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Secret Agent Man

Think Like an Agent

Think Like an Agent

Back in the 1980s, when dinosaurs still walked the Earth, there was a band called the Bangles, and they had a hit song called "Walk Like an Egyptian." It's a catchy piece of fluff, nothing more, but I'm using that title as inspiration, because this week's column is going to teach you how to think like an agent. To do this, you have to understand that the word agent can be used as a noun or a verb.

When used as a noun, it sounds something like this: "Why doesn't my damn agent ever call me back?" Or "I can't believe my lousy agent won't see my three-hour one-man show!" (I should point out that when used as a noun, agent is usually preceded by an adjective such as crooked, horrible, or worthless.) But for the purpose of this lesson, I want you to focus on how the word can be used as a verb. For example: "He agented the hell out of that deal and got me more money than I've ever made!" Or "I was going to smack that guy in the face, but then he agented me and I ended up buying him a drink." When friends are planning to buy a new car, they always ask me to go with them to the dealership. This is a smart move because the sharks who prey on car buyers will tear you limb from limb unless you have someone just like them in your corner. That's where I come in. I've never had a problem getting a great deal for one of my friends. It's in my nature. It's how I make a living.

The same tactic can be useful to you. Here's an example: An actor friend named Dan recently told me he'd been accepted into a very prestigious (expensive) New York acting school. It was his dream to study there, but the price tag was too high. He asked me if I would lend him the money, and I laughed in his face. Then he asked if I could recommend a different, cheaper school. My advice? Don't give up your dream. I told Dan to think like an agent, not like an actor. So he went in and sat down with the man in charge. Dan explained in a very sincere tone why he loved the school. He quoted its history. He made an impression. And then my friend sealed the deal by mentioning he was terrific with computers and felt the school needed a new website. Dan asked if they'd be willing to give him a substantial discount if he agreed to redesign their site. The answer was yes, and like most successful negotiations, both parties made out just fine. If you're smart, you might even be able to agent an agent. (Please note that in the preceding sentence, the word agent is used as both a verb and a noun. Pretty cool, huh?) Let's say you're at a party and you spot your dream agent over by the punch bowl. You've never met this guy, and he doesn't know you from Adam. Here's what you do: Go over and thank him. Just say something like, "I know you don't remember me, but we met at a showcase or something years ago, and you gave me some amazing advice. It totally changed my life, and I just wanted to say thanks." If you do this correctly, the agent will be flattered and he'll probably ask your name. Engage him in conversation. Make a connection. Then bail. You can follow up with a submission or email in a few days. These are just two examples. There are plenty more. The key to making it in this business is learning how to tap your inner agent in a constructive and positive way. You may not get 10 percent like I do, but you just might get a whole lot more.


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