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A Day in the Life

Adventures in magazine ad sales

By Billy Lohman - May 18, 2005

It is 6 AM right now, but I have been up since 5 AM, or was it 4 AM?

Sometimes I sleep, sometimes I don't. That's just the way it is in sales. I remember when it started. I was a newly promoted senior account executive at a well-known magazine in its heyday. We were closing our monthly issue in our 17 million dollar territory and it hit me like a ton of bricks. As long as people keep buying this magazine, and as long as we keep printing it, this process will go on forever. There will always be an issue to close. There is always another issue. It never, ever ends.

With no ending, there is no official starting point to my day. It is a 24-hour job. No, I won't get a call at 1AM asking for a complimentary issue, or a 3:15AM fax of an insertion order that I had been waiting for all day. But mentally, I am on call 24 hours a day.

On an average day, my morning usually starts between 7 and 9AM I start by taking action on the things I was obsessing over the night before. Usually it means calling THAT client. And by "that client," I don't mean the easy agency contact. I am talking about the client who controls the purse strings and who doesn't want to be contacted by any sales reps.

I am prepared for this one, though. In fact, yesterday, I efficiently:

· Put his address in my outlook contact folder

· Found out his assistant's name

· Actually found his direct phone and email from an incompetent receptionist who still forwarded me to my client after I requested not to be forwarded.

But today is a new day. Today is my day of client contact. Well, and to do other things of course...

9AM - I call the client and get his voicemail, which clearly states to contact his agency. I ignore the request because I need make sure this person knows who I am. I leave the message and hang up the phone with confidence but with an overwhelming feeling of insecurity. Even though I know I left my contact information and clearly showed I knew their business, I am left with the feeling that I said none of it.

9:01AM - Now I demonstrate my resourcefulness and leave a follow up email with all the pertinent information. While my intentions are good, I have now unwittingly given my client the option to use the most passive form of communication ever invented.... email.

9:06AM - After pressing F9 on my keyboard to refresh my email ten times, I realize that this client isn't replying right now. So it is time to move on with my day.

9:07AM- Turning on my instant message is crucial now so I can catch up on absolutely nothing important with my friends in the business. This is the same time that I eat breakfast (usually the same thing everyday), drink my coffee, and check my home email, stocks, and recent eBay listings. I push refresh on my browser repeatedly to see if someone bid up the limited edition TY Beanie baby that I listed five days ago. As usual, nothing much happening.

9:48AM - Time to crack the knuckles and hit the phones, reply to emails and get my day running before I start obsessing about what time I need to go to the gym. First things first: I have to plan for an 11AM meeting with a media planner downtown and a 12PM at Nobu. I need to be out the door by 10:45AM, latest. Fortunately, I have a media kit printed out, all the issues I need, and I read the recent press releases on their company. The prospect has sent out a Request for Proposal, so I should be all set.

10:15AM - Yippee! Hitting the phones, I managed to lock in two appointments in Chicago with running business. Looks like this day is turning into a good one.

10:34AM - Out the door as scheduled…just in time for the drizzle to start. But the rain doesn't matter, because I am on time, and I have all my materials.

10:47AM - Is it possible for this security line to be longer? It actually isn't that bad this time. I get to size up all the other media clowns with their little gifts and their Lands' End bags with their magazine logo on it. I eavesdrop on each person as they check in hoping they aren't seeing the same client as I am. Then I hear it. This schmo wearing khakis, docksiders, and a horrible button-down shirt is asking for the media director of the same account. It doesn't matter though; I am seeing the one who is making the media plans.

10:57AM – My first Advil of the day.

10:58AM - Perfect, I have my security pass, I am going up to the ninth floor, and I am all set. Receptionist checks me quickly and calls my contact where she successfully reaches her voicemail and leaves a message that I am here.

11:15:AM - With a convincing smile, the receptionist tells me she will try again.

11:25AM - Finally, someone comes out to meet me. But it isn't my media planner contact. It is the assistant media planner who tells me that my contact didn't come in today because she was sick. I ask to meet with her myself, but she can't because she is so "swamped". At the same time she leaves me, I see the schmo in the Khakis shake hands with the media director concluding a successful meeting. We take the same elevator down and I check him out. He couldn't be nicer, and wasn't a competitor, which made this trip okay.

11:31AM - Well, I am right next to Nobu and I am too early. I checked my voicemail and my Blackberry has no new emails. Perfect opportunity to pick up some unnecessary, overpriced gift for myself.

11:50AM - After successfully picking up an overpriced Kiehl's product that comes in the most oversized, feminine bag I head back to Nobu, just in case my clients are actually early.

12:03PM - "Are you all here?" the host asks me. I reply with a "No, they will be here soon".

12:15PM - No clients, no voicemail, no email. Who is late for Nobu?!

12:20PM - Finally, they arrive, just in time to save the table. Fortunately, I have met with everyone at the table, except the media director who only came for the meal. The lunch was a success. I will be receiving 10 percent more business this year than last year in print ads.

2:05PM - Back to the office to get ready for the 2:30PM mandatory internal conference call. It looks like there is going to be an organizational change again. However, I still have time to put in a good thirty minutes of calls to set up meetings and get the final paperwork for my issue closes.

2:30PM - Conference call begins. It opens with the awkward small talk, and group laughs about nothing funny at all. Everyone waits on pins and needles until management gets on. There is always this one guy on a cell phone running through the airport disrupting everyone on the call. He is kindly asked to mute his phone by management. The news? A co-worker in events has moved on to the competitor. It will hurt us for the short term, but we will survive. Everyone moves on quickly.

3:17PM - Time for the afternoon snack at the local candy shop and a quick update on my EBay listings.

3:19PM – My second Advil of the day.

3:45PM – My assistant arrives with the issues of all my competitors, pages marked with the yellow tabs of death. These tabs represent the ads of my customers in the competition. Nothing is more motivational than a reality check from the competition. I wince at their arrival and curse aloud with new tab. Hey! They weren't supposed to start yet. Hey! I just had lunch with them! Hey! They aren't in my territory, why are they tabbed? "Now they are in your territory", states my assistant. "Didn't you get the email from the Publisher?"

4:16PM - If all goes well, the gym will be mine at 6PM. Today has been running smoothly, so I should be good to go. No better feeling than putting in a solid day, and then burning off lunch at the gym.

4:21PM - EMAIL: Subject: RFP due 7/1, which is the day after tomorrow. As I open it, I pray that it is a simple rate request and all I see is the opposite. They ask for creative ideas using print, online and events. They are asking for CPMs $10 lower than last year, and that the client has hired a barter agency as well. Good luck, I only have one shot at my best proposal.

4:26PM - Next step: Get the marketing team involved because while I may have some ideas, they are the ones who are going to put it together. I send the RFP and make the necessary internal phone calls. But one after another, no oneanswers. One person is out on sales calls, one is on vacation, and another on jury duty. Just my luck.

5:15PM – "Hi Mom, can't talk now, trying to get things done. I will call you tonight."

5:16PM – "Hi Dad, can't talk now..."

5:21PM – "No, whatever you want for dinner, that is fine. Who is coming over? That is tonight? Fine, anything as long as I don't have to go to the West side."

5:31PM - EMAIL: The client I reached out to finally got back to me. I close my eyes as I open it. "Please contact my agency for any media inquiries"

5:45PM - Well, I put a lot in motion today, time to get it all out at the gym. Close 'er down.

6:01PM - As I step on the exercise machine, my Blackberry reveals a new message from my publisher, who is based on the West Coast, where the time is three hours earlier. Title: T and E - Body: Managing your T and E's : Response due by end of day today, 5PM PST.

7:16PM - I am home now, after a rushed work out since my publisher's email was on my mind. I log in web mail to complete the email only to find my DSL out of service. Now I can trek back to the office on the subway, or I can bother my neighbor on the 20th floor who told me not to get DSL in the first place. I choose to bother the neighbor. After ten minutes of small talk, I get my email done, just in time.

8:10PM – Dinner, finally.

9:00PM- The Apprentice. Time now to yell at the TV and dream of the day that I am there to win the whole thing. (No, I am serious, I really think I can win this.)

10:01PM - Back on the computer and the DSL works now, probably because I don't really need it. I can now check up on tomorrow's appointments and have some dessert.

10:45PM - Get into bed and think about all the things I wasn't able to do. Oh, forgot to call mom and dad back, is it too late? Yes, nice job on that one.

11:00AM – Sleep.

1:28AM - Did I disconnect my laptop at work? UGH.

2:01AM - What did my publisher really mean by the T and E email? I was with customers at Nobu today. But does he really know that? UGH.

3:10AM - Why can't I fall asleep?

6:45AM - Well, I got a couple of hours in. What can I do to help me get more sleep? Maybe I should write this stuff down, you know?



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