Any salesperson worth his or her salt will go the extra mile to
clinch a deal - but just how far is too far? Stealing a ladder to climb
up to the window of a media buyer? Phoning a client ten minutes after he
has undergone heart surgery to ask if he wants the quarter-page slot on
page four? Or offering a ’Divine Brown’ to a male buyer if he chucks his
media spend your way? All these tactics and more have been
The ladder-climbing salesman was trying to get the attention of John
Rooke, now director of 10 Media.
At the time, Rooke was at full-service agency Mallerman Summerfield
James, handling the Nissan business. The salesman, now a very senior
advertising man at The Express - let’s call him X - felt very strongly
that he should be on the media schedule. Rooke thought otherwise and
told X so over the phone on numerous occasions.
Undeterred, X turned up at Rooke’s office. Rooke ordered his secretary
to bolt the door. Being either incredibly resourceful or irritatingly
persistent, depending on your viewpoint, X nipped off to a builder’s
yard and ’borrowed’ a ladder. He leaned the ladder against the building,
climbed up and peered in at Rooke, tapping the window.
’I said: ’Oh my God!’,’ remembers Rooke. ’And then I let him in.’ X got
on the schedule and the two have been firm friends ever since. So in
some cases, persistence pays.
The prize for sheer craftiness goes to a former Mail on Sunday salesman
who must, once again, remain nameless. According to media folklore, this
cunning operator discovered where the sales director of Nissan
(obviously a popular advertiser) was sitting on his homeward flight from
the Geneva Motor Show. The salesman then managed to book a seat on the
plane next to him. This convenient arrangement gave the sales executive
plenty of time to discuss the motor business with his target, as well as
the finer points of The Mail on Sunday in comparison with the Sunday
Express, before the plane landed at Heathrow.
As luck would have it, a salesman from the Sunday Express had arranged
to meet the Nissan director at the airport. Imagine his surprise when he
saw his target strolling down the steps, deep in conversation with his
Mark Chippendale, now Sky’s sales controller, hatched a wacky idea to
catch the attention of Keith Impey when the latter was head of broadcast
at Lowe Howard-Spink a few years ago. It’s hard to say if any sales
actually sprung from the ruse but it made Impey laugh, and anything that
brings a smile to the face of a senior agency man can’t be bad.
Sky’s sales team kept sending Impey - now managing director of Sports
and Outdoor Marketing - stacks of information on its channels. Losing
his rag, Impey finally telephoned Chippendale to complain. ’They only
thing you haven’t sent me is the kitchen sink,’ he grumbled.
Sure enough, early the following day, a delivery van pulled up outside
Lowe Howard-Spink. Two burley blokes emerged carrying a kitchen sink and
proceeded to deposit it on Impey’s desk. ’It was hilarious,’ says Impey.
’It didn’t change what I was annoyed about but it lightened the
atmosphere in the office. I kept the sink until I left the agency six
Like most senior agency employees, Impey has often been offered ’gifts’
that amounted to little more than bribes, ranging from helicopter rides
and air tickets to ’other, less innocent bribes that I cannot
But watch out - such schemes can backfire. ’We all know there’s no such
thing as a free lunch,’ says Enyi Nwosu, group account director at
’Nobody minds taking free trips, but accepting overt bribes is
definitely breaking the rules.’
On the subject of less innocent bribes, has anyone pushed an after-hours
business meeting beyond the posh restaurant or nightclub visit to get a
deal in the bag? We asked a number of agency staff and sales people if
they had proposed or been offered sex in return for a deal.
The results were predictable. Sales folk stuttered and then denied ever
having done such a thing, although a few added: ’I’m sure it goes
Male buyers, on the other hand, sniggered and insisted it happened quite
frequently. A few went so far as to suggest that female sales executives
from a certain large publishing house were ’renowned for doing it’.
One buyer, who wishes to remain anonymous, was invited to lunch by a
curvaceous young lady from a radio station. Towards the end of the meal,
she ’accidentally’ dropped her cigarette packet on the floor. Being a
gent, the buyer leaned down to pick it up - and at that moment, the
woman in question demonstrated clearly that she was not wearing any
knickers. She also invited him to ’have a good look’ while he was down
there. Of course, our polite hero made his excuses and left.
One buyer at MediaVest was offered the Divine Brown treatment by a sales
executive in return for putting her magazine on the schedule. He insists
that, unlike Hugh Grant, he declined the offer and she never got on the
Another seller, this time from a national newspaper, dispatched a group
of Bunny Girls to a client’s office and instructed them to wait on his
desk until he arrived, and then take him out to lunch. Unfortunately,
rather than being chuffed at the sight of scantily-clad babes draped
across his memo pad, the boss was mortally embarrassed and told them he
already had a lunch booked.
The moral of the story is that sex does not always sell. Before you
offer Bunny Girls, call girls, gigolos, male strippers or even yourself
in return for a sale, check that your target will not be shocked and
that you won’t be too ashamed to call him or her again.
Geraldine Cruise, MediaVest’s head of regional media, hears her fair
share of sales pitches, although few of them are proposals of sex from
male sellers (it just doesn’t seem to work that way round, apparently).
At every industry bash, an advertisement director or two will amble over
and bend her ear - but she wishes they wouldn’t do it all night.
’Some people get you in a corner and monopolise you all evening,’ she
moans. ’When you go out, you want to talk business for a while but after
that you just want to have a laugh. If at 11.30pm I’m still talking
about increasing pagination, I switch to Perrier and start thinking
about going home.’
Xfm sales executive Lisa Williams went further than most to grab a few
advertising bucks - she branded herself for life. Pounding the streets
of London in search of likely advertisers, she spotted a tattoo
The proprietor told her he was only interested in advertising if she was
interested in tattoos. What could a girl do? Get a Thai temple tattooed
on her foot in exchange for an pounds 850 four-week slot, that’s
The moral of the story is by all means use a madcap stunt to clinch a
sale if you’re convinced it will win the day. But before climbing into
that pantomime cow costume, remember these words of warning from David
Sanderson, sales director for Carlton Digital Sales. ’Never forget that
you will have to speak to that person again the following week,’ he
says. ’This is not a cold-selling business. By doing an extreme sales
pitch or being over eager, you could blow it.’
BEYOND THE CALL OF DUTY
Tim Terry, an account executive at Jazz FM, was pestering a bathroom
fittings manufacturer to advertise on air. The managing director of the
company agreed initially but then went awol, refused to sign up to a
deal and persistently avoided Terry’s barrage of calls.
Eventually, the salesman decided enough was enough, picked up his jacket
and suitcase and paid his target a visit. The managing director was out
of the office but a colleague told Terry he could be tracked down at the
company’s stand at the Ideal Home Exhibition.
Terry hotfooted it down there, clutching the order form in his sweaty
palm. The managing director was surprised to see him and stalled by
telling Terry that he would only cough up if the Jazz FM man sold one of
The account executive took up the challenge and with a wry smile the
chief sloped off for a cuppa, secure in the knowledge that he’d never
have to part with the cash.
Within ten minutes, Terry spotted a browsing woman to whom he began
’talking to gently’. Weakened by his seductive sales patter, the woman
succumbed and bought pounds 1,400-worth of bathroom fittings. A
triumphant Terry handed the cheque, together with the tattered Jazz FM
sales order, to the amazed managing director - who had no choice but to
sign up for pounds 4,000 worth of advertising.
’I said ’do you deliver to Reading?’ and he did a complete double-take,’
recalls Terry. ’He thought I was bluffing but sometimes you just have to
strike while the iron is hot.’ But isn’t there a danger that stunts like
this will piss off a client?
’People expect a degree of pestering,’ says Terry. ’It doesn’t hurt to
keep sending e-mails or faxes to keep them in touch with what’s
It’s when a degree of embarrassment creeps in that you know you’ve gone
beyond the pale. If you really irritate someone, there’s no going
Terry remembers a salesman who came over from the US to work for More
Group. The American was so keen to do a deal with a florist that he
turned up at the shop and offered to deliver flowers. The florist
happily dispatched him all over London, but Terry is not convinced the
stunt contributed to More’s bottom line. The same chap begged another
client, who was having a party, to let him serve drinks to all the
guests. That’s going too far for a sale, even if you’re American.