The Salesman And The Businessman

October 27, 2011  |  Articles, Edumification, Ramblings

Lately, which I must admit is kind of sad, I discovered that there are two (or three) kinds of people in the business world.

No matter how sophisticated and advanced the science of barter and exchange gets … in the end it boils down to those 2 (or 3) kinds of people. The Salesman and the Businessman

Now that is not to say that Businessmen cannot be effective at sales… no I am, in fact, speaking of a state of mind. I won’t mince my words in this article mainly because I don’t have much time to write it… but this is a point that I found enlightening though obvious.

By using the term Salesman I do not mean people who work in Sales… rather I am talking about a definition I came up with to define a specific business character and their business model.

The Difference

In a nutshell the Salesman is great at convincing you to buy more, to pay more and leave happy. But that is the extent of it. He does not care if you remain happy with your purchase. He only cares about the bottom line.

The fruit seller who sells you a few pounds of his produce with a few rotten or ripe fruits at the bottom is a salesman. The mechanic that convinces you to change your transmission fluid and flush your engine and galvanize your car’s undercarriage when all you wanted was an oil change… that is a Salesman.

The salesman does not care if you are in need of those changes, doesn’t care that you might have to cut back on your groceries to pay for these car fixes. What matters is the bottom line.

The Businessman on the other hand, put in the same situation, will give you excellent product and might even give you the ripe ones free of charge. If you go to him for an oil change will let you know that in a few months you will need to change your break pads… but won’t tell you that if you don’t do it now the world will end you and will rear end the next car you are behind on the road.

A business man cares more about the Business than he does about Sales. Cares more about his reputation than he does about wringing the last buck out of his customer.

The Businessman wants the client to come back, and spend again, and be happy and keep coming back.

How That Applies

As a voiceover artist you are a business owner, and your commodity is your voice. Your skills and your customer support are your services. How you treat your client determines whether they will come back to you or whether they will go to your competitor.

The majority of Voice talent hold 2 jobs, Why? because they do not have a steady stable amount of voicework coming their way. They do not have enough regular clients to justify leaving the safety net behind.

Some folks have found ways around that, they supplement their voice work with teaching how to be a voice actor. I do not believe in the adage, those who can’t teach… my mother was a teacher and she has a passion for conveying knowledge to people. Not to mention the fact that if you cannot do something then you cannot teach it. Its just not possible.

So a good salesman will let you test drive his vehicle to hook you, a good cheese seller will give you a taste of his cheese, a good voice artist will tease you with their audition.

All of this is acceptable.

What is not conducive to a healthy business is complete and utter disregard to the client.

The Unmentioned Third

This person is so limited that I did not want to mention them as a viable contender with the other two forms of business. Their presence is restricted to time and their lifespan is short.

The unmentioned third in this trilogy of two is the Highwayman or the Monopoly man if you will.

The Highwayman supplies a product that no one else around him has. He knows that his product is unique  cannot be found elsewhere and so he charges his clients exuberant fees for it.

The Highwayman is interested in making as much money as he possibly can in the time his product is available only through him. Once the product becomes popular or a number of resellers have it and his monopoly ends… That is when his business model falls apart.

In a real life situation it would go something like this. I am an Arabic Language VO talent. I am the only one available, you come to me for a job and I charge you double what a more common language talent would charge. When you come to object I shrug my shoulders and say… fine by me, if you don’t want to buy from me… find someone else.

No one likes feeling helpless or pressured. The client that buys from the Monopolizer is resentful and would drop them in a second if another option came on the scene.

How To Be A Businessman

I think the best advice  is present in the teachings of both Christianity and Islam. Treat thy Neighbor as Thou Would Want To Be Treated.

In modern terms… put yourself in their shoes and think to yourself. What would make me want to come back to (Insert Your Name)’s voiceover service? What would make them happy?

As Always I have provided a list.

  1. Price
    How competitive are your prices? How precise are you in what you charge? Do you have many hidden fees?
  2. Payment policy
    How competitive is your payment policy, do you provide several different methods of payment available to your clients?
  3. Availability
    Are you hard to get a hold of? Do they need to Schedule you days or even weeks in advance?
  4. Communication
    Do you reply to your client’s queries quickly or do you take your time? Can they get a hold of you easily? Do you have ISDN and can you be directed from home on some jobs?
  5. Turnaround
    What is your average turnaround time? Is it in hours? Days? Weeks? How soon can you deliver work?  (this of course depends on what the project is… a 30 sec commercial is not a 20,000 word book)
  6. Retakes
    What is your retake policy, how much do you charge for it, how fast can you get the retake sent back to the client?
  7. Services
    Other than recording your voice what other services do you provide? Do you direct? Do you do lip-sync?
  8. Range
    Does your voice talent have a range? Do you do Characters? Accents? Spoofs?
  9. Experience
    Do you know the industry standards? Are you familiar with different techniques in getting things done? How fast can you get the job done (assuming people with more experience can record at a much higher accuracy level.

I can probably put a book together that speaks about every single  one of the above mentioned subject matters but for now I will round things up with this.

Be Fair and think of it as developing a relationship.


3 Comments


  1. Mahmoud El-Darwish

    I respectfully question the reasoning behind your assertion that The Monopolizer is unfair.They are often innovators and innovation comes at a steep price tag at first. The logic and ethic for that is legendary. If I can invent something or offer a service not available elsewhere, surely that commands a premium, not only as a reward, but also to offset the inevitable theft (or statute of limitation) of an innovation?
    Everywhere that you look in history, premium products and services have traded at a premium price. Many old brands have continued to exists and flourish thanks to IP protection.
    The concept of ‘fairness’ is foreign to business as it’s really applicable only in a moral context and that, in a ‘social(ist)’ context.

    • My reasoning is heavily dependent on moral as well as business basis. I am not talking about the profit that comes from innovation like the money Pfizer made off Viagra… They invested much money and effort into the research and development and invested in marketing research to figure out the most premium price that would be paid and that the client would be willing to pay for their product. For the Monopolizer (in my example) who provides a service at an exuberant price here is where I find issue with that practice. Yes the person has a commodity that someone else might not have (the ability to speak a rear language) and speaking said language is not something that can be stolen… the monopoly can be broken and another supplier can come to the market. In that context it would have been best for the supplier to provide his voiceover service at a reasonable (even if slightly above average) price and garner the good will of his clients… than their animosity with a manipulative business attitude.

      Ultimately we are speaking of two different paradigms… comparing apples to oranges if you will… The segway is a great product that contains many patents…and is different to say a harley davidson dealership that charges double the value of a harley because they are the only dealership in the county.

      I hope that clarifies what I mean.

  2. Mahmoud El-Darwish

    I believe we are saying the same thing but in so doing, we’re missing the TRUE monopolizers. When a game is ‘rigged’, we call it racketeering in the West. Racketeering is the really bad sort of monopoly, not at all like the corner petrol station that charges a premium for its location. Racketeering in the VO business would take the form of price fixing. Price fixing is what happened to the US residential real estate market, resulting in a global financial meltdown.
    The problematic term in your thesis is “reasonable”. Not to be confused with “fair”, it simply requires any justification which usually boils down to market driven pricing.
    VO pros are a dime a dozen so what then would a reasonable fee be for an extraordinary professional to charge? The answer is, “whatever the market will bear”.
    A low introductory price is an astute concept till one builds a reputation for being exceptionally good.
    Anyway, the market drives the price and underbidding has never, ever helped me win more customers or keep them coming back.