Compensation · CRM · Sales Rants · Sales Training · Writing

SalesRants 5: The 2.5 Percent Solution

Swapping an editorial gig for ad sales in order to write? Doesn’t make sense to Anonymous either, but he’s living it

“Shut the F@#$ up, Trudy!”
More training today. this time on CRM. That’s “customer relationship management,” by the way. The way it works is, Big Media Company spends a few hundred thousand dollars on a piece of software that tells you when to call your customers. You put in names, addresses, your client’s daughter’s name and age, underwear size, etc. Then, when you give him a ring about the August issue, you can bullshit a little and pretend you care about his family, all the while looking up his sales history, sock color preference, and any other thing they can load into the program through SAP or whatever general ledger software Big Media Company happens to be running.

During the class—mandatory for anyone earning over $50,000 at the Company, incidentally—some lady named Trudy* actually starts bitching about it. Things haven’t been right since we rolled up the new CRM application, she says. There’s no help desk. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Does this ridiculous, menial, little peon—from accounts receivable, of all departments—really think she is “speaking truth to power” here?

The CRM consultant—who happens to be a Big Media Company Player through and through—issues Trudy the old “let’s talk out your work-related issue, even though you and I both know nothing will change the software rollout” invitation, and asks her for more information. It’s a damn shame he can’t say what his eyes are telling me he wants to say.

 

His exact words are, “That’s an interesting observation, Trudy. I’ll bet, when the rollout is complete, we can find you a CRM software person to sit down with your team and get everybody up to speed. Let’s discuss this in more detail offline, and we’ll get to the bottom of this training issue. Anyone else want to share a similar experience?”

What he wants to say goes a little like: “Shut the fuck up and read the manual like everyone else.” But he doesn’t cave to the urge. Oh, well. Can’t wait for the “Violence in the Workplace” mini-session next week!

The 2.5 percent Solution

A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a year! I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishop, Bob! Make up the fires, and buy another coal-scuttle before you dot another “i,” Bob Cratchit.
—Charles Dickens

I love Big Media Company. After capping annual raises at 2.5 percent a year sometime back in 1973, we have editors at our company who literally bring a can of Friskies to work for lunch. With gas at $8 a gallon, the price of cigarettes going through the roof, and the general expense living in New York creates, the 2.5 percent raise policy means that, with inflation, the Big Media employee effectively gets a pay cut each year. Half of our guys live in Brooklyn—and not the nice part either (unless you know something about the J train that I don’t).

Not everybody’s hurting, though. The sales guy who’s consistently bringing in the cash isn’t complaining—and when he is, the boss usually busts his ass to find that extra $10 grand to placate him so he doesn’t have to go through the hell of hiring and training somebody else.

Editors? Slap them in front of a Mac and a telephone, and throw them a decent pizza party every once in a while, and you’re good to go. There are a billion budding Noam Chomskys ready to “cut their teeth” with some “good writing experience” at Big Media Company. It makes me sick.

That’s when I knew publishing was a big racket. It was also when I knocked on the publisher’s door to switch into a job selling ad space.

I used to be an editor. I remember the day I switched to sales. It was when I recommended a guy I knew as a salesman for a job at my magazine. He came in knowing fuck-all about the Industry, and started off making about $40,000 more than me right off the bat—all before he had even sold his first ad. That’s when I knew publishing was a big racket. Not coincidentally, it was also when I knocked on the publisher’s door to switch into a job selling ad space.

Although I still regret the day I left editorial, it’s pretty much been steady roast beef on a roll with extra lettuce and tomato every since, and that Friskies can hang out in the cabinet until I get a cat.

I guess my English teacher knew what he was talking about. He told us to get a job as a garbage man (or anything providing a steady income), so we could afford to write. If you want to be a writer, why not be an ad salesman to pay the bills?

[This post originally appeared in MediaBistro, 6/28/2006]

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

SalesRants 4: Quid Pro Quo

“Julie” and “Bob” help our adman on the inside master the nuances of sales etiquette

Managing Up(s) and Down(s)
It’s a beautiful Friday morning, and I’m in bright and early putting the final touches on a PowerPoint for Boss. Boss is an older man, sort of an ex-hippie creative type with decent industry rep, but somewhat scattered and disdainful of the spotlight. Boss lets me “do my thing” and I let him do his. “My thing” is selling stuff and numbers and management. “His thing” is talking to Buck*, the Group Underboss (who is the Group Boss’ bitch). I manage up, Boss manages up, and everything we have to say gets synopsized into a handy three bullet-point summary for Senior Management.

The process goes something like this: CEO asks, “What’s going on?” Message filters down to Group Boss, who emails Group Underboss, asking, “What’s up with sales?” Underboss parses this, and mass-emails every publisher in the group his interpretation of Group Underboss’ question, which he translates as: “Please send me a comprehensive report on your first six months—including details of every revenue center—with detailed notes, forecasts, and projections for the next 3 months, years, and decades.”

Publisher (a.k.a. Boss) forwards me the email, and I spend three days composing a variety of spreadsheets and supporting documents laying out the business model for the next century, with a particular emphasis on the next month or so. I send this back to Boss, with a note: “Okay with this?” Boss emails in reply: “Are these numbers legitimate?” While I’m not really sure of what I put in, my reply reads: “Solid as a rock, Boss.”

 

Boss then sends those rock-solid numbers back to Group Underboss, who asks what the three top points we want to highlight are, returning my PowerPoint and 11-tab supporting Excel document to Boss. Boss forwards this note to me, asking that I whittle down the presentation that took three days to put together to an email consisting of three bullet points. I send the bullet points, pasted within an email, to Group Underboss, who doesn’t reply.

Three weeks later, Group Underboss informs us that we need to make another $200,000 in the third quarter because unrelated magazines in our Group aren’t doing so hot. We put it into the budget, even though we know we don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of making it. Nothing is ever said about the original presentation I slaved over, so I archive it on the server, deleting the 22-megabyte file from my hard drive.

Scenario #1
I have spent the better part of an hour on our intranet site, taking a required course on sexual harassment. Comprised of helpful online videos (whose set design and production quality are bizarrely reminiscent of a high-budget porn film circa 1985), quizzes, and “refresher units,” the course serves as a welcome departure from the morning’s usual sales reporting.

In Scenario #1, “Julie,” a comely office denizen roughly 35 years of age, is working with her line manager “Bob” on a proposal. They are pitching a massive sale of copiers to ACME Business Corp, and Bob brings up the idea of meeting “Mr. Zeberdee,” ACME’s top purchasing agent.

Julie remarks that while she’s only been in touch with “Ethan,” Zeberdee’s purchasing manager, it would be great to meet with Zeberdee himself, if Bob thinks that would help close the deal. Bob’s response: “You know, Julie, Zeberdee’s single, and the last time he was in the office, he asked about you.” Bob goes on, reckoning that old Zeberdee would be “putty in Julie’s hands” after a social rendezvous. What does Julie think? Would she mind meeting Zeberdee for dinner and drinks to help them, as Bob so delicately puts it, “close this puppy?”

I can barely believe what I’m watching, and jack up the volume into my headphones, subconsciously afraid someone will notice my profound enjoyment and assume I actually am looking at porn. Will Julie do it? She doesn’t exactly strike me as demure. Come to think of it, the last time I saw that much green eye shadow on a woman in a skirt suit, she hit me up for five bucks.

Go get ’em Julie, you tramp—you better plan on coming back with at least $500,000.

Alas, the video stops right before the dénouement with the multiple-choice pop quiz. What should Julie do—what should she say to Bob? As I wait for the answer choices to appear on my screen, the suspense is downright paralyzing.

I consider going with, “(D): There is nothing wrong with Bob asking Julie to participate in an non-work related dinner, since Julie is single and may appreciate the introduction.” Exactly. Go get ’em Julie, you tramp—and you better plan on coming back with at least $500,000.

Instead, I select, “(A): It would be inappropriate for Bob to ask Julie to attend a social engagement with Bob, especially after Mr. Zeberdee indicated a romantic interest in Julie. This would constitute a form of quid pro quo sexual harassment.” I contemplate going back to the video for a “refresher unit,” but reluctantly move on to Scenario #2.

What will that kooky Bob and Julie get up to next?

[This post originally appeared in MediaBistro, 6/21/2006]

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]