“Look,” I said to Jackson as I swung my feet off my desk and pulled my chair forward, “you need to understand that in business a relationship isn’t based on lunch and cut flowers

“Take a look at this,” Jackson said to me with a look of disgust on his face.  He was holding out a sheet of paper.

“What is it?”

“An e-mail from Julie.”  Jackson spun the paper out of his hand and it floated onto my desk right-side up.

“Julie?  Your best friend the media buyer?” I asked as I grabbed the e-mail.

“Yeah,” Jackson said with a guffaw.

I couldn’t read the damn thing and looked around for my new reading glasses.  Finding them behind my open Diet Coke, I unfolded the temples and slipped them on.

The e-mail said this:

Hi Jackson,

Your cost per point is too high.  I won’t be able to use you on this buy.
John and I are looking forward to seeing you at Mike’s party this weekend!

See you then,


“Well, at least she’s still your friend,” I remarked as I looked at Jackson over the top of my glasses.  Jackson sighed and collapsed into one of my modern, brushed-aluminum chairs.

“What’s the point of being her friend if she can dismiss me so easily?” he complained.

Since he was sitting, I figured he wasn’t leaving anytime soon so I let him go on.

“I have been building that relationship with Julie for three years.  I’ve brought her flowers on her birthday.  I’ve taken her to lunch dozens of times.  She and John have gone to concerts with Sheila and me, at my expense, on at least four occasions.  You would think that our relationship would be solid enough at this point that she could cut me a break on a lousy cost per point.”

“You would think,” I agreed as I opened a bag of trail mix.

Jackson said, “I’m good” as he waved away the open bag in my hand.

“Look,” I said to Jackson as I swung my feet off my desk and pulled my chair forward, “you need to understand that in business a relationship isn’t based on lunch and cut flowers.”

I washed down some trail mix with a swig from the Diet Coke and continued:

“Every traditional media company has consolidated their operations and reduced staff and cut salaries.  Look at us – we’ve done all those things.  And, every advertising agency has done the same.  Julie is doing the work of two or three people and everything she does is scrutinized.  The easiest way for her to fly under the radar is to turn in buys that meet or beat the planner’s cost per point.  She appreciates you but the relationship she needs from you is based on performance.”

Jackson frowned and said, “By performance do you mean that I have to hit every cost per point, every daypart parameter and every promotional request?  Because we just can’t do all those things every time.  I mean, c’mon, her cost per points are low and she doesn’t give us any packaging room anymore.”

I got up and walked over to my white board.  Choosing a red Dry-erase marker I looked back at Jackson and said, “Let’s do a five-minute brainstorm about all the actions that could be considered ‘performance’.  We’ll go ahead and include the buyer’s parameters but let’s not stop there.”

When we were done the list was pretty long.  We noticed that some of the activities were important to the agency placing the business and some were important to the client.  We circled all of the client-related performance activities.

Then, I said, “When was the last time you spoke to the client and let them know all of the performance-related activities we’ve been doing on their behalf.  When was the last time you learned about their marketing goals so that you could customize one or more of these performance-related activities and then leverage those to get on the buy?”

“Maybe I’ve been trying to build a relationship with the wrong person,” Jackson remarked.

“Maybe,” I said.

Turning from the white board I returned to my chair and noticed that the trail mix  and Jackson were gone.

“Hey, I was eating that!” I yelled down the hall.

Jackson yelled back, his voice fading as he turned the corner into the sales pit, “I’m going to need the energy.  I’ve got work to do.”

About the author

Tim Rohrer

After a 20-year career in broadcast sales, Tim J.M. Rohrer wrote a book, Sales Lessons…

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