By John Foust
RALEIGH, N.C. — Andy was telling me about his dealings with media sales people. “Since I run a local business, I hear from a lot of people,” he said. “One particular meeting really stands out, because he talked himself out of a sale. As soon as he said ‘hello,’ he jumped right into his sales pitch. As he talked, everything was a blur of facts and figures. It was obvious that he was he so was proud of his presentation that he didn’t want anything to throw him off track. He showed no interest in my business or what we needed to accomplish with our marketing. Finally, when he pulled up a spreadsheet on his laptop, I cut him short and sent him on his way.
“It reminded me of somebody my wife and I used to know. Every time he called, he talked non-stop, without giving us a chance to say anything. We joked that we could put down the phone, make a sandwich, eat lunch, pick up the phone again to say, “Uh huh” – and he wouldn’t know we’d been away.
There’s a lot of truth in the old cliché, “Lord, fill my mouth with worthwhile stuff, and shut it when I’ve said enough.” Here are some points to keep in mind:
- This is probably not your prospect’s first advertising appointment. The longer he or she has been in business, the greater the likelihood that it has all been heard before. If they think “been there, done that,” they’ll tune you out.
They are giving you the gift of their time. Show respect for that generosity by making the conversation meaningful for them.
- It’s good to know worthwhile stuff. But resist the temptation to tell them everything you know.
When you prepare, don’t limit yourself to refreshing your knowledge of your sales points and your rate card. Research the prospect’s business. Study their past advertising. Learn marketing trends and challenges in their industry. That will give you a greater depth of understanding, so you can quickly get in step with the person on the other side of the desk.
- A dialogue is better than a monologue. The best way to encourage engagement is to ask questions – and listen carefully to the answers. Ask questions to get details about their marketing. Ask questions to find out what has worked for them in the past. Ask questions to discover needs.
There’s nothing wrong with asking, “Is this the kind of information you need?” That kind of feedback will help you. They may want a lot of factoids. Or they may be like the person who says, “Don’t give me the history of the watch. Just tell me what time it is.” It’s your job to adapt to them, not expect them to adapt to you.
“When I meet with a media sales person, it’s to help me make good marketing decisions,” Andy said. “I don’t need a long-winded sales speech.”
— John Foust has conducted training programs for thousands of newspaper advertising professionals. Many ad departments are using his training videos to save time and get quick results from in-house training. E-mail for information: [email protected]