Getting Past Bulldogs At The Gate
- Or At Least Avoiding The Bite
By Jay Silverman
Voice Actor / Announcer / Marketing Consultant
Creating and building personal relationships with all kinds of people in our business is one of the largest keys to your success.
As your career progresses, you’ll be meeting all sorts of people – producers, ad agency presidents, creative directors, marketing VPs, other voice professionals, and PR account executives, just to name a few.
But one of the most important persons you’ll deal with is someone who literally holds your future in her or his hands. That person holds the title of:
WHO’S THE BULLDOG?
This is the bulldog – the front end person at the firm you’re calling, whether it's an advertising agency, production studio or any other type of business or organization. The bulldog might be a "he" or a "she" - but for this article, let's refer to that person as a "she."
Bulldogs have many bosses – each with a different need or priority. And the bulldog must accommodate each boss politely, confidently and without screwing up.
In small-to-medium firms, she opens and distributes the mail AND answers the phone all day long.
In large firms, there are a pack of bulldogs, assigned as needed.
Bulldogs hold many roles. However, the most important task is to follow the boss’s orders – especially when the boss says, “I’m really busy. Keep everyone off my back.”
Then, she must juggle phone requests for the boss’s time, in-house requests to meet with the boss, and other calls to make sure her boss isn’t bothered.
Your follow-up calls, for instance, might be among the calls deemed “bothersome.”
FRIEND OR FOE?
At the beginning of the relationship, the bulldog is neutral. But that depends on the situation.
For instance, if you’re following up a mailing of a demo and cover letter, and the bulldog’s boss has told her that you have a great voice, she’ll climb all over herself to be sure that you get through to the boss.
On the other hand, if her boss hasn’t looked at your letter or listened to the demo yet, she won’t have any basis for positive action.
She’ll tell you that the boss is busy, or that the boss isn’t in or is on vacation – and then will put you into Voice Mail Hell.
However, with proper training, feeding and stroking, you can turn almost any bulldog into your friend and ally. Following are your strategies …
When you realize that, like you, the bulldog is simply another person doing her best to do her job, it helps you to understand that relationship-building is a key to getting the bulldog to:
… even when her seven bosses are screaming at her.
At that point, when she’s being screamed at, and you show some understanding of what’s going on, do you think she’ll listen more closely to you, or to her nasty bosses?
TREAT LIKE PROFESSIONAL
As a professional, you know that you should treat everyone like they’re the professional you are – bulldogs included.
Speak calmly and quietly. Let her know you know she’s having a tough day. Suggest how she can help you quickly and easily.
If she can't let you talk to the person you want, DON’T LET HER PUT YOU INTO THAT PERSON’S VOICE MAIL – unless you have a solid track record with that person.
Instead, simply ask the bulldog to suggest the best next available time to reach the person. Write down what she says, and tell her that you’ll call back then. Thank her, wish her a good day, and go away so she can do her work.
KNOW HER NAME
If you have done your research online – been to the company’s web site and checked the personnel listings – you probably know the bulldog’s name.
Somewhere in the early part of your conversation, ask if you’re speaking to Thelma (her name, of course). If she says, “Yes,” tell her you recognize her name from the web site (she’ll be thrilled).
If the bulldog says, “No, this is Louise,” apologize for the mistake and ask Louise if she’s the person who regularly handles the phones and the mail. She’ll tell you either way, and you can identify the real bulldog during that conversation.
Introduce yourself again and tell why you are calling, and that Mr./Ms. Soandso is expecting your call (in your cover letter, you did tell him/her to expect your call, didn’t you?)
Tell her that you’re a voice-over professional and that you’re simply trying to find out if Mr./Ms. Soandso received the materials you sent last week.
STROKE THE BULLDOG
At some point in the conversation you’ll probably be offered the chance to go into Mr./Ms. Soandso’s voice mail. That’s like being offered the opportunity to go to Hell.
The problem with going into voice mail is that:
If the person does not call you back, you think:
So rather than face that possibility, simply tell the bulldog that you’d rather call back.
The idea behind these strategies is to make the bulldog friendlier to you, even if she’s not going to be your best buddy. And because you have treated her professionally and with understanding, she could become an ally.
For instance, suppose you now have called three or four times, based on information she’s given you. But you haven’t connected with Soandso yet. The next time you call, it’s very likely that things will change if the Soandso is still unwilling to talk with you.
At that point, if you’ve stroked the bulldog, she’s likely to put you on hold and march into Soandso’s office to say, “I’ve asked this person to call back four times now. She has treated me professionally, she has a great voice. Have you listened to her demo yet? Because from what I’m hearing, she’d be great …”
What more could you ask for?
You now have a testimonial from the person who’s not only inside the firm, but who likely listens to every demo that comes in the mail. Her word is as good as platinum to Soandso, and Soandso knows enough not to cross the bulldog. You will talk to the person you’ve been chasing.
There are a few for whom this system will not work, of course. And though you may never be able to get past the bulldog, you can get her to be friendly and to help you reach the person you need to convince that you’re the right voice talent for the job.
Jay Silverman is a voice talent, live announcer and part of the Voice Coaches marketing team. He is a marketing and communications expert with experience in the private, corporate and government sectors, and teaches marketing and communications at the University at Albany and at The Sage Colleges.