by Dennis Daniel
The following is considered, for the most part, a dreaded sentence by me: "Dennis, I'd like you to come with me to see a possible client."
Come with you? Are you kidding? Who has time to go schmooze some possible client? Can't you just go and get me the facts? How about having him call me? What if I did a spec for you to bring to him? Can you tell him I'm too busy? Can he come to the radio station? Couldn't I just write copy and read it to him over the phone? Can't you tell him to listen to the radio station to hear how our production sounds? Anything... ANYTHING... but having to go with you!!
Do these desperate queries ring a bell?
Going to see a possible client (or a current client) can be looked at in two ways:
Way #1: "I never get to leave this rat hole. It'd be nice to go out, sit in some guys office, take out the shovel and pile it high and deep for a few hours, maybe stop at a diner for a nice leisurely lunch, and B.S. with the salesman about the joys and sorrows of radio life. Yeah, yeah...sounds mint."
Way #2: "Oh God! As if I don't have enough to do today, now I have to go waste several hours trying to convince some dumb schmuck why, in this recession, he should trust me and my talents to bring people into his (club, store, garage, etc.) in droves. I have to bend over and act like a high falootin' radio commercial know-it-all: doing the tag team wild thing with a salesman who will be sprouting out his own brand of horse dung to this poor unsuspecting sap. There we'll be, promising this guy the moon and sixpence knowing full well that advertising is not an exact science."
Way #1 is a rarity for me these days. When I first got started in the business, I used to enjoy going out and trying to impress people with my creative juices. It was kinda cool to be asked by a salesperson to come with them on a call. I'd get all dressed up, put together a sample of some of my work, lug along my giant, portable, stereo cassette, and happily enter these establishments, B.S. at the ready. I didn't even mind coming back to a desk full of work that kept me at the station till 8 or 9 p.m.. Why should I care? I got to have lunch and act real important in front of someone.
That all got old real fast.
I think my attitude has a lot to do with how I feel about production and what it should accomplish. The work has to fit the needs of the individual clients, be they creative, straight reads, or a combination of both. The visual "image" projected by the audio is what it's all about. (Besides, if I had to go see every single client we have on the air, I'd never get anything done. How much imagination does it take to visualize a club, a car stereo store, a clothing store, or what have you? I don't need to see it; just tell me about it. Give me the specifics of how "big" it is or what the "selection" is. It's only sixty seconds, and I can only say so much.) God help me but, I can't get the idea that production is an art form out of my head. When you look at what you do as art, it's hard to break it down into standard, commercial terms. Of course, I know this is a double-edged sword. I mean, they ARE commercials, right? They're designed to sell something, aren't they? Well, SELL something with them dummy!
Yes, yes. I know all that! But still....
I can't imagine myself spending the rest of my life trying to get people to go into some large box with music, neon, flashing lights, and a bar. There's got to be more to it than that. This is why I dislike going to see possible clients. For a variety of reasons, I want to remain anonymous. I just want to be that clean, crisp sounding radio voice on the phone, assuring the client that what they are about to hear will blow them away. I don't like doing the sales "dance." Experience has shown me that this system works. It retains the element of "showbiz." The salesman sells the guy on the radio station's merits, I sell him creatively. On the phone, I feel very confident and comfortable. In person, I feel out of place. I need my toys surrounding me (tape, equipment, sound effects, music) to give me a special sense of purpose. In fact, I would much rather put together a blow-you-away spec than go down to actually see someone.
Don't get me wrong, I still see possible clients in their place of business occasionally. Like life itself, we sometimes have to do what we don't want to do. But, I will admit, since I hardly do it at all anymore, it's not such a heavy cross to bear. There are merits to this process on occasion. Sometimes you may actually go to a place that defies description (be it good or bad) and an actual visual can aid you in the writing process. And yes, it is nice to have a salesman buy you lunch once and awhile. I also enjoy seeing someone display their sense of pride about their business. They insist on my seeing their place because it makes them feel good. After all, I'm the guy who's going to try and sell their baby to the public, I SHOULD SEE IT. In a way, they're right. The economy also plays a heavy role in this equation. Money is tight, and any amount of grease you can apply to loosen the grip is going to be helpful.
So, when it comes to going out to see clients, your best bet is to take it case by case. An understanding sales staff will not drag you along if they really feel they can make the sale alone. If you are asked to go, weigh out your work situation and your past experiences with similar type clients. Is it really necessary? Can your part be done just as easily over the phone? Personally, I prefer staying put. There's something about being put on the spot and having to make promises no sane man could keep that rubs me the wrong way. I'm not afraid, mind you. This has nothing to do with not having faith in myself or my abilities. I can sell myself and my creativity. No problem. I just think it adds a little air of mystery, surprise, and excitement to be the anonymous voice on the phone saying, "Mr. Jones, this is Dennis Daniel, Production Director of WDRE. Are you prepared to be blown away by your commercial?"