Attention Sales Staff! Please Read This Before You Call

I had a giant buy I had to put together, and I had a week to do it. Another new dot-com, with lots of money to spend backed by the understanding that it takes a lot of money spent to make an impact in this cluttered market. This means that decisions get made quickly, and everything has to move fast, fast, fast.

I sent out more than 150 RFPs (requests for proposal) to a wide variety of sites: community sites, search engines, tech news sites, cost-per-click networks, ad networks, and small targeted sites with an affinity for the product and service being offered by this new advertiser. From the time RFPs are due to the time this advertiser wants banners up and running there are two business days, or four working days if you count the weekend. This means receipt of RFPs, analysis, negotiation, final agreement to terms and conditions with the sites and the agency, and finally, the issuance of insertion orders and the trafficking of banners all have to take place at the speed of light. And they have to take place at the speed of light while I continue to manage ad campaigns for the other clients I oversee.

Do you have any idea what the most precious commodity is in my professional life? From what I’ve just been talking about, can you read between the lines and see what I need more of than anything else in the world? No, it is not more staff, though that’s always a boon. It is time. Time. A thing often confused with “bandwidth” when discussing a media planner or buyer’s workload capacity. Needless to say, time is something I have very little extra of.

And did I mention that I sent out over 150 RFPs for this buy I had to put together? Let me say that again: 150 RFPs. Do you have any idea how many that is, and how much information that is to go through? And let me reiterate: I don’t have very much time.

Now, do you know what happens when I send out this many RFPs?

“Uh, reps fill them out, providing you with all of the information you were looking for and start sending them back to you as quickly as possible?”

Well, yes, some actually do that. But you know what the vast majority of them do? They call. They call and ask questions about the RFP. Things like, “I know you say that you are looking for a proposal that is for about $5,000 for this first month’s test, but what if I send you one for $15,000? Is that okay?”

One property I RFPed sent back a proposal for over $6 million. Can you believe that?

About half of the sites to whom I sent RFPs gave me costs in net when I state explicitly I want costs in gross. Half of those sites didn’t know the difference between net and gross.

Or they want to talk about it. They want to ask who the client is, even though I stated that clearly, more than once, in the RFP. They want to know what the client does, even though it is written up in the RFP and the client’s web site presents ample information.

Some of the sites I RFPed have reps who don’t like to use email, so they only want to communicate via the phone. Or, better yet, they only use the phone and don’t like to leave voicemail. Can you imagine working in this space but not liking to use email?

Some want to just call and say, “Hi.” They are new to the business, or have just been assigned this particular category, client or agency, and they want to introduce themselves and come in for a meeting about the RFP. “Is tomorrow good for you?”

Don’t they realize they are one of dozens of sites I have to evaluate in the next 48 hours? Do they realize how much time I DON’T have?

I wrote in this space early on about how important it is for buyers and planners to make very clear to site reps just what it is they are looking for when shopping sites on which to place advertising. Doing this ensures that nobody’s time is wasted. Questions we planners and buyers need answered are asked; site reps need to do their best to answer them. When they give us something other than what we asked for, when they supply incomplete information, when they ignore questions altogether, they waste their time and ours.

If there is something in the RFP that isn’t comprehensible, send an email asking about it. If it is a data point that you’re not familiar with, first ask someone who works with you about it rather than calling us. We’re not just a bunch of jerks who don’t want to talk on the phone – we’re just strapped for time.

So here is my plea: Please thoroughly read the RFP I send you before you pick up that phone and call me. Then we can be friends and talk all you want when the planning is over.

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