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Magic Words

Posted on July 31, 2003 and read 7,933 times

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I’ve worked with a lot of sales reps over the years. Many were wonderful. A few were not. The vast majority, though, have been pretty good. There is however one rep that will always hold a singular place in my tortured past. Whenever I was up to my neck in last minute accounts and needy clients, and I was sure that my day couldn’t get any worse, my phone would ring and it would be her. I’d barely say, “hello” and that harsh, cigarette-ravaged voice would croak, “I need you to…” (…call, fax, write, dub, get, look up, change, re-do, ask, tell, find – insert one or more of these.) The result: my day went swirling down the porcelain.

Radio is a medium that can react quickly so you never know when a client is going to call requesting an urgent change in creative. I learned early on how to squeeze time. I’d work feverishly until late afternoon and when all the fires were out and the pressure off, I could relax. I’d get a coffee and begin working ahead on future assignments with a clear head. That’s when she’d strike again!

Something else I found troubling was that she rarely came to work. She didn’t go to see her clients either. She simply stayed home and inflicted chaos by telephone. She left servicing to the writers. We had to make regular calls to her clients. Now, I’m not talking creative calls, SALES calls. If they wanted to heavy-up, alter or postpone their campaign, we had to make it happen. If they wanted a tape delivered or a cheque picked up, we had to arrange it. And God help us if we forgot to do something that she may (or may not) have told us to do. Because she was allowed to carry on like this unchecked, we suspected that she’d caught some honcho in her camera lens doing something inappropriate with livestock. That had to be it. She didn’t bill that much.

I’m sure, there are sales reps reading this thinking, “So, what’s your point?” I must admit, it does sound like a good life. But let’s compare her approach with another rep’s at the same station. He would stop at my door, rap gently and ask, “Have you got a minute?” (I always had a minute.) “Here’s a new client. I’ll leave the details and when you can, we’ll talk. Okay?” (It was always okay.) This was his style. It never varied. He said things like “please”, “thank you”, and “I owe you one”. Simple words perhaps but they worked like magic. I wanted to do a good job for him. I would get to his stuff right away and stay late if I had to. When he was in a pinch, I’d drop whatever I was doing and help out every time. He never “needed”, he requested. And his sales were the highest of all.

She never experienced that level of service. Because she treated everyone like a servant, her stuff was last priority with everybody. When she wanted something produced asap, and the question came up: “Who’s it for?” the producer would put hers right at the bottom of the pile. When she called me demanding something, I was sorry, but there were too many other things needing my attention first. She’d have to wait in line. I was busy working on something, equally as urgent, but for a sales rep that appreciated my efforts.

Treat your staff any way you like. But with some respect and a few well-timed magic words, you may be shocked at how it greases the system and lifts morale in the trenches.

Wray Ellis is Director of Creative Services at the Radio Marketing Bureau.




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