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VO Marketing 101, Part 2: Personal
Relationships & How To Get Noticed
By Alan Sklar
Voice Actor
Click below to hear the inspiring audio version of this article, read by the author
When I started in this business, I approached it as a salesman, after 20 years in the paint and hardware distribution industry.
With a copy of Ross Reports, I created geographical batches of talent agents in Manhattan. Upper East side, Upper West side, midtown, etc.
I stuffed several 8x10 kraft envelopes with 10 headshots and resumes, along with a sheet with my sizes, phone answering service number, home address and phone, casting suggestions (CEO, Sales Manager, General, Doctor, Colonel, Senator, etc.), and started “working the territories.”
I walked into one talent agency and asked the young receptionist, “Who does the casting for Industrials?” since I assumed that field had the least competition and was the easiest to break into.
I remember she told me that Charlie - she pointed to a young fellow in the back of the room - specialized in Industrials.
I asked if I could chat with him.
Sure. No problem.
I walked back to Charlie’s desk to introduce myself, and he seemed interested. I wore my “Industrial spokesman’s costume,” double-breasted black suit, button-down light blue shirt, red tie.
Charlie responded positively and asked for some headshots. I handed him one of my “prepared packages.”
A pause.
He looks at me and asks, “Can I also submit you for commercials?’
In another agency, the owner answered the door, an older woman, alone in her office.
I introduced myself and told her what kind of work I sought. She invited me in and we chatted for about an hour.
I knew from sales training that when you sense the “buyer’ is interested, you spend as much time as they want … all day if they show interest and keep asking buyer’s questions.
Another time, I walked into a small agency with the owner, an older guy, alone at his desk.
I made my opening introductory remarks and he replied, “I specialize in children, Alan. I usually submit only kids for auditions.”
I suggested that maybe a few times a year, something would cross his desk that I might be right for. Could I give him a few headshots in the hope that we might grow wealthy together?
He said, “Sure.”
About a month later he called to submit me for an on-camera commercial. And a second audition several weeks after that.
I remember calling a post house and chatting with the audio engineer.
He explained that they did no casting, that producers bring their own talent to record.
I said, “Wait a minute, John. I’m sure you’ve got a few demo cassettes on that shelf behind your desk. There may be dust on ‘em, but I’ll bet you’ve once or twice recommended VO talent in the past.
He said, “You’re right. Send me your stuff.”
And, damn, if he didn’t call to book me for a VO job a few months later.
A light bulb went on in my brain many years ago while I was ambling along an aisle in my pharmacy.
There were many facings for a baby powder product. Perhaps three facings for the small travel size, three for the 4 oz. size, three for the 8 oz. can, two for the pints, two for the large quart size.
I thought, Hmmmm, wouldn’t it be great to have several “facings” in the rack holding cassette VO demos in a producer’s office? (This was in the good old cassette days!)
So I created several cassette VO demos.
My Corporate Narrations demo had a black and white J-card with my photo on it.
Only the cassette spine was visible when it sat in the wall rack, so I had my name printed in the largest type that would fit on the spine, in Arial, no curlicues, bold and legible from across the room.
My Commercials J-card was identical, but printed in blue and white. My Documentary demo J-card in brown and white, my Medical in orange and white, my VNR demo in green and white.
Then a demo called “High Tech Talk” with a purple and white J-card, and a Direct Response Commercials demo in red and white.
I would send all seven cassettes to producers, recording studios, and whomever else was interested.
I had seven facings … all the other VO folks had one.
And mine stood out, easily legible, a colorful group.
Did it bring in more business? I dunno, but, as I’ve reported in the past, my numbers went up every year, so I had to be doing something right.
The concept of “Presencing Oneself In The Industry” has always fascinated me.
Also, like any manufacturer of a product, how to differentiate my product (or service) from competitors.
Along this line of thinking, I always tried to arrive at a job maybe 20 or 30 minutes early.
I’d introduce myself to the audio engineer, give him my business card, chat with him a bit, visit the men’s room and wash my hands (in NYC you must wash your hands often! Viruses galore in subways, buses, escalators, etc.)
Then I'd make a cup of weak tea in the studio kitchen, and set a voice level with the engineer.
The producer and his/her client enter the studio at the appointed hour and see me in the booth, rehearsing.
The engineer and I were all set to go.
Often you can see the relief and even delight in the producer’s face, that here is a talent who is “no problema.”
My wife and I hire a local carpenter in our town who is a fabulous craftsman.
His work is superb, he cleans up when finished. He actually arrives at 8 a.m. on Friday as he promised.
Don is “a reliable supplier of carpentry services.” There aren’t many like him.
I fashioned my VO career by being like Don - ”a reliable supplier of voiceover services.”
My invoice has these three lines:
  • Narration/Voiceover Services Rendered: $____
  • On Camera Services Rendered: $____
  • Other Expenses: $____
In this manner, my invoice states that I am a serious business person. I am not a “Great Artist” - I am a reliable supplier of services.
At lunch with agent Bret Adams many years ago, Bret said, “I don’t want to do business with Great Artists!”
I never forgot that statement.
Chatting with agent Peter Beilin many years ago, I learned another valuable thing.
Peter said, “these young kids don’t realize that Show Business is 98% Business and 2% Show.”
Now there’s a teaching!!! Boy, there’s a teaching!
But you probably want to hear more stories about the paint business. Stay tuned to this station.
Also see and hear:
Alan Sklar has been a freelance voice actor for more than 20 years, voicing radio/TV commercials and VNRs - and narrating everything from audiobooks and documentaries to thousands of corporate and medical video projects. An award-winning narrator of more than 150 audiobooks - including A Civil Action and Black Hawk Down, he is also an on-camera and in-person spokesperson for major corporations.
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Comments (11)
Paul J. Warwick
4/26/2011 at 8:47 AM
thanks for sharing your wisdom, and in the format we all understand!!
Laura Branch Mireles
4/25/2011 at 8:38 PM
LOVE this stuff! What a blessing your wisdom is!
J. Christopher Dunn
4/24/2011 at 1:27 PM

Great stuff! You've given me a number of choice gems to work with. Very nice.

Dan Hurst
4/22/2011 at 4:19 PM
"...Show Business is 98% Business and 2% Show."


Thanks, Alan, for more great insight and direction!
4/22/2011 at 2:28 PM
Someone once said 90% of success is just showing up - to which I always add - "on time." Much of my life has been spent waiting for other people to arrive (often late), but I wouldn't have it any other way. I care, even if they don't.

"Reliable supplier of voice over services." I like that. Wish I had thought of it!
Rick Lance
4/22/2011 at 2:20 PM
Man! I'm waiting for the next one! Your voice is captivating. So easy to follow your storyline.

The personal touch, as a good salesman knows, can't be topped. Especially rare in this Internet age. Which means we need to be very clever today when reaching out to prospective clients. But I have a feeling you've got a handle on that, too. And I'll bet your take on it is coming soon.

I'll be watching/listening!
Lori Furth
4/22/2011 at 12:06 PM
Wow, Alan! This is great stuff. I don't think many VOs come from a strong sales background, but there sure are plenty of ways to mine the stuff that works and use it for our business. Love to read your articles, and look forward to the next one! Thank you so much for sharing!

Best, Lori
Teri Clark Linden
4/22/2011 at 11:16 AM
I appreciate your comments so much Alan! Chatting with Pat Fraley yesterday, he reminded me about the "Professional Protocol" you speak to, as well as where you reside having really no impact anymore on being a National Talent! Keep up sharing your good word!

Teri Clark Linden Talent/Teacher
Alan Sklar
4/22/2011 at 11:09 AM
Hey, Roy ... Loved your note. Yup, I enjoy my business relationships very much. I treat my VO clients as if they were my children, as if they were family. No! As if they were neighbors in a small town. I take a great interest in them and ask questions galore. And I do that with each client with whom I speak.

Attending industry parties, I set a goal of having 2 or 3 or 4 "quality" conversations with producers, rather than running around shoving my business card in everyone's face. I do not want a Buyer/Seller relationship. I want more. I want a producer to say: "call Sklar ... he's such fun to work with and always so well prepared."

Best Wishes to you.
Roy Wells
4/22/2011 at 8:39 AM
Alan seems like he's a small town person from Iowa rather than a NYC pro. When I lived in NYC people like him were few and far between, maybe that's why he enjoys the success he has.
Elizabeth Holmes
4/22/2011 at 1:13 AM
Solid gold, Alan. Thank you, so much, for this series!
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