As ring three approaches, you determine it is okay to leave a third voice mail in as many days. You give yourself some last second advice before you go on stage, "C'mon, keep it shorter this time!"
Then something goes terribly different.
Your client picks up the phone.
You fumble and stumble your way through the call, all the while praying you will hear those magic words. Sure enough, your prayer is answered: "How about 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday the 23rd ?"
Those words are magical. They must be, because when you hear them, you profusely thank your client as if they just staved off your pending execution.
You then place the phone down as if all your calls end this successful. So pleased with your good fortune, you look at the clock and it reads, "Time for that celebratory stroll for a cup of coffee."
Buyers I am barely kidding.
That is how important it is for sales people to secure sales calls. There is no worse feeling for a media sales rep than handing in a call report calendar to their managers with an insufficient number of calls.
Most publishers demand "10 face to face calls per week." This of course is a ridiculous number. To hit quota, one would have to arrange and attend over 450 calls in a year.
The theory has always been to ask for 10 a week, get half that and be happy. However, even this adds up to an annual quota most sales people on the street today would fail to meet. In my informal research, sales people are generating between three to four face-to-face calls per week if charted annually and accurately.
So what impact does this unrealistic yet implied sales call quota have on the buyer seller relationship?
It causes the commodity of time to be wasted.
Buyers will tell you that unless the rep is really hot, time spent wasted with a media rep will irk them considerably. Yet they concede to a rep's request to have their day in court so they can get the meeting over with while depositing what they consider a charitable donation to the overall cause.
Media reps however, are far less bothered by this time poorly spent. That is because it is not technically a waste of time for them. It counts towards their implied sales call quota, which emphasizes quantity over quality.
Mike Van Eck, of BFDM Media in Cape Town (a coastal city in South Africa for those as geographically ignorant as I am) sent me a presentation that addresses the dynamics of the media buyer/seller relationship. Thanks Mike.
According to the ISBA, a governing body of British advertisers, the two needs advertisers often express when it comes to sales calls is that the time is not wasted and that the pitches they hear are tailored specifically to their business needs.
So media buyers do not want their time wasted and media sellers desperately covet their time. Is there something that can be done so each party can get their needs met?
Agencies need to make their time available in a more formal and structured manner. For example, every Monday and Friday, allow media properties to come in and present their properties, but only in the context of specific accounts that the agency handles.
In addition, agencies should insist on attendance from not just the media team, but the account and creative teams as well (if they reside at different agencies, jump into a cab, or jump on a conference call). This format will induce follow up sales calls that are more relevant to the needs of the client.
If the top 50 ad agencies employed this kind of upfront planning of their time, 5,200 sales calls would be available for publishers to earn.
In exchange for this formal and structured access to media buyers' time and attention, Publishers need to abolish the implied quota of 10 face-to-face meetings.
The flaw in this approach is that this quota cannot be met. No one likes to fail; especially salespeople and they are being set up to do so. Moreover, if a quota is impossible to meet, how can you hold anyone truly accountable? By lowering expectations, the level of accountability increases.
I will continue covering this topic by sharing some sales call nightmares (please send me yours) and by showing publishers the benefits of tracking sales call activity as closely as they track revenue.