UpStart, Week 2, Feeling the Love (or Not)

A partial screenshot of my SalesForce reminders. Help! I'm behind.

Upstart is a weekly column about the business side of Mission Local.

There was big news last week: Mission Local is getting a hotdog named after it next month! If customers order the Mission Local hotdog only 360 times, Los Shucos, the Guatemalan hot dog café on 22nd Street will buy a $360 Mission Local business membership.

I’m now calling this marketing maneuver the Shucos move because it’s so damn clever – not an out-and-out rejection of my sales pitch, but a way to keep the conversation going and, not incidentally, boost its own sales. (For those of you just catching up to this column, I’ve jumped into selling Mission Local business memberships because doing so is part of our business model to stay alive and moving from professorship/editorial to selling is such a new experience that I’m also writing about it. You can see my first column here.)

The same day that Shucos outsmarted me, I got a message from someone – I’ll call him B – who had read my first UpStart column about venturing into sales, “felt my pain” and wanted to convince me that our members should use a new app keeping businesses connected.

I tried a Shucos: “Interesting product. Let me go on line and see how it works and test before making any decisions. I have way too many committee meetings for my day job this week so I won’t get back to you until next week. Of course you could always join Mission Local as a business member and get the immediate benefits of advertising.”

His response: “…as an Upstart” (B stole my name!), “funds are tight and I just finished 2 years of cancer treatments.” (B played the cancer card! FYI, the treatment had been “very successful.”)

Once again, proof positive that others are better at sales.

So I’m not a natural. But I’m learning, and all the interaction with Mission businesses helps refine my pitch. In many ways, supporting Mission Local is not about the advertising – although the ads do offer a business a constant presence – it is about making a business decision that having a local and independent media is important to a community.

I believe the pitch,  persist and dutifully log onto SalesForce after each call to record each contact, the outcome and next steps. The latter is helpful in terms of keeping notes on each attempt, but it’s so time-consuming! And relentless.  Do you have any idea how it feels, Marc Benioff, to log on every morning and see you’ve got 35 calls to make? In comparison, my committee meetings are a walk in the park.

Andrea, a reporter and translator here at Mission Local, said when she started working at a call center in Mexico, she sometimes burst into tears. When this happened, her supervisor would tell her to take a break. Eventually, she said, she toughened up and stopped crying. “It was too bad because I missed the breaks,” she said.

What’s exhilarating – thrilling, actually – is when people call or e-mail back, graciously tell you how much they like you and say they are going to figure something out. Thank you, Tartine and West of Pecos and Betabrand. You’ve made my day.

Or, when they take your phone call and say no, wait, let me fish out your e-mail and then they read it and say, yes, they are going to think about it. Thank you, Alley Cat Books.

In the end, selling is about getting financial support to pay reporters, but it is also about having a human experience – just connecting. Feeling the love.

Oops. Am I over sharing? Here’s how you can stop it – just CALL BACK! Better yet, take out a membership.   (You too readers)

In the meantime, buy a Mission Local hotdog next month: Spanish chorizo, thinly sliced cabbage, avocado, a dollop of homemade salsa and a dash of marketing savvy.

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