This is an excerpt from an interview I did last week with someone who could really help the advertising sales industry (or anyone in it who was willing to listen.) I’ve changed her name to prevent petty problems for her in the future. I’ve also redacted names of companies, media, and people. They’re not crucial to the story. As one person put on twitter: These stories could be true of any medium or industry.
What is crucial is that “Sally” has years of sales and media experience. She’s been on both sides – now a very successful member of a national advertising agency that represents clients around the country. She’s lived both sides of the relationship.
The reason this interview came together was because I saw her frustration with a local rep boil over on Twitter, and I asked her to tell me the story:
Tim: So, I’m just curious. Tell me the story. What set you off?
Sally: So the [media] rep came in and I had asked her for a very specific proposal. This is exactly what I wanted: dollar amount, demographic, frequency. I handed it to her on a silver platter. This is exactly what I want.
Tim: “I’ll be the easiest client you’ve ever had if you just do what I ask you to do.”
Sally: Exactly! But when she came in was she had a proposal seriously two inches thick. It was a novel. And she tells me as soon as she sits down, “I just want to tell you …”
She starts our meeting by going into this long diatribe of meaningless conversation. I’m a nice gal. I like to talk to people but it wasn’t genuine. You could tell that there was a difference. It wasn’t genuine interest about anything engaging.
It was like ‘I need to sit here and make small talk before I jump into my proposal.’ So I kind of pushed her to move forward, and she told me that I just want you to know that I brought you some proposals other than what you asked for. I said, “Okay. Because?”
She said the client has really been engaged in these other activities and I feel like I owe it to them to give them a first-rate proposal. Show them what that would look like.
As soon as she said that, I said “That’s fair. We can’t do it but I will look at it.” I understood it.
As we get into the proposal, she took several pages to educate me about her different offerings, even though I’m quite familiar.
Tim: You’ve met her before? She knew you?
Sally: She knew me. She knows that I’ve been around forever.
Tim: So she knew you knew.
Sally: She knew I knew. Not only did she know I knew but she also knows my history … the fact this is not my first rodeo.
Tim: But she somehow had to stick to the script or something.
Sally: Exactly! That was it. She stuck to the script. Oh, you just put a finger on something of why it’s so frustrating to me. It was generic, molded, stale.
Tim: Let’s talk about this because you and I are both fans of the power of [a certain medium]. We were born and raised in media. We have a great respect for it and our companies both buy a lot of it.
Sally: We have wonderful relationships with those people. We love them. So, we get into a few more pages of her novel-slash-proposal and my patience is starting to wear a little bit because I really wanted her to get to the meat of it. Show me where the value is.
She flips the page and she goes into why [another medium] is getting worse. She tries to show me what’s wrong with [this other medium]. I can no longer hold my cool. I just kind of push the proposal back a little bit and I said can we discuss why you put this in here? This part about the other media?
She goes well, you said you are looking at [this other medium]. I said yes, of course, I did tell you that.
I said “Your response to me sharing this information tells me three different things:”
- One is that I over-shared with you. I probably should not have shared that much information. I did not have to do it, and I probably won’t anymore.
- And two is now you are selling out of fear. You should be sitting here telling me how amazing you are and what kind of great results you are going to get for our client: the way you are going to help them meet their objectives and not wasting your time and my time talking about how my horrible other choices are specifically when I already told you that I have spent hours with the client. I know their objectives intimately and they have a broader reason or deeper, bigger reason for including [this other medium] that you don’t know about.
- So, now the third reason is that you are questioning my knowledge, my integrity as far as making choices for my client. I mean there were like eighteen different hooks that she just hit. So I qualified it all very well.
I said, “let’s do this,” and I went flip, flip, flip and about five pages later she got to the content I wanted. So I said, “let’s start here.”
So, they started, and what happened next will either make you cringe or not surprise you in the slightest. Let me ask: Do you know about financial sizing? It’s not exactly bait-and-switch … but if the best thing you can say about it is that ‘it’s not exactly bait-and-switch …’
More later. In the meantime, here’s a great exercise to practice becoming a better listener.