For the last few weeks – maybe now a couple of months – I've reviewed certain processes and practices that can either hinder or help the act of online media planning and buying. Some of these have been remedial, like the proper use of the telephone, which is necessary to review for an email-only generation. Some have been slightly more innovative to the process, such as the use of an RFP scorecard when evaluating proposals for a plan.
For the last couple of weeks, my group has seen a lot of planning and buying going on. As usual, it's going much too fast (e.g., I've seen RFPs sent on a Sunday night asking for proposals to be due Monday morning).
When there is compression and volume at the same time, those habits or practices that cause us such pain on occasion become more ugly and apparent.
The following is a list of five things some sales folks do that drive media planners and buyers absolutely nuts, and some suggestions for mitigating the negative impact.
Few things are more maddening than getting a call from a sales rep whining about not making a plan for which they had submitted a proposal. When I say whining, I don't mean metaphorically – a vague expression of disappointment at not having been included on a buy -- I mean actually whining. "Oohhh, I'm really sorry I misread your intentions with the pricing you were asking for. Uhhhh, can I submit another proposal? I didn't think you were serious the first time. Please put us on this plan! My management is going to be really upset with me."
First of all, the high-pitch tone of voice itself is a total bummer and makes it emotionally difficult to want to do business with the represented organization. Secondly, there is no secondly, really. It's simply bad form. My only suggestion is to maybe practice what you are going to say until the words come smoothly. The stutters and the pauses only add to the plaintive quality of the communication.
2. Multiple Messages
I am so glad that you call when you need to get a question answered or you want to know the status of a proposal submitted. But please don't call four times in one day and leave a message each time. It's a waste of your time to leave them, and it is a waste of my time to listen to them. Call and leave a message once. Then send an email, the beginning of which should read, "I just left a voicemail for you. Regarding…," and then briefly summarize the call. This way you've covered off on the two most likely ways of reaching someone. And in this day and age of busy motion, people aren't always at their desk and they don't always remember to leave outgoing messages or auto response email letting people know they are out of pocket. Feel free to call more that day if the matter is urgent, but don't leave more messages.
3. Shotgun Calling
When dealing with someone at the agency on a piece of business who doesn't give you the answer you want to hear about the status of your proposal, please don't call around them to their boss or someone else at the shop. Unless you have a good personal relationship with someone else at the shop – especially if that person is in a senior or supervisory role – doing so isn't much appreciated. If the planner, buyer, senior planner or senior buyer on a piece of business tells you something you don't want to hear, accept it. Certainly there are extraordinary circumstances that necessitate extraordinary measures. But the only way I empower my employees is to support their decision. So long as things aren't done in such a way as to hurt the business or the long-term relationship with the publisher, the person driving that business is the last word.
4. Blue Sky Proposals
I'm a big fan of great ideas. And usually big ideas are expensive. But when an RFP is sent out with budgetary parameters, please try to stay within them (provided they are reasonable parameters). It is difficult and time consuming for buyers/planners to reconcile the needs as outlined in an RFP and the overabundant details in a proposal that was submitted for spending several times the amount of the top end of that RFP. If a good relationship exists between publisher and agency, the planner/buyer will hear you out, under separate cover, about a larger, more interesting opportunity. Or at least they should.
5. Know who you are talking to
When calling on an agency, do yourself and the agency a favor and find out who their clients are. A cold call that begins with the question, "So, who are your clients?" is likely going be a short one. Some of the best sales guys I've ever worked with know as much or more about my clients than I do. No one is asking you to be an expert in the vertical a particular advertiser is in. Just knowing which client or brand is being handled by the agency is good. But knowing which client or brand is handled by the person you are speaking with is better.
Next week, it's going to be the buyers' turn!
Media strategies editor Jim Meskauskas is vice president and director of online media for ICON International Inc., an Omnicom company. Read full bio.