Wednesday, July 30, 2008
The Golden Rule: Salespeople Are People, Too
By Cory Treffiletti It can be really easy to criticize salespeople in our industry, but they can also be too easy of a target. Not enough responsibility is placed on the agency side of our business for the relationship equation that attempts to foster a productive working environment. Last week I wrote about customer service and I placed much of my focus on salespeople, but this week I feel like discussing the other side of the equation.
Salespeople get a bad rap because they can be persistent. They will reach out to contact media planners numerous times in order to get a meeting, share information or to garner attention -- but the simple fact is that media people can be inconsiderate and, in some cases, downright rude. If you ask any salesperson in our industry what his or her biggest criticism of media planners would be, s/he'd tell you he wished media planners would return his calls and emails. Salespeople want a reciprocation of the communication regarding clients and marketing spend!
Responding to an email is not a difficult task. It can take as little as 15 seconds to author a quick response - saying something like, "I wish I could chat with you, but I'm awfully busy right now and need to hold off until time opens up." That sentence took me 8 seconds to write. Not bad, right?
If you go to Google search for "the Golden Rule," you'll find a Wikipedia article and many other results that deal with this most fundamental moral value that too many businesspeople overlook on a daily basis. The Golden Rule states that you should "treat others as you wish to be treated." If everyone abided by this simple truth, I think it'd be safe to say that the relationships between media planners and salespeople would be stronger, and business would be executed in a more effective fashion.
Ignoring emails and phone calls is inconsiderate. By ignoring someone, you have effectively devalued their role -- and when you devalue someone else, you injure the relationship. Injuring a relationship can be detrimental in our business, where job-hopping is the norm and you never know where someone else may end up. That salesperson you ignored or snapped at may end up being your client one day, and that interaction can come back to haunt you! It's a really small world!
I understand that people get busy; I get busy, too. Being busy is not an excuse, it's a crutch. You should never be too busy to acknowledge someone else's time. You should treat them as you would wish to be treated, and at least acknowledge their effort. If they sent you an email or called you about a topic, you owe them the courtesy of a response to let them know where they stand. If you asked them for a 48-hour turnaround on a proposal and they met that timetable, you at least owe them an explanation for why they didn't make the plan. Beyond the inconsiderateness of ignoring them, you are overlooking the fact that salespeople are, first and foremost, people. Their job is to get you information and to help your clients in much the same way that it is your job to gather information and help your clients. In a service-based business like advertising, the planning side cannot live without the sales side -- so fostering that relationship can be a valuable tool in your arsenal.
I used to be that media planner. I was arrogant and I was curt with some people, but I never ignored a request. I always responded with a quick email or voicemail message to let salespeople know that I received their inquiries. They may not have loved my 3-sentence responses, but at least they got a response. It took me a few years to understand the value in the relationships with the other side; I wish someone had told me about it long before I figured it out on my own. It could have saved me invaluable time and the need to overcome my previous reputation!
Your grandmother probably taught you the Golden Rule when you were six years old, so why is it so easy to forget? Be sure you respond to salespeople and show them the respect you feel that you deserve -- and they can be a valuable partner for you as you grow. Next time you need a favor, they'll remember when you ignored them, and payback can be a... well, you know what it can be.
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Cory is president and managing partner for Catalyst SF.
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