Exec Seat: Steve Volponi — The Devil You Know
Devil’s Film Director of Sales Steve Volponi has been closing deals for more than 20 years. “It’s not as easy as it used to be, but it beats tarring roofs,” he quips, an example of the shoot-from-the-hip manner that has endeared him to buyers in the industry, many of whom call the wise-cracking former piano salesman a friend.
XBIZ caught up with Volponi to discuss his career, the art of the sale and why it may not be a good idea to download porn onto one’s personal computer.
How did you get started in adult sales?
I started at Le Sex Shoppe. A buddy of mine was the manager there, and he’d hire me when I was in between tours with my band. Before that, I had a job at Korg Pianos.
When did you know adult sales was right for you?
Well, I immediately liked it when I opened my first paycheck. But, I knew it was the right decision because I hated unloading 40-foot containers filled with keyboards and baby grand pianos.
What was the first valuable lesson you learned about sales?
I was fortunate enough when I crossed over to the one-stop side of things to be in a phone room filled with some sales vets. I just listened and learned — learned to throw my own Philly spin onto things. There’s something about the back East accent that just got me through to the buyers all the time. It helps that I’m really fucking funny and kinda cute too!
How important is personal touch?
It’s very important; I kinda don’t like the hard-sales aspect. I consider the buyers I deal with to be personal friends on different levels. When I’m out with them for dinner or drinks, I don’t talk about business with them. I think it’s kinda tacky, and would rather just enjoy the hang-time.
How is sales more difficult today?
The fact that there is so much product out there and companies are fighting over shelf space — competing with other people’s pricing and explaining why my products are sometimes more expensive — is the grind.
How do you convince a retailer to purchase your product without bending on price?
Well the work is halfway done for me by the time he gets to me. I know when they call and ask about my pricing and then start telling me that they can get this guy’s stuff for this price and the other guy’s stuff for that price — which is way lower than mine.
I simply respond “Well, be my guest and call them because I can’t sell you at that price.” I already know by the time they break down and call me that their customers are either coming to the store asking for my stuff, or they’re simply checking its current stock and walking out the same way they came in — empty handed.
Don’t underestimate the customer’s knowledge of quality product. You can only fool them so many times before they leave your store and head to a competitor that actually has what they want.
Internet: friend or foe?
Well, it’s the best of both worlds right? We wanna hate it, but then a VOD check comes in the mail… then DVD sales decline. But, we still say “that fucking Internet!”
So … is DVD really dead?
Absolutely … not! There is always gonna be the collector; the guy that wants to own, and hold in his possession the item he wants. The young people today are the ones stealing, sharing and downloading shit off the Internet. The older, more experienced fans aren’t so computer savvy, and/or are smart enough to not want Big Brother watching over everything they download onto the computer.
It’s all fun and games till the cops kick your door in because you download some creepy shit. Buy DVD’s, guys and gals. It’s safer, regulated and we won’t send you a bill from our copyright informant peeps for illegally watching/downloading our movies on the Internet.
Devil’s Film produces a lot of successful fetish lines. Is there a difference between selling fetish and standard porn?
We kinda made our bones in the niche genres: tranny, teen, MILF, gangbang, strap-on and so on. It’s what we do best, and that’s why it sells. It may not be for everybody, but those that want it know we don’t half-ass it. But, new things are on the horizon.
One of Devil’s most brow-raising lines is “Mothers Teaching Daughters to Suck Cock,’ but what should dads teach their sons?
It’s gotta be shaving … the face, and how to trim your pubes with the clipper and not cut open your sack.