Less talk can lead to more sales

January 13, 2016

By John Foust
Ad Libs™

Andy was telling me about his dealings with media salespeople. “Because 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 so 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.”

Points to keep in mind

1. 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 he or she thinks “been there, done that,” he or she will tune you out.

Prospects are giving you the gift of their time. Show respect for that generosity by making the conversation meaningful for them.

2. 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 its past advertising. Learn marketing trends and challenges in its 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.

3. 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 its marketing. Ask questions to find out what has worked for it 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. The prospect may want a lot of factoids. Or he 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 him, not expect him to adapt to you.

“When I meet with a media salesperson, it’s to help me make good marketing decisions,” Andy said. “I don’t need a long-winded sales speech.” © John Foust 2016. All rights reserved.

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 at john@johnfoust.com.


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