Ed Wollock

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Ed Wollock's mental Rolodex of thousands of clients and colleagues is scary to some who have known him through his 30-plus years in network TV sales at ABC-TV, Chicago.

"I've always said Ed should just set up his desk at O'Hare, so people can check in with him before making any moves," says Dan Rank, exec VP- advertising sales for Universal Television Networks in Chicago. "It would save us all a lot of time because Ed always seems to know everyone and everything before it happens."

As ABC's point man for network deal-making in the central U.S., Mr. Wollock, 58, keeps tabs on an 18-state territory that includes several of the nation's largest advertisers from Wal-Mart Stores to Kellogg Co., and he knows minute details about each client's products.

He travels constantly, has abs of steel from years of early-morning workouts at the gym, and when he's not on the road, he still manages to be at his desk before the secretaries arrive.

"I don't want people to know my exact schedule, because a lot of them do seem to think I'm everywhere," he admits.

He's not a workaholic; he simply loves his work-especially the people, he says.

When he joined ABC as a network sales assistant in 1969, Mr. Wollock vowed to keep in touch with friends and colleagues across the U.S., even after they moved on to new jobs, and he stuck with it. He says that discipline is why he often has the scoop before news hits the streets.

Rubin's teammate

Over three decades, he's risen through the ranks to become senior VP-general manager of ABC's central division, working alongside Michael Rubin, who is managing director of his department and his boss, yet the two operate as a team.

"We put ourselves in our clients' shoes, analyze their brands and come up with media packages we would want if we were them," he says.

Despite heavy usage of a cell phone and a BlackBerry to stay connected, Mr. Wollock says phone calls cannot substitute for spending time one-on-one with clients, even though it's harder than ever to book time with burdened executives.

"Whether it's golf, climbing a mountain or going to a spa, I will go anywhere to get to know a client better, so I can better understand their marketing problems and how to solve them," he says.

Psychology plays a big role in effective sales, he acknowledges. "You have to know what the other side is feeling, because there are so many forces at work. We think it's tough being on the sales end, but it's also difficult for clients because they're balancing so many issues and the pressure is intense," says Mr. Wollock. "Ultimately, no matter how complex the situation, I always believe it's possible to structure a deal that works for everybody."

When McDonald's Corp. moved its media buying from Chicago's Starcom to New York's DDB (now OMD) in 1997, the fast-food giant kept Mr. Wollock on the case, rather than the typical routine of assigning it to an East Coast ABC rep.

"We maintained our primary relationship with Ed, because he really gets into the trenches with us to understand our products and find creative solutions," says Peter Sterling, VP-U.S. marketing for McDonald's.

When Ed Wollock says he'll keep in touch, he means business.

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