Woe The Digital Sale: Where Did All My 'Friends' Go?

Question from a digital media seller: I'm a seller that's changed jobs recently. I'm finding it hard to reconnect with some of the people on the agency side that I had done business with at my former employer. I haven't changed at all; I've just changed companies. What gives?  

Jason says: Have you at least changed your socks? That may be key. Assuming you have ruled out hygiene as the problem, let's look at some other factors.

As a manager, I have been on the receiving end of quite a few phone calls from recruiters. They usually want me to help them identify prospects for a position they are looking to fill. The factor recruiters consistently find most important for any prospect to have in order to be considered for said job opening is "a good Rolodex." Guess what I find to be the most overrated aspect of job candidates' qualifications? Yep. A good Rolodex. (Note for those under 30: A Rolodex is traditionally a cylindrical object made of plastic and paper that business people used to keep on their desks. It contained people's contact information, either written on cards or "stapled" there (look it up) via business card. The next generation will replace the term "Rolodex" with "database.")



The reason I believe contact lists are overrated is because, in general, if you are going to be successful, it will be based on your ability to build good relationships or products more than just once in your career. You should be able to do it continually, based on your own skill and the value of whatever you are pitching. Contacts are not useless, of course, just overrated. Do something once and it can be the result of a few good things happening together, not necessarily your unique talent (hello, Brett Favre). Do something repeatedly and you have moved from a one-hit wonder to a star performer (hello, Steve Jobs).

So, did you build your relationships because you also happened to be selling some fantastic product or service? Is your current offering not as compelling? If so, you just learned the hard lesson that your previous "friends" were merely businesspeople who needed you to complete their own objectives. Now that you are representing something that's not as necessary in their eyes, they've kicked you to the curb. As thousands of ex-boyfriends and cyber-stalkers have discovered, it's a cold, harsh reality to be un-friended. Hopefully, that is not the case for you.

How do you break through? Check out one of our former columns for a refresher course on getting in the door. And as for what it takes to determine whether someone will be successful in the future, I'll take aptitude over past achievement eight days of the week. But remember to shower, just in case.

Amy says: How does one qualify as a friend in this situation? I agree that a name in a Rolodex does not a friend make. There are friendly parts of the buyer-seller relationship. Friends help you out when you need something, and buyers do that for sellers. Friends tell you secrets, and there is a lot of confidential information shared among buyers and sellers. But typically with friends, monetary transactions are not involved; when they are, the friendship suffers.

I've had several seller friends over the years and I now have several friends who are sellers. When I think about what makes a good seller friend, it's about the whole package. Personality is key of course but do they have something that my clients want? Does their website's audience perform well for my campaigns? Friendship in digital media is tricky because no matter how much I like a person, I can't rationalize keeping a site with the highest CPC on my traffic driving campaign.

Some buyers get caught up in the social aspects of our business and love to be friends with their sellers. Sellers are often drinking buddies, travel companions, and lunch dates on a regular basis. But most buyers wouldn't put their own tuchus on the line to save a seller friend whose ad ops guy just ruined the tags for the year's biggest launch. So now that we have cleared up what a friend means in the digital media sales world, I will say this:

I'm not sure how we as an industry are going to address this issue about buyers not calling sellers back. Especially if friends won't even call friends back just because they move to a new company. It's something that I think about frequently, almost every time I review my to-do list, which has about two dozen names of friends I need to call back at any given time. The good thing about friends in digital advertising is that you can always find new ones. So get your friendly voice tuned up, and start making those calls -- I mean, friends.

2 comments about "Woe The Digital Sale: Where Did All My 'Friends' Go?".
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  1. Ken Nicholas from VideoAmp, March 25, 2011 at 10:37 p.m.

    Jason is just blisteringly correct [bet you didn't know THAT about yourself, huh?] on this issue. The Recruiters/Clients that do this, clearly have a lacking skillset in terms of analyzing talent.

    In the last 2 yrs, with a terrible job market, too many of us had to listen to some $250k SVP guy drone on about a 'Rolodex'...before ever asking about what you can DO for them. Snooze. As soon as I hear this, I run...and I hope that I am at a point in my career where that never, ever changes. Truly great column & concept!

  2. Wendy Hidenrick from AwesomenessTV, March 28, 2011 at 10:41 a.m.

    Thats why when a recruiter calls you, you not only have to think about how much more money you are going to make, but the NEW friends you'll have to make along the way. A job transition is never super easy...its a lot of work! Even if you are moving to an ad network or publisher in the same vertical.

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