We’ve all been there, on both sides of the phone or Inbox. She won’t stop calling, he won’t pick up. Are my emails going to the Junk Folder? Another email from him – Delete. I’m not talking about singles asking for second dates. I’m referring to the proposal dance agencies and ad sellers play in this crowded marketplace.
Be it a factor of too many companies chasing the same digital budget, the almost inhumane time-constraints on buying teams, or a lack of resources all around, it feels like there’s a communication problem at the end of the sales / RFP / proposal process in digital media.
One common topic that usually comes up over a casual lunch or happy hour is the lack of business etiquette or manners from both sides of the sales aisle when it comes to the final part of the proposal process. The buyer perspective is something like this: “An RFP is not a promise of business, I’m sorry you didn’t make the plan this time – just wasn’t a fit - but if you continue to hound me and fire emails into the client there likely won’t be a next time.” The seller perspective is generally looking for more insight: “Just give it to me straight – did we or didn’t we make it? If not, can I have feedback a little more detailed than ‘Budget cuts’ or ‘Change in Direction’?”
A thread recently popped up on SellerCrowd asking for “Things that media planners say.” Here are a few entertaining (or sad, depending on where you sit) responses:
- Sucré: “We'll reach out if we see a fit!”
- Midas: "We are going with preferred partners"
- Cervantes: "Thanks for the great lunch, but how about next time we do a helicopter tour of Manhattan for the team? Another vendor did that for another team here and it sounds fun!" That was before they spent any money with me, too...”
- Parsley: “My favorite response...NOTHING!”
- Homer: “I only answered the phone because I didn't recognize your number on caller ID, but now that we're talking, I have to go because I have a client conference call starting now. Give me a call back this afternoon and we can talk”
- Shallots: “After asking for availability for an in-person meeting I received the following one line as reply..."Those weeks will be tough, apologies"
These are six from a total of 40 responses. That’s right, 40.
And to keep it a level playing field, I reached out to some friends on the Agency side to get the other perspective: Things reps do, but shouldn’t:
- Telling us that they have spoken to the client about a program, and that the client is super excited about it and wants to move forward, when they have not spoken to anyone on the client side at all
- Playing the lowly salesman unable to meet a quota card
- Upon hearing the news they didn’t make the plan, saying: “You know everyone in your content vertical is running with us except you all”
- I once had a rep I thought was a friend and didn't make the plan. I knew his inventory was tight so I emailed him an informal one off to let him know he wasn't on the plan. He then forwarded it to my director and the client even though in my email I said I would follow up with further rationale.
- When they get my name wrong – really wrong as in “Hey Tiffany”, um, it’s Elizabeth, thanks though.
And this story deserves a spot all its own:
“I was extremely busy as an assistant planner, and was working on putting together a plan recommendation and hadn’t gotten back to a rep on an RFP they had sent a week earlier. I was sitting at my desk when all of a sudden, a person in a monkey suit approached me and started singing a song and doing a dance. As this was happening, the entire office was curious to know what was going on and crowded around the dancing monkey. I was totally confused by this monkey, until he handed me a note with a banana – it read “you’re bananas if you don’t work with us”. I supposed after several attempts at emailing and calling me, the rep thought this was a good way to reach me. Needless to say, he never got my business again.”
I’d like to propose an informal media sales code, which boils down to a combination of communication and manners. As sellers, let’s pick up the professionalism and manners, and buyers, please communicate the good, the bad and the ugly with us. And speaking directly from experience to the Sellers out there – In an industry where a 40% close rate is hall of fame material, you’re not going to make every plan you submit a proposal on. Don’t take it personally and be ready for the next time you’re up to bat.
A special thanks to my friends on the agency side who shared their stories.