How to Influence People & Totally Put Them Off Doing Business With You

I received a phone call the other day from an advertising representative who had got my number via our website. This gentleman was calling to tell me about a fantastic opportunity he had to offer for the special EBACE (European Business Aircraft Convention & Exhibition) edition of his publication. An advertiser had pulled out at the last minute so they had some space they had to fill quickly, and of course the space was at a considerable, never to be repeated, massive discount.

I had a couple of clients visiting EBACE and in my role as media advisor they had given me the task of arranging some meetings with trade and industry publications. I saw this as an opportunity to make another appointment for them and the start of a beautiful new media relationship. My first mistake!

I started to ask if the caller would be at EBACE and if it would be possible to arrange a meeting. My new friend was not really interested in arranging a meeting and nurturing a new relationship, his sights were firmly fixed on “filling that space”.

I came to this conclusion because during the first five minutes of this call I had little chance to get my requests in, he was so busy telling me what an “incredible” opportunity this was. I should also mention that during the call there was a strange clicking noise on the line, almost as if the call was going to break up but then it would come back at full volume.

Having spent the best part of 10 years as a advertising salesperson (and with my calculator poised at the ready) I decided I should have a little fun and see how far I could bargain the price down on this incredible one time offer. My second big mistake!

The full page rate was in excess of £8,000 but because of the last minute urgency of this situation the offer was £5,500 for the page. I explained that for a magazine I had never seen before (and believe me I have seen most of them) there was no way my clients would consider that price, he would have to do better. He immediately did! The price dropped to £3,420! But there was no way my clients would consider a magazine at such short notice, sight unseen, unknown etc.

As it would be my clients who would make any booking, and of course they are totally unaware of this at this time, I asked what the agency commission rate was. He said 15%. I said “therefore if the clients make a direct booking the price will be £3,420 minus 15%, £2,907, is that correct?” Sensing he had boxed himself into to a corner he immediately responded. “No, with that much discount we would only offer a 10% agency commission”. Mmmm! Interesting, I thought agency commissions were fixed on the rate card and a minute it go it was 15%.

Thinking he had reached an agreeable price he decided to go in for the kill and launched into his pitch on why this edition was such an un-missable opportunity. Unfortunately for him it was at this point his telephone connection made a loud click and I was pitched into a surreal world where I could hear him but it was as if he was on speakerphone and talking from the back of the room. It sounded like someone giving a pep talk and pre-op briefing for the Dambusters raid.

I said “hello, can you hear me”. No reply. I waited patiently. Again “hello, can you hear me? I can hear you faintly but you don’t seem to hear me”. No reply. He was in full flow, still talking non stop! At this point I should have hung up but was curious as to where this was going. After a full five minutes and forty five seconds he eventually stopped, probably wondering why he had not heard a peep from me all this time. I explained that I had not been able to hear what he was saying, BUT before he launched into his spiel again, I “appreciated his offer but I should not waste anymore of his time.” The clients would not be advertising but we could meet at EBACE and continue from there.

This was not acceptable to him. He asked what the client’s phone number was as he had a “duty” to make them aware of this incredible opportunity. He went on to tell me an anecdote about how if there was a jacket on special offer at my local branch of Armani that if I did not know about it I would miss out, therefore it would be churlish of me to not let him speak directly with the clients. I explained that as their “media advisor” I would be advising them not to advertise on this occasion but a meeting at EBACE may just be the start of a beautiful relationship.

Determined not to let this opportunity go he asked for the name of the MD of the client. I advised him that it was not my policy to give such information away and there would be no advertising, but (in a Bill Cosby assertive voice) “HOW, ABOUT, A, MEETING at EBACE!!?”

Then it turned nasty! He said I had an “un-professional attitude” and “did not know my business.” That was it! I explained, with restrained anger, I had over 12 years experience of advertising sales. I had been polite to him because I empathised with his plight and had tried to move forward with a mutually agreeable solution. He had talked incessantly for 40+ minutes, he was not remotely interested in my objectives, he did not take his cue when he was politely turned down but offered the olive branch of a meeting, for 5+ minutes of the call I could not hear what he was saying and to top it all he had the nerve to say I did not know my business.

I concluded by saying that he had been given every opportunity to continue this budding relationship and it was only my politeness, good nature and curiosity which had allowed him to go on for so long. I should have cut him off in the first minutes of the call. My parting shot was that he had totally turned me off his publication and I hoped that I should not encounter him or his magazine in the future, I would positively recommend NOT advertising with his publication.

With hindsight I feel sorry for this guy. I find it hard to believe he will have a long career in advertising sales and I will be amazed if a person with such an aggressive attitude will be made welcome at industry events. The problem is that this is the kind of pitch that gets advertising representatives (and some publications) a bad reputation. It also makes life difficult for the “professionals” out there doing a good job. This attitude of the short term, one time sale is no good for the clients and no good for the publication. Eventually they will run out of advertisers and in a small industry the bad reputation will become known very quickly.

Perhaps we can start a campaign, here and now, a Hall of Fame and a Hall of Shame to let our industry know who the bad guys are and who the good guys are.