For proof that social etiquette is a crucial part of the deal, look no further than buyer-seller interaction. One slip-up with a buyer can put a producer in his or her bad books permanently. Theresa Plummer-Andrews, former CBBC head of acquisitions and coproductions who has since set up consultancy firm Plum Trees TV, has certainly heard tell of scores of gaffes committed during her more than two decades at market. Here she shares some big do’s and don’ts when it comes to dealing with buyers in social situations:
At cocktail parties, don’t latch on to a buyer and take up all their time. By all means, introduce yourself and chat, but keep it short. Remember, the buyer wants to be polite to the party’s host and talk to as many people as possible.
Don’t badger a buyer for a meeting only to have them greeted by an empty stand because you left the market early. ‘This happens on more occasions than you would imagine,’ notes Plummer-Andrews, ‘and there is nothing more that can be done to ensure you never get a meeting with that buyer again.’
Judge your pitch. If it’s the last day of the market, the buyer has probably taken over 100 meetings within the space of five days. She recalls one pitch when: ‘It was the buyer’s last meeting of the market. The producers bounced up to the stand and proceeded to launch into a 30-minute, non-stop verbal pitch, outlining every character; every storyline; every bit of background down to when their kids were born and what their wives names were… At the end of the meeting, the buyer’s eyes were glazed over and she couldn’t speak. The buyer’s colleague stepped in and said ‘I’ve just seen her brain fall out onto the table’.’
Be concise, short, sharp and to the point and you will be forever appreciated.
Think twice about making derogatory remarks about a buyer during the course of a party. Plummer-Andrews tells of one incident where a producer launched into a screed about a buyer who had ‘foisted him onto some underling,’ calling for her resignation. The buyer in question stood right behind the producer. She tapped him on the shoulder and curtly asked if he had anything else he wanted to complain about. And yes, the ‘underling’ is now the head buyer.
Be wary of the hours between 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. ‘People are still in meetings and don’t appreciate you falling across their table reeking of vasts vats of rosé wine, asking if they’re in a meeting – then totally ignoring the fact that they are by continually babbling on.’
Don’t pitch in a bathroom. EVER. Even after explaining that it wasn’t the time or place and retreating to the bathroom stall, Plummer-Andrews was met with the sight of the pitch package being shoved under the door at her feet by an over-zealous sales person. Suffice it to say, that package never made it further than the garbage bin.
‘Don’t talk business all night long. Everyone needs a break and although a buyer would expect to speak about whatever it is you have to talk about, don’t go on and on about it all night long. The buyer will just give in, drink vast vats of wine and not remember anything in the morning.’
Be wary of bringing the uninvited guest to dinner. ‘Many producers (and buyers) have turned up at restaurants with an entourage only to find there is no room at the inn and that everybody is embarrassed. If you want to take someone else along, check first.’
If you’re going to be late for dinner with one buyer because you’re wooing another, have the common courtesy to cancel the meeting in advance. Don’t show up an hour or more late and say, ‘We had another meeting and didn’t think to call the restaurant.’ You’ll likely not work with them again. Says Plummer-Andrews, ‘Manners cost nothing… And to say to someone that another meeting was more important is the kiss of death.’