Death of a Telephone Salesman


imagesI work with creative advertising agencies. I’m a Rainmaker (new business guy) and Headhunter (recruiter). In the past 20 years, I don’t think anyone has read/watched/listened to more ads. Before this career, I was a college basketball coach. I’ve always approached my recruiting work with the mentality of a college basketball coach, incorporating the same principles of wooing talented student-athletes to recruiting creative & strategic talent. I remember pulling into diners on the New Jersey Turnpike to get to a phone booth so I could call a kid, his father or his coach. I’d sit in the booth for hours building relationships via telephone, sipping black coffee, winking at the waitress.

When I started recruiting advertising talent in 1989, I made hundreds of thousands of phone calls. I had to evaluate talent by resumes, portfolios and strategic marketing plans. But the extra mile was traveled by investing time, energy and emotion in telephone relationships. Hearing clients and candidates describe their goals and dreams provided me with the foundation to build relationships. And as I built relationships, my network and business grew. The mobile phone changed my world, but at first it was more expensive for me to drive and use cell minutes than fly most places.

When I made the move to Agency Business Development in 2002, I applied these same principles to new business. I built relationships on the telephone with marketers. I equated a productive day with telephone “connect time” — the goal was a minimum of 6 hours “connected” on the telephone. How anachronistic. It’s 8 years later and I do less talking. I still build relationships and business via telephone, but, it’s just one of a myriad of communications tools.

Ad Agencies are not in the advertising business, they’re in the communications business. The digital world has not changed them, despite many of their claims. It’s just given them more vehicles to communicate with. It’s changed their tactics, not their skill set. The “revolution” of social media assumes that we are “social” (have the ability to communicate) to begin with. So now we’ve got new ways to build relationships and business. Okay. That is why I’m writing right now and not talking on the telephone. W.H. Auden said, “It is the duty of the writer to make language ‘new'”. I’ll try.

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