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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The End of Civility?

I have an old friend who still toils in the media sales world. The guy is a complete professional and a true gentlemen. He called on me for many years and we did a great deal of business at times. When my jobs and clients changed he stayed in touch and still comments on my blog posts from time to time. Recently, he sent me an e-mail suggesting a topic for an MR post. His problem is as follows:

“The lack of at least a courteous response from media planners, directors, marketing directors and other prospects these days. In some cases even an acknowledgement that they are still in place, breathing and hopefully still on the planet would be nice.  Although computers and VM are a wonderful form of communication, a simple and polite inquiry as to possibilities often falls in “a black hole”.”

“Nothing back, no response, no acknowledgement whatsoever.”

“As professional sales people often the second best answer to us is a quick “no thanks” and we move on. Understanding busy schedules, deadlines, over worked and likely under paid, a simple professional courtesy should be mandatory. Interestingly, the NYC agencies are often the most responsive compared to the rest of the country.  Enough said.”

For several years a few people have told me the problem that they often have is traveling hundreds of miles to a meeting and then sit in the lobby for a few hours until a young assistant appears and tells him/her that his boss cannot see him today. So, I sent out a number of inquiries to both experienced sales people and senior media people at agencies and corporate marketing directors. In brief, my friend is not alone in his frustration.

Here are some comments from a widely diverse group:

--25 year sales veteran--“my new boss will not believe that people will not see a member of his team. I tried for a few months to see a potential big fish and could not get a face to face session or any kind of response. Humiliating me in a sales meeting, he told me that he would personally get a meeting. Well, two months later, he admitted to the entire sales team that he could not get a meeting either. He then apologized to me in front of everyone which I really appreciated. We get along fine now.”

--Media Director of Midwestern advertising agency--“My millienial team members are driving me nuts. I saw a solid sales guy whom I had known for years in the lobby late one day. He said that he had been waiting 90 minutes to see one of my media supervisors. I went back to her office and she said that she was going to slip out the back door as she was late for a pilates class. You cannot repeat in MR what I told her but she met with my long time acquaintance. She still does not see that what she would have done is wrong. It is embarrassing to me.”

--Northeastern Media Chief-- “After you told me about the pilates story, I laughed. Well, two days later a guy on my team kept a sales rep on hold and said he could not meet as he had a tense day and had to go to his barbell club and work out. What the hell is wrong with these kids?”

--New York based marketing director--“I love to meet with sales reps. The good ones are always traveling, talk to competitors, and often see trends forming. The youngsters on my team have no appreciation of them despite the example that I try to set. I have to make them have lunch with me and the rep. Oh yeah, I am interfering with their spinning classes! Too damn bad!

--Senior Executive, Advertising Holding Company--our #2 man flew in for his annual visit to our shop. I told everyone very sharply no texting while Mr. Big was addressing us. One young A.E. kept staring at her device, seemingly ignoring our distinguished visitor and reading texts. When I called her on it, she said that she had the device on vibrate so she did not disturb the meeting. Mr. Big noticed and asked me who she was. Her future here is not a bright one. The boss spoke for 12 minutes and he visits once a year. When I was her age, I would have been on the edge of my seat to hear his comments.”

--Deeply experienced broadcast sales person--“I am tired of having dinner alone on the road. I show up in town, someone does not post and no one wants to have a posh dinner. It is hard to establish relationships. Yes, a number of people will not meet with me which I understand but sometimes there is no response at all.”

What is going on? I would call it a lack of civility. Some people have jobs and not careers as I have often written on this blog. Others are bitter at a young age and see many things as an interference in their personal lives. Sales people are only trying to do their jobs. If you can send 100-150 text messages a day, you can send an e-mail back and say that a meeting would not be productive. To steal a line,“enough said.”

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you can reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com

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