‘Actually, I’m not pregnant, thank you’
Media sales reps can say the darndest things
October 13, 2005
He will remain nameless. It is best so. One can only imagine the blush that rushes to his face when he remembers.
He’s a media sales rep, and on that day, while making a sales call, he quite generously congratulated a media planner on the upcoming birth of her child. She was so obviously about to give birth.
Except she wasn’t. “I was not pregnant,” recalls the planner, “just wearing a full skirt.”
Our blush-faced sales rep has one consolation. His blunder pales next to those of other reps as related to Media Life in a survey over the summer. As part of a larger survey about media sales people, we asked readers to tell us the most outrageous antics and blunders of reps they’d met through the years. We got some real doozies.
Keep in mind that these are one-sided stories. We are not hearing the rep’s version of what went down. Too, they don’t include any tales of outrageous or out-of-control planners.
Also keep in mind that the vast majority of media sales reps work hard at doing a hard job well. That same survey also found that well over 90 percent thought most reps did a decent job. The real pains, readers agreed, were a small minority.
Still, it is those incompetent few who seem to be remembered and even cherished when media people sit around telling stories. In all, Media Life received over 100 anecdotes. Here are a few:
The lesson of the first one is that if you intend to pound the table with your shoe, look before you begin slamming home your point. Shoes, being so low to the ground, pick up all sorts of things in their wanderings.
It was a group presentation and the sales rep was trying to make an emphatic point and took off his shoe to bang on the desk, recalls one reader. Unfortunately, he had stepped in some dog excrement before entering. Let’s just say the shit was really flying that day.
Then there’s the magazine rep who came up with a unique approach for going to press with an ad of the wrong size.
I had a rep give me the wrong dimensions for an ad once, wrote another reader. I said I would have the ad resized and send them a corrected version but she wanted to know if they could just run it sideways because it would make it more interesting to the reader. I passed on that opportunity and had our ad resized to the correct dimensions.
Sometimes, in order to capture folks’ attention, reps will resort to jokes and sight gags and such. But one rep, for reasons entirely unclear to this day, chose to do his entire presentation with his back to the group. The reader tells us the rep held the visuals over his left shoulder.
Come-ons are part of the sales arsenal of some reps, with varying results. Wrote one reader: A rep told me in mid-presentation that I have beautiful eyes. It apparently failed to impress. Then there was the rep with wandering eyeballs, recalled by another reader. He kept looking under the table to check out the AMP’s legs! Gross and really sleazy.
Yet another recalls a female rep who was so caught up in her presentation that she let it all hang out, literally. While leaning over a desk, a part of her anatomy came out. No attempt was made to place it back inside.
Losing a sale is an all-too-common occurence for sales reps, and most learn early on to handle it with dignity. But many never seem to get it, taking it all personally. Several media people related stories of reps exploding in anger or even tears. One reader wrote in the following: The rep told me she’d be glad when we lost an account because I clearly didn’t know what I was doing if I wouldn’t purchase her station.
Another reader wrote of a rep’s attempts to induce guilt. In a meeting with our team, she acted very bitter about not making the plan, then said, ‘I guess I’ll just have to tell my son, sorry, you’re not going to private school this year.’ Then she showed us a picture, the reader writes. This is business “don’t use your kid to make us feel bad.
Errant emails was another theme among readers. Recalls one: I had a rep mistakenly forward me an email from his boss coaching him on how to work with me – including making up new deadlines and being sure to talk to me with authority.
Another email that went to a reader by mistake was meant for the rep’s managers. In the email, the rep said how sick his team was of working with the agency. To add insult to injury, when the rep apologized to the planner for the misdirected email, it wasn’t even by phone. It was by email.
A number of readers wrote in about reps misspelling names and getting the client wrong. I was working on Owens-Corning Fiberglas Insulation and the rep was talking about Corning Ware. Totally different companies, one reader writes. Another wrote of the rep who thought he was pitching Scotts Lawn Care when instead it was Scott paper.
There was the rep who wasn’t so good with branches of the services, recalled by another reader. A sales rep who came in to do a presentation for our military client and had referenced the wrong branch of the military throughout the entire presentation.
Then there was the rep who arrived with presentation material that had the client’s main competitor’s name and logo on top.
Another spelled Seinfeld as Signfield and the short-lived daytime show Rolonda as Yolonda.
There was the rep who pointed out she had a credit card from the reader’s client, which was an airline. Only it turned out the card was from the wrong airline.
Meanwhile there was the rep that drove an hour and a half with no appointment just to deliver a purple file folder with his contact information on the tab. The folder, however, was empty.
Another reader wrote in to relate the time a rep let his dog do his business on the agency’s office lawn.
On the subject of animal tales, one reader was surprised when a rep’s tote bag started moving around. I got a bit freaked out, and asked the rep what was going on. The rep opened the zipper, and out popped a little dog.
There was the time a junior rep begged for meeting. When he finally got it, he brought his boss. As his junior person sat there and tried to present, the boss sat and text-messaged on his phone the entire meeting, writes the reader.
Then there are the crazy gifts. One reader writes: One rep gave me a blanket with his initials embroidered in as a holiday gift. Another was given a toilet seat with the sports logo of a local college on it.
This same reader had another unusual experience. Another time a brand-new rep (never met before) showed up for a meeting with his divorce attorney. He then spent the next half hour complaining about this impending divorce.
Divorce featured in another reader’s response too. A rep brought her publisher to lunch whom I had never met before. Even before we had opened up our menus he started bragging about his recent divorce. It’s funny in a very macabre sense, writes this reader.
Meanwhile another reader writes of a rep that reacted a bit unusually to a programming question. The episode of ˜Friends’ with the lesbian wedding was not airing in the rep’s market, and when I asked why, the rep starts Bible beating right there in my office, writes the reader.
There were many accounts of partying by reps, but one had an unusual twist. A reader writes: A well known party girl showing up for a 9 a.m. meeting, still in last night’s glam get up and doing a very serious presentation (well).
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