I Make Like Ogilvy

“I learned early on, no sale, no commission.  No commission, no eat.”  

– David Ogilvy

My full-time job at present is freelance account planner. I find the majority of my work consulting for political campaigns, however, the summer of an odd year is the slowest time in this two year business cycle.

Some 45 minutes north of Boston I began working part-time for Test America (a division of CRG), a company that specializes in survey research via consumer intercepts.

It’s difficult work stopping people in the midst of shopping or leaving a movie, especially as the standard lanyard and clipboard scream: “I’m about to sell you a credit card and/or time share!” Harder still, getting people to give your their time is far more challenging than getting their money.

Ogilvy cut his teeth in door-to-door sales, and from experience we have Ogilvy & Mather’s motto: “We sell — or else.” I’ve found the first 5 seconds I spend with someone are the most crucial, my pitch must be disarming and interesting or I won’t get another 5 seconds. It’s sink or swim.

Then, equally as difficult, the actual selling begins. That is, persuading the individual this is something they actually want. A casual stance, a big smile and the ability to speak clearly and crack a joke helps, but really it’s about connecting with wants and needs.

For example, most people laugh at the $2 compensation we offer for our 20 minute survies on new movie trailers. Selling this survey requires a different angle. Sometimes I sell it as a fun activity to do with friends. Other times people like being the first to see something new. And for some it’s about having their voice heard by marketers and even the movie makers themselves.

So maybe it’s not entirely like Ogilvy, but it’s that type of thinking that gets me through the more difficult days, along with the knowledge that I’m learning a difficult lesson about the reality of making sales and human nature — literally on the front lines.


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