Wednesday, June 24, 2009

It’s Inefficient, Expensive, and it Works

Advertising sales is a numbers game, right? Many publishers believe that the more prospects you have in the pipeline, the more ads you will sell. So much time and energy is spent in discussing the various ways electronic communications tools can best be used to communicate with the ever-growing lists of advertising prospects and clients. Should you have a presence on Tweeter or Facebook? Are you using the social networking tools effectively? Would a blog support your sales efforts and what content should it have? Should you depend on telephone sales alone? The answer to each of these questions is that your ad sales marketing strategy should include some or all of these tools. But, don’t forget the tried and true approach of face-to-face selling.

Successful advertising sales, like sales of any product, is built on personal relationships between the seller and his or her customer. There is a great deal of information that can be shared when a sales person makes a personal call to the office of an advertiser. Following are some tips of how to make the most of the opportunity that can come from a face-to-face meeting:

Listen before you begin your pitch. I once took a junior sales person with me to visit the corporate office of one of his most important clients. We were granted a 30 minute meeting and my associate spent the first 20 minutes telling about all of the combinations of print and electronic media our company offered. It wasn’t until there was only ten minutes left that he asked the client what his goals for his advertising investments were. We barely had enough time to hear which segments of the market the client wanted to reach nor did we ever discuss his budget, schedule, or strategies and how we could develop a media plan that would meet all of his needs. The result was that we left there without a sale and it wasn’t until a year later that they bought an advertising package.

Do your homework BEFORE you walk into the meeting. It’s amazing how unprepared many sales people are when they have the opportunity to meet an advertising prospect in person. Prepare for the meeting by learning as much as you can about the client. What products or services do they offer? Who makes up their customer base? In which other media do they advertise? How frequently? Have they just won a major contract, acquired a company or introduced a new product? Know their advertising history with your products so you can speak effectively about their previous results and make suggestions how to improve upon them.

Follow up after the meeting. A quick thank you note (email is fine) to those in the meeting thanking them for their time and indicating when you plan to deliver any additional materials will cement the relationship that started at the meeting. Be sure to deliver all that you promised. If you were asked to put together a proposal or a suggested media plan within a week, do it and do it on time.

Keep in touch. Generally, advertising purchasers do not want to hear from you when you have nothing new to discuss with them. But, it’s always appropriate to give your most important clients important information that they otherwise might not receive. If your editor has announced a special feature story for an upcoming issue, or if your organization has just made a major announcement about an industry initiative, call your prospect and let him hear about it first from you. This contributes to the development of mutual trust while giving that client the sense that he is being given special treatment. Remember, it’s all about building and maintaining a positive working relationship.

Yes, travel is expensive and time consuming. A sales person on the road is lucky if he or she can see two or three ad prospects in a single day. I am not recommending you make this investment with every company on your prospect list. But, for your top key accounts, this should be an essential part of your organization’s ad sales strategy.

What has been your experience with face-to-face selling? Does your organization regularly do this and how effective has it been? Share your thoughts here or visit us at

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