In Sept 2006, I started a new job as an outside sales rep for the Los Angeles Daily News. I had been promoted from Executive Assistant. I was given a pretty shitty, underdeveloped sales territory, but I was happy to be in the big leagues. I trained and learned all about the territory. One week into my new job, I got a promotion. One of my colleagues was packing up and moving to Phoenix. She had the best territory, too, with some healthy existing clients. Her remaining two weeks were spent training me on the territory. We went through the client list. She was very thorough and would take me out to meet them. Everyone loved her service. However, there was one client, the largest on the desk, which she avoided talking about or dealing with. When I would bring it up, she’d tell me that the owner, Michael Green, had paused his campaign for now and to check back with him in a couple of weeks. Of course, this would be after she was long gone.
Julie left. Management was on me about why Duratex wasn’t scheduled to run in October. I told my manager that he’d paused his campaign. That wasn’t good enough. I had to call him immediately to schedule a face-to-face. I called. He accepted the call. In my cheery, new salesperson voice I introduced myself as his new account manager. He was really dry. He wasn’t excited or engaged. He just listened to me ramble. He wasn’t at all interested in talking. I asked to meet with him. He told me he’d call me within the week to schedule the appointment. I accepted this as normal and hung up. I waited for his call. It never came.
Duratex was my new desk’s biggest client. Michael was spending about $10,000 a month in advertising across 10 newspapers in the Los Angeles area. The first rule of taking over a territory with existing clients is to make sure you meet with all existing clients and get them on contract for the next month or year. At the advisement of my manager, I took a cake to the company. Now, I had previously worked in a sales environment, and the account executive was big on taking Corner Bakery Café’s Chocolate Cinnamon Marble Cake to her clients. It was $19.99 and a big hit with her clients. I dropped off the cake with Michael’s oldest son who was a VP at the company. A week passed, and I still heard nothing from Michael. The cake was supposed to at least garner me a phone call from him.
I called the office and asked for Michael. He accepted the phone call again. He was curt, but I remained upbeat and positive. I asked him if he was able to enjoy the cake I’d brought. “What cake?” “The chocolate marble cake from Corner Bakery.” “I remember seeing it in the lunch room, but I didn’t know you brought it.” He assumed it was from any one of his many vendors. He thanked me and softened a little. After a little conversation, I got to the point. He agreed to meet with me.
Rule number two when you’re taking over a new sales territory is to always take your manager with you on appointments with tough clients; negotiations are easier and all the pressure isn’t on the new sales representative. Although I thought my manager, Art, was a complete idiot, I took him anyway. I knew Michael was in his late 50s. My manager was too. I figured they’d have more in common.
I didn’t tell Michael I was bringing Art, but it was fine. We sat down and he immediately shared that he had told Julie that he was NEVER running in The Daily News again; that Julie had continued to fax confidential documents to his office after he repeatedly asked her not to. He was really mean. Art and I sat flabbergasted. We were blind-sided and speechless. Everything made sense now. Once we recovered, we apologized. He opted to not make us suffer, and agreed to hear what we had to say. There was a new initiative at the paper to convert newsprint clients to the direct mail flyer program. Duratex was the perfect company for this because they were trying to reach a specific demographic across a large territory. I knew little about the product, but my manager was fluent. I did what I did best at the time – sit there and speak on what I do know: quality customer service.
My manager did a small pitch. It turned out that both The Los Angeles Times and the actual company that printed the flyers were pitching the product to Michael. However, we had different rates (my company’s was the most expensive); and we all had different representatives who had certain styles of customer service.
The next week, Art and I returned to make our full presentation. I was more knowledgeable in the product. Michael was listening. Everything was more relaxed. He made eye contact. My manager talked too much at times, and he ruined some moments with his phony laughter. I did my best to balance out his oddness with sincerity. Michael was eating it up. I could tell he liked me as his new account manager. He told us he’d already met with The Times and the direct flyer company, and he’d review all the proposals and make a decision within the week. I told Michael I’d call him in a few days to follow-up.
Michael was a very commanding man. He was 56, 6-feet-tall. His hair was all white. He was gruff, his voice deep, and he was always well dressed. He was not my ideal man, but I don’t think 56-year-old men are for most 28-year-olds. However, something about him (and I didn’t know what it was at the time; however, I do now) was incredibly sexy and attractive. I went to my follow-up appointment, but this time I went alone. I made sure my make-up was flawless. I had on my most sophisticated and sexy Ann Taylor black V-neck sweater. I put a mint in my mouth, and I entered his office.
I didn’t wait long for him. He entered and immediately informed me that he decided to go with my paper for the flyer program. Even though our rates were slightly more expensive, he knew he’d get better customer service from us just based on the three weeks I had been working with him. When the business was over, he sat across from me and grabbed my hands and kissed them and told me that he thought I was beautiful. I was incredibly shocked, confused and turned on.
To be continued…