Have you seen the TV show House? with the brilliant Hugh Laurie as the eponymous and irascible doctor. It’s a great show with excellent performances, especially from Hugh Laurie himself, and each week we see some poor soul at deaths door, only to be saved at the last-minute by Dr. House’s genius intercessions, in the ‘last reel’ as it were.

Obviously, we learn all about the lives and loves of the people in the show as in any self-respecting soap, but even after 9 series the formula still works. Largely due to the excellent writing and brilliant acting. But also I think, due to the fact that we all love to solve a mystery! Because at heart, that’s what Doctor House is, he’s a solver of mysteries. Just like Scooby Doo!

Actually, he is what is know as a differential diagnostician. That sounds a bit more impressive doesn’t it? A differential diagnosis is essentially a process of elimination or as Wikipedia puts it systematic diagnostic method used to identify the presence of an entity where multiple alternatives are possible. And setting aside the importance of the life and death scenarios portrayed on-screen, for the purposes of this article its  a job very similar to the one we do as radio sales people. In fact anyone that is a ‘two call seller’ or a consultative sales person, one that needs to take a brief and then ‘go back’ to the client with a solution goes through this process at some level.

And do you know what? It’s my favourite part of the job. Trying to ‘fix’ a clients business. Piecing together the various factors or ‘symptoms’ to come up with a ‘cure’ for the client and their business woes. And just like in House it’s never very straight forward.

Typically, It take an age to get to that eureka moment where you suddenly think ‘that’s it!’ Got it! Thats the final piece, that’s the magic ingredient that will make this campaign fly. In the TV show when House suddenly stares off into the middle distance as some hitherto ignored clue suddenly clicks into place, the whole picture coalesces in front of him, as if in his mind’s eye. Hugh Laurie’s finest moment each week is undoubtably portraying a stunned, excited and ultimately satisfied Doctor as the mystery is once again solved in time to save the poor patient. The patient who typically, has been lying abed deteriorating rapidly as the show progressed and the various and up to this point, impotent cures were tried.

And for me, our analogy extends to this part of our process too. So many businesses get bad advice, bad cures as it were. And that’s really serious, especially these days. Business is a contact sport as someone once said, and the stakes are high. Not for us necessarily, but for the businesses we deal with they certainly are.

We can just move on to the next ‘unsuspecting sucker’ and pitch our snake oil cure all. They on the other hand, have to pay off the bank and creditors and if the last brilliant advertising idea someone sold them didn’t work, pay off the media owner that they bought it from too. All with nothing to show for it. Eventually, that business will die. And experience tells me it’s largely because of the advice that business people are being given. By people like us.

Dr. House’s character is clearly at the very pinnacle of his game. A sort of medical renaissance man, he can turn his hand to everything. And not just the standard CPR and first aid we normally see on TV, Dr. House can help out in an earthquake! His abilities, secretly shown to us his audience, are his extremely high intelligence and observational powers, coupled to an encyclopedic knowledge of medicine. They appear to the patients he treats as some kind of magic

How do you come across to your clients? Do you know what you are talking about? Are you insightful? Are you observant? Do you spot the clues from the business you are dealing with that are not those spoon fed to you by the client themselves? The best information is often acquired this way. Talking to the staff, or suppliers, and certainly your clients customers can offer world-changing perspectives to the businesses that we deal with.

What qualifications do you have to do this job? House, and diagnosticians like him are educated to the highest standards. They are professors, they are researchers, contributing to the world’s knowledge of the diseases they study.  They set medical agendas, they are the thought leaders. How much ‘investment’ have you put into your career as a sales person? Or even a marketer? A couple of Dale Carnegie courses perhaps? Or a media owners two-day induction course on how to sell advertising? That is the typical route into our industry for most people.

And yet  we talk advertisers into putting their livelihood into our hands. And for these guys the stakes are extremely high. It’s likely that their homes and the well-being of their families are riding on the success of their business venture. What right have you to advise them? Unless you have studied everything there is to know about marketing and advertising and gained some sort of standard of education in the subject.

In fact, if you don’t know what you are talking about you have NO right to be advising businesses on what they should do with their hard-earned marketing budget. So if you don’t know what you are talking about, learn FAST.

It’s not life and death for us in our industry like it is for Dr. House and his TV patients, it’s much more important than that. This is real life, with real people and real consequences.

  1. Mike Bersin
    Mike Bersin says:

    I agree. I don’t know how interesting trying to persuade someone to buy some spots is, but discovering ways in which you can get them more customers is always fascinating; and they’re so appreciative too!

  2. damiandowling
    damiandowling says:

    It can get interesting Mike, especially when the client is interested in that too. Everyone enjoys a horse trade i think, and thats part of the trick. Moving the client from a transaction to an emotional appreciation of what we are trying to do
    Thanks as always for your input!