I dumped the analog Rolodex this week. It had to be done. The cards were packed together so tightly that not only was it impossible to put any more cards in, but you needed a shoehorn to pry the cards apart so they could be read. It’s okay — with some help, I’ve managed to get most of my contacts into my PalmPilot, which is probably what I should have done a long time ago.
Yes, folks, there are tons of online sales reps out there. In late 1996, I realized that my card file had more online reps than print and broadcast reps combined. I’m not complaining — I just actually wanted to point out that this is consistent with my theory about narrowcasting on the web. There are tons of niche environments and thus, a ton of sales reps for them.
This is good. More environments mean a wider variety of media vehicle selection for client campaigns. But how do you manage business relationships with this many salespeople?
The truth is, it’s all about prioritization. Plain and simple. If your clients are in the financial sector, you can’t possibly be doing your job well if you take the time to meet with the sales rep from the Official Tamagotchi web site.
But what do you do when you get that phone call? You know — the one from the sales rep in which he promises just to take 15 minutes of your time for a PowerPoint presentation. Here are some tips to make sure you don’t try to handle too much. When you get the call
- Find out what the media property is all about. First, ask the sales rep which property he represents. Ask him to sum up the media property in a single sentence. You can’t waste time meeting with everyone, but you still have to be responsible about seeking new opportunities.
- Be prepared to briefly cover your clients and their goals. It should take only a minute or two to let reps know the clients you’re representing, their targets and their goals. “We’re planning for Client A, Client B and Client C. Client A is looking for sales leads for a high-tech product. Client B is into broad-reach traffic driving, and Client C evaluates us on new sales of computers.” There, that wasn’t so tough, was it? Now the sales rep has some information to work with and can give you a much more targeted presentation if you do decide to take a meeting at a later time.
- Don’t be afraid to postpone. There’s nothing wrong with asking someone to call back if you’re swamped. You can’t spend time prequalifying a potential media environment if you have a $2 million plan due the next day at 9 AM.
- Tell the rep when you can’t see a fit. If the Tamagotchi people call and you’re planning for an online brokerage, take a phone number and promise to call back when you land the eToys account.
- Know your schedule and your colleagues’ schedules. Your workload might be too much to handle a rep meeting this week, but another planner working on the same account might have some time. Your colleagues can take the meeting and update you later.
Additionally, you can take the following steps to avoid spending too much time prequalifying media opportunities:
- Keep the “clients” section of your web site up to date. Many sales reps that don’t yet have relationships with you will often use your web site to figure out who you’re planning for. If a client isn’t actively buying with you, update your web site to reflect that.
- Use your outgoing voice mail message to help you. Give out your company’s URL so cold callers can gather more info before they call back. You might also want to give your email address so that you can follow up with a sales rep at your convenience.
- Beware when reps say “I got your name from a sales fax.” After a big account win, often sales organizations will send out faxes with your contact information. When you hear this, it usually means you’re about to be inundated with phone calls. Let voice mail pick up for a while, and call people back when you’re able to prioritize.
With a little time management, you can serve your clients well with new, targeted opportunities. Don’t get bogged down in the irrelevant stuff. Spend your time with the media properties that have something to offer.