a bunch of magazines and books, and this newfangled thing you may have heard of called the Internet. We are prone to laying employees off, selling portions of our company, and making extremely poor internal business decisions concerning technology.

Like all large media concerns (and many oversized corporations in general), my company operates under the ridiculous belief that we can create “synergy” across the wide range of companies that have been slapped together through decades of acquisition. The idea is that the television company can help drive sales at the magazine company, which can generate data for the research company, who can populate the magazine company with interesting, cutting-edge content, and then we can put everything on the Web and charge people $15.99 a month to be “informed and entertained.” Of course, since everyone at Big Media Company inhabits their own little selfish worlds mandated by our compensation policies, there is really no good reason to share sales, data, or anything else with another division of the company—unless, of course, you can both figure out a way for it to boost your respective bonuses. With the submarket salaries Big Media Company lays out, you sure as hell aren’t going to go to those lengths out of loyalty.

 

Despite this, Big Media Company is a great place to work—especially as a line manager. You make Big Media money, and they’ll humor you with a decent enough salary and bonus package to make sure you only send your resumé out a few times a month, rather than a few times a day. Fuck up, and you are out the door with a pleasant reference and a storage box for your picture of the wife and kids, along with those trade show knickknacks on your standard-issue office bookshelf.

How much do you make?
This was the second-most popular question. As my products’ top sales guy, I have a pretty decent base salary. However, a good part of my compensation comes from commission. Because I am the sales manager, I also get to assign myself several accounts. Naturally, I give myself the largest and most important—and most lucrative. Even better, I get an “override” on all sales that I oversee. Like a pimp, Secret Sales Guy makes money when his crew makes money, providing me with a powerful incentive to make sure my sales team is as happy and productive as possible. Add everything up at the end of the average year, and I’ll probably wind up with about $XXX,000. If I have a knockout year, it could be more. If I worked for a consumer publishing company, rather than the business-focused media company I work for, I would probably be making triple that. Anyway, because I live in New York, the $XXX,000 I make feels more like $50,000. But it’s enough to pay for beer and Skittles. It is also substantially more than I would have been getting if I had accepted the coveted editor-in-chief post at a top-tier trade magazine that was offered to me a decade ago.

What’s your No. 1 tip for making sales?
There is no secret to making sales. The best way to make a sale is to have something that someone wants to buy. If you have something like that and it’s priced exactly right, and the person who wants to purchase it has the money to do so, you will make a sale. It’s that simple. Even if you are a sleazy soft-brained, scumbag with half a community college education, so long as your product meets the aforementioned criteria, you will succeed.

Like you, your customer is a lazy bastard who wants to get the maximum return on the minimum amount of effort. He has already gone through a lot of annoying work and plenty of bad table wine with you.

Of course, most of us don’t have the perfect, reasonably-priced product that just happens to be ready exactly when the customer, money in hand, wants to buy it. Therefore, the key to sales is constantly being around so that when this miracle of circumstance happens, you are standing at the bottom of Cash Hill with your catcher’s mitt on. That translates to calling a lot of people to remind them that you have something to sell, going to a lot of trade shows, and drinking lots of bad table wine with your prospects.

Do this enough, and eventually someone will buy something from you. The beauty of this is that, once that an initial transaction occurs successfully, you may find yourself in for plenty of repeat business. Why? Like you, your customer is a lazy bastard who wants to get the maximum return on the minimum amount of effort. He has already gone through a lot of annoying work and plenty of that bad table wine with you so as to get to the point where he is comfortable enough to buy something, and he doesn’t want to relive that process all over again. Therefore, even if your product is a little worse or slightly pricier than that of your competitor, he will sooner buy it from you than start a whole new relationship and, worse yet, fill out another credit application.

Hang around. Bore yourself to tears at trade shows. Have something to sell. Drink bad table wine. That’s about all there is to it.

Secret Sales Guy is always here for you with his no-bullsh*t policy in effect, so please email with any questions for which you seek a truly honest answer.

[This post originally appeared in MediaBistro, 8/16/2006]

SalesRants 11: In Memoriam: The Three-Martini Lunch

Secret Sales Guy reminisces about a kinder, gentler era, when men used the table talk of business to hunker down over lunch and a cocktail… or three

Life can be incredibly cruel. You are violently birthed, thrust from your mother’s womb into an insecure world, passed through the meat grinder of primary and secondary school education, flung into puberty, tossed into college, and then unleashed—utterly naïve and likely scarred from years spent pursuing an ultimately useless degree—into the world of business. Once your parents kiss you off, you face the unappealing and scary business of marriage and, eventually, rearing children who will eventually face the same daunting journey described above.

The sickest part of it all is that, during the prime of your life, you will devote approximately 40 years of thankless labor to an uncaring corporation just so you can pay your mortgage and eat meat once in a while. Your wife will constantly nag you, as will your kids, once they reach about seven years old. Sure, you may take up a hobby such as golf or stamp-collecting to ease the tension, but you and I both know it: You are statistically bound to live a boring, stressful and annoying life.

“No, no, Secret Salesman,” you may protest. “Surely, life is what you make of it. Life is beautiful—there is love, art, writing, sex!”

Silly, silly media person. You do not hear the truth when it is shouted in your ear, but hear only your own fantastical whispers of hope. Except now—in a modern world where there is a pill to numb every discomfort and a self-help book to aid any perceived ailment—your nonsensical attitude can prevail. But life is a brutal endeavor. Even in this great country, families are starving, people are ravaged by untreatable disease and—worse yet—magazine employees continue to be underpaid and underappreciated. Such is the nature of this modern existence.

But, sit back, while I spin you a tale. There was a time not too long ago, a Golden Era, if you will, when life was better for the media salesman. We call it the 1980s. [I cannot speak of the 70’s or 60’s because, lamentably, I wasn’t in this line of work back then]. Back in the 80’s, there was a tonic—a soothing panacea—for the fear and ennui engendered by modern life.

They called it the Three-Martini Lunch.

You may have heard of it. Back in those Golden Days of media sales, there existed the time-honored tradition of the Three-Martini Lunch (or, as we practitioners like to call it, the TML). An oddly styled and peculiar ceremony, the TML was long heralded as one of the most effective tools in the intrepid media salesman’s bag. Suitable for use on new prospects and haggard clients alike, the TML was a way to spend quality time with a customer and talk a bit of business—all while idling away a good 50 percent of your actual workday. Should a return visit to the office be required after the TML, one was inebriated enough by that point to tolerate the rest of the afternoon. Although labeled with a somewhat misleading moniker—since the cocktail of choice didn’t have to be martinis, nor were participants limited to three of them, for that matter—the TML persisted as a serious business tool from the inception of print media until roughly 1988, when Reagan left office. Setting aside its restorative benefits to the media sales employee, the TML was, and remains, a potent tool for developing business relationships. What you don’t know, however, is that the TML was never merely about drinking.

 

Back in the very early days of the media (think beleaguered Bewitched ad exec Darren Stevens) there was no such thing as the Three-Martini Lunch. It was just lunch. Because men were involved and, incidentally, happened to run the universe at that time (or at least they thought they did), they had the freedom to order what they wanted—be it a glass of tomato juice, a refreshing lager, or an 8-ounce gin martini. Lunch was a time to get together with a trusted colleague or old client, ask him how his family was doing—and really mean it. It was just a couple of guys both facing roughly the same situation and able to commiserate about their jobs, college tuition, the wife, and just about everything else under the sun. It’s what men have done since the dawn of time: They gather over large hunks of blackened meat, knock a few back, and share something deeper and more profound than last night’s Yankees result.

Then when it came time to follow up with a post-lunch phone call, when you went through your Rolodex (since replaced by ACT, Goldmine, or some other equally annoying “CRM” application tool), you didn’t have to check your notes to remember that your client’s wife was named Sally, and he had two boys, a baby girl, and an affinity for power tools. TMLs gave you time to get to know your client—hell, maybe even like him—and share that most intimate of manly moments: an extended workday lunch.

These days, the TML is a thing of the past. On the odd occasion that you do have the time to sit down over a meal with a client or prospect, there are many things to be considered. First, there’s a 50 percent chance that your client/ prospect will be female. This can be beneficial if both you and your client are women, as you’re then likelier to have things in common. However, this puts the male salesman at a disadvantage. One potential wrinkle: Your client may be hot, which puts you immediately in the uncomfortable position of being in a somewhat intimate setting (a nice restaurant), and makes your ham-handed attempts at smalltalk seem (at least in your own mind) like the verbal fumbling of a first date. Due to the discomfort this spawns, talk tends to immediately shift to business, meaning that any chance of developing a strong personal rapport are sunk. There’s no opportunity to bitch about the wife or job (since don’t want to seem bitter or lame), and there’s less of a chance you’ll chat about sports, the conversational glue that holds male friendship together.

If (as a male) you’re fortunate enough to have a lunch meeting with a male colleague, the chance to bond and create a meaningful personal relationship remains exists, but it is still remote. The first moment of brutal, searing discomfort starts when the drink order is taken. As the host, you are obligated to glance at Jim, your client, and say, “What are you having Jim?” Jim, clearly pained, orders a Pellegrino with lime—or, worse yet, a Diet Coke (God forbid he go regular). The drink order takes a lap around the table and results in another sparkling water, and a “water’s fine, thanks.” So you, sitting at one of Manhattan’s better restaurants and about to order a steak that practically screams for a hearty Cabernet or Bordeaux, are stuck. The meal is already ruined.

Then, food ordering commences. Likely, you are sitting with two or three other men, all of whom are dying to have the steak, veal parmigiana, or some other extremely tasty and unhealthy dish (because Lord only knows what’s awaiting you at home tonight). Instead, Customer #1 orders a salad. Not even a Cobb, for Chrissakes. He orders something that, when it finally arrives at the table after 20 intolerable minutes of business conversation, looks like the weeds from my backyard with a Zabar’s gift basket spilled over them.

Be a man and order what you want. You wife is not here and, judging from the looks of you, this could be the first salad you’ve ever ordered in your life.

Come on! Be a man and order what you want. You wife is not here and, judging from the looks of you, this could be the first salad you’ve ever ordered in your life. Face it: You ordered the salad because you are a fat fuck, and you are too embarrassed to order the ribeye smothered in Gruyere. And, you know you want a beer. Yes, you do. How about you buck up, and have two of them? That way we can relax, and everyone doesn’t have to pretend that they are so indispensable that a few mugs of suds could steer the beloved Company off course when you return to your cubicle. Trust me on this—the stock price isn’t taking a hit because some mid-level marketing manager “let his hair down” at lunch and banged a few back with his rep.

You’ve been there, so you know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s like the Blackberry phenomena—these days, your identity and self-worth is so tied up in your work, that to be human for a minute may tip someone off to the fact that you’re not the next Jack Welch. Well, you’re not. So relax, order a beer and a big plate of pasta, and forget about work for a few minutes. There’s plenty of time for that when we get back to the office—you know I’m going to be calling you for an ad in a few days, anyway. So for now, why don’t we try being friends, have some red wine over a nice, thick steak, and bitch about our home remodeling projects or the price of gas a little bit—anything but work. That way, when I call you up, it’s a lot less like someone trying to sell you an ad, and a lot more like two guys who happen to work in the trenches together doing a little business.

Waiter, a martini, please—and keep ’em coming!

[This post originally appeared in MediaBistro, 8/9/2006]

SalesRants 10: The Hardest Sell of Them All

No stranger to the hard sell, Secret Sales Guy still has morals enough to question a rep who trades on her looks to land a big sale.

Pushing the Applecart
When it comes down to it, I really enjoy my profession. I get up in the morning, shower, put on a collared shirt and crack open my Wall Street Journal, secure in the knowledge that I am doing my small part for the American economy. Even on a bad day, some commerce will be transacted. Big Media Company will make a few bucks, an electronics company will sell a few more devices, our beloved and faithful readers will have another issue to peruse at their desks, and I will make a few bucks myself. Happiness all around.

Media sales can be complicated, though. There are existing clients to stay on top of, new business to hustle up, agencies and PR firms that need attention, publishers to please, and salespeople and editors to manage. Every month, a million things have to come together seamlessly so a nice, profitable, ad-filled issue can hit the mail. Invariably, things get complicated between the publication of the month-by-month editorial calendar and the actual time the issue appears in readers’ hands.

But when you get right down to it—where the ink meets that gauzy 70 lb. sheet of magazine paper stock—it’s all about pushing the applecart.

Like the street vendor of old pushing his wares down a busy street, hawking fruit to a newly arrived immigrant population, the media salesman is—at his very core—a simple man. He has products to sell and families to feed. Sometimes, his produce isn’t the freshest on the street, either. But sell it he must, to both longtime customers and new prospects alike. Won’t you please sample my wares? Feel the firmness of my apples today, Mrs. Giancotti. See how the thin veneer of wax I have rubbed into the skin gives them a shine? Won’t you please take six of my apples to your dear mother, as well?

It’s enough to make you puke.

 

When you’re rolling down a trade show aisle, outfitted in your Sunday best and trying unsuccessfully to elicit the name of a marketing manager from some logo-happy, golf shirt-wearing computer salesman, you almost wish you were a street cart vendor. You may not be sporting a Hermè’s tie and $200 loafers, but at least you get the sense that somebody, somewhere out there, wants a fucking apple.

But hunting down new prospects is part of the job, isn’t it? Who the hell’s the new guy at Sony? Well, you had better find out, because you can bet your bottom dollar that No. 2 Industry Magazine already knows. For God’s sake, they’re probably already in his office chatting placement over a macchiato. So you push that applecart, hat humbly in hand, and lurk near Sony’s trade show booth like a loser, waiting for the sales guy to free up so you can ask him who’s in charge of print advertising. That’s the way it’s done.

One mealy apple at a time.

Spreading for a Spread?
Editorial staffers sometimes cross over to the advertising side of publishing (your Secret Sales Guy being a living, breathing example). When they do, it’s not uncommon for them to hear their editorial brethren claim that such a move means they’ve automatically exchanged their upstanding editor’s soul for a commission check. Granted, this journey to the “dark side” doesn’t happen often but, when it does, is the traveler entering previously forbidden territory? Will a former ASME member in good standing trot traverse roads lower than those of his editorial cohorts, set up shop at the bottom of the moral barrel, and start selling like the tramp he’s secretly always been?

In other words: Is there any truth to the notion that sales is a whore’s game?

Personally, I can tell you that I have never traded my integrity for the price of a hefty commission—but, then again, I’ve never had the opportunity to sell an $80,000 page of advertising. I can tell you what Secret Sales Guy has seen over the course of ten years in business media, though. I can relate this story from a recent trade show.

Back in January, I received a surprise phone call from our Midwest representative. An attractive woman in her mid-thirties, Judith* commanded men’s attention for her looks, as well as for her obvious sales prowess and industry knowledge. Giving notice, she told me she was leaving No. 1 Industry Magazine and going to No. 1 Consumer Magazine. It was a major leap and an opportunity to nearly double her salary. Underpaid corporate wage slave that I am, I was simultaneously delighted for her and wracked with jealousy, since I would have sold my mother for that position. Judith’s departure was a tough loss, but what could I do? Big Media Company wasn’t exactly forking it over in terms of salary, and Judith had put in two excellent years —capped by two disappointing raises. Go with God, Judith.

Well, who do I encounter at the first trade show of the year? Not Respected Judith, who men yearned for, since she was more untouchable than a 30 percent discount off our rate card. She’d left the building. Instead, I met up with Saucy Judith, the hard drinking, client-cuddling, giddy slut who, despite her two years at Big Media Company, I had never encountered before…

Was Judith married? Yes. Was her thigh and upper ass now firmly planted in the crotch of the guy who could give her the biggest account of her career? Check.

Watching Judith wrap her legs around Tom Black, the marketing manager of Gigantic Software Company, took me by complete surprise. I had to check the old internal memory banks. Was Judith married? Yes. Was her thigh and upper ass now firmly planted in Tom’s crotch ? Check. What the hell was I seeing? A formerly demure and subtle business media sales representative draping herself all over the biggest customer in the room, trading on her good looks and overly available flanks—the living embodiment of the nightmarish slide into the true dark side of consumer media, where the page rates are big, the custom media projects are bigger, and the sponsorships are biggest of all.

My new Midwest rep and I witnessed all this from the bar in the hotel lounge. According to her, sales were down at No. 1 Consumer Mag, and someone was having a difficult transition going from trade mag to “real” mag. Also, Judith was now surrounded by a bevy of younger (and, frankly, hotter) reps in their twenties, who didn’t shy away from the occasional flirtation—or more—to secure an ad schedule. Life at No. 1 Consumer Mag came with some serious pressure, a big expense account, and plenty of internal competition.

I was now feeling a mix of emotions: sadness, for this once-proud colleague now mired in an ethical hell; fear, because this piranha of the print ad was gnawing on one of our biggest clients; and joy, because in some sick way I loved watching the late-night sales effort that the New Judith was putting out.

“Think Tom’ll get any tonight?” I ask New Midwest Rep.

“Nah,” replied New Midwest Rep, “She’s not giving it up.”

“How do you know?” I asked.

New Midwest Sales Rep, single and quite the looker herself, faced me and smiled. “Because I’m meeting him later tonight,” she said.

We high-fived and turned back to the bartender for another round of vodka-and-Red Bull. Let Judith cozy up to Tom late into the night and pay his bar tab. No. 1 Industry Mag had the inside track on Humongous Software Company, and that’s the way this trade show cookie crumbled. Better luck next time, New—but far from improved—Slutty Judith.

[This post originalyl appeared in MediaBistro, 8/2/2006]

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]

SalesRants 8: Stage One=Denial

How big of a deal is it really when a huge account falls through? Secret Sales Guy’s about to find out

A Salesman Runs Through It
Besides teaching me fun, homespun, business-related jargon such as “all sizzle and no steak,” and “let’s chuck some jelly at the wall and see what sticks,” my first Publisher taught me something pretty valuable about the business.

“Sales Guy,” he said, “What does a tea bag string manufacturer in India, a coffee grower in Guatemala, a Starbucks owner in Baton Rouge, and a manufacturer of coffee roasting machines in Dusseldorf have in common?”

“Beats me, Boss,” I answered, “They are all B-level prospects?” At the time, I was working for a business magazine about the retail coffee business. Boss looked at me with barely hidden exasperation — and some pride. He was training me, a former senior editor, to be a salesman.

 

“Yes, and no, Sales Guy. You see, these people have absolutely nothing more in common — besides being in the coffee industry — than the fact that they read Retail Coffee Journal,**” he said. “They may never meet, but every month they look forward to reading our magazine and catching up on the latest news. We are their lifeline to the industry, and we are the strongest community they are a part of.”

The information was, frankly, somewhat stunning. Did over 50,000 people with a tangential relationship to the coffee business really depend on RCJ to bind them together? Was the CEO of the Singapore-based coffee export company sitting on the throne for his morning constitutional and reading it at the same time the Honduran plantation owner was leafing through RCJ with his evening Cuba Libre? Amazing. The idea that our small business magazine was influencing and binding this disparate community together was intoxicating.

As our new sales guy — armed only with an outdated media kit, a BPA statement, and a corporate AmEx card capped at $4,000 –I was going to be the brand ambassador for RCJ. I would be an intrepid man on the street funding our wise editorial one $6,790 net page of advertising at a time, until the entire coffee industry was bound under our glorious banner. While I was at it, I would also collect a copious amount of airline frequent flier miles, and have the opportunity for much duty-free shopping. It was the ultimate dream: a way to be on the business side of publishing, and also work for the greater good.

The dream lasted until Guatemalan coffee roaster went 120 days past due on his first two pages of advertising, slashing my September commission check in half. There were a few more bad apples in the “community” as well, leading me to believe that the international nirvana of RCJ was more like a melting pot of mediocre businesses all struggling to make a buck off of Starbucks. The airline miles kept adding up, though. But after a few swings through industrial centers in Germany, Central America, and the midwestern United States, the glory of “international travel” has diminished faster than the balance in my Chase account.

Lord, help me believe again.

Stage One=Denial
We lost a big one today: Big Electronics Company decided to pull the plug on Project New Media, a $300,000 whammy of a sponsorship with more bells and whistles than my daughter’s new tricycle. It had everything: print, online, live events, Webcasting — the works. It was the project that proved #1 Industry Magazine was more than just the leader of the pack in terms of market share — we were a cutting-edge Publisher, ready to “deliver the leading edge in content-based marketing.”

The saddest part is that our plan worked. We produced beautiful advertorials about Big Electronics Company’s latest equipment. We built them a Web site with famous people using their gear. We packed auditoriums full of enthusiastic business consumers, ready to get the latest technical information about their products, and offered them a “hands-on user experience” with Electronics Company’s latest products.

We delivered ROI like nobody’s business, too. Mailing lists, online statistics, survey data, user feedback, banner ad stats. You name it, we had it. Then we sat down in front of Big Electronics Company with our Powerpoint, ready to get our renewal (the net cost of which had already been factored into our fourth-quarter P&L), and got the Heisman. The big “talk to the hand.”

What happened?

New Guy was in charge now, and he had other ideas about Big Electronics Company’s marketing. Our ambitious program wasn’t his idea, and therefore he wouldn’t get enough credit for its success.

Well, it turns out that the guy we sold this albatross of a program to got canned, walking off into the sunset with an early retirement package and a consulting job. New Guy was in charge now, and he had other ideas about Big Electronics Company’s marketing. He was going to “shake up the team” and “bring in some new blood” to their stodgy, yet reasonably effective, business media plan. Bottom line? Our ambitious program wasn’t his idea, and therefore he wouldn’t get enough credit for its success.

I haven’t told the team yet.

[This post originally appeared in MediaBistro, 7/17/2006]

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]

SalesRants 6: Big Media on the Block

B2B publishing outfits are being sold left and right—is Secret Sales Guy’s next?

Thank You for Your $upport
Let’s be honest, shall we? Secret Sales Guy (SSG) didn’t leave his comfy editorial position to go into sales because he loves it. No, sir. Secret Sales Guy has a cute wife who didn’t grow up on the Lower East Side—a wife who expects a regularly scheduled manicure, pedicure, and dye job. He also has two lovely children, who expect and deserve an education at the college of their choice (well, since they’re only in preschool, let’s just assume that they’ll expect it soon enough).

In fact, ever since leaving New York city, Secret Sales Guy has seemed to inherit two of everything: two kids, two cars, two dogs, and even a manly pair of love handles. Let’s not forget the monthly commuter pass, Metrocard, lunch money, school payments, babysitting, and anything and everything else that requires a modest amount of bread to capitalize. Anyway, you know the next part. SSG now has to find a way to pay for all of that so he can stay married, keep oil in the burner, and eat meat at regularly scheduled intervals.

 

In publishing, keeping this whole enterprise afloat ain’t too easy. At the very low end of six figures, I occupy a fairly annoying demographic position: people who are statistically “rich” but, by East Coast standards, live a fairly cash-strapped and frustrating existence. Despite the fact that the monthly commission check has been fairly chunky of late, most of it is well spent before it hits my bank account, and there’s a long list of people lined up to take a piece of it. Luckily, SSG has been lucky in real estate (like everyone else), so he knows that upon death, there may be something for the family to fall back on. For now, it’s root, hog or die.

So, dear reader. don’t underestimate the casual way SSB approaches sales. He may appear nonchalant, but that next big program he sells you just may mean the difference between pasta and beer versus a nice ribeye and a decent bottle of Cabernet. Agencies and clients: Won’t you please support SSG?

The Friendly Buys
I just read that a bunch of private equity guys finally bought a big competitor of Big Media Company, Dutch publishing conglomerate VNU. The owner of Nielsen (the TV ratings people), AdWeek (the well-written, yet somehow annoying media magazine), and a bunch of other prime periodicals, data companies, and trade shows. My beloved Big Media Company is probably champing at the bit to do the same. With print sales taking a bath and new media money not pouring in for publishers like everybody said it would, it’s time to get the hell out. Or, maybe, time to buy something else.

Coming on the heels of other groundbreaking B2B media deals, VNU’s sale was no surprise. Those private equity guys are about as gentle as an 18th century proctologist, to boot.

Coming on the heels of the Primedia deal, Hanley Wood, and some other groundbreaking B2B media deals, VNU’s sale was no surprise. Those private equity guys are about as gentle as an 18th century proctologist, to boot. Thomas H Lee, KKR, and Blackstone Group are all about the people, aren’t they? I can picture them, sitting around the old Polycom conference call unit, big jugs of Voss designer water in front of them, talking about how they can improve the company health plan and add an extra percentage point or two to the 401K matching contribution.

We’ll see how long it takes them to lop off a few choice divisions, and I wouldn’t be surprised if my beloved Big Media Company doesn’t end up with a few of them. You know what they say: If you can’t grow revenue on your own, you can buy your way into some. Buy a few mags, fire all of their back-office and production staff, and double up your own staff’s workload. Same fixed costs—double the productivity!

Sure, you’ll lose about 25 percent to attrition, but the job market’s tough for the low-end employee, and there are plenty of folks out there willing to brave a four-hour round trip commute to make $35,000 a year. Now you’re talking about real margins. The important thing is, what does this mean for your loyal and dedicated Secret Sales Guy? Will I get another magazine to run? Will Big Media Company follow VNU’s lead and start shopping my magazines around? Stay tuned…

[This post originally appeared in MediaBistro, 7/5/2006]