The day I committed to asking for local direct annual contracts was the beginning of my road to becoming the top biller in my market. And I learned how to do that by paying attention to the small advertising agencies that were stealing my clients. These agency principals were not creative geniuses by any means. But they were better at asking for and getting long-term contracts than the media salespeople. That was a fact back then, and it’s still a fact today.
Here’s how to get started. Use a headline to get an appointment. “Hi, my name is Paul, and I just wanted to see if we could meet and talk about your advertising” just wasn’t working for me. So I’d say things like, “Hello, we noticed a huge mistake that your competitor is making in his advertising effort, and we can show you how to take advantage of that error.” Or “We’ve noticed that every time you advertise, you’re always offering to knock 20 to 30 percent off your price. We don’t think you have to do that anymore. In fact, we have an idea that could bring that 30 percent back to your bottom line.” We made the headlines about the advertiser’s needs.
We came up with a weekly schedule (modified for long holiday weekends) and a good creative plan for each client. The proposal is usually no longer than one page. Our creative strategy and an outline of the weekly spot schedule are included on that one page. The contract is attached, with a place to sign highlighted with a red X. The moment the presentation is completed, you hand the client the contract and a nice pen ($15-$20). Then you say, “Let’s do it.” Then wait to handle objections. When they sign, they keep the pen.
Does the client sign every time? Of course not. The client will sign only when she is 100 percent convinced that your plan is better than her plan. If they say no this time, what do you ask for the next time you see them? You got it. Another long-term contact.
The point is, the only way to get rich in the advertising sales business is to always ask for the long-term contract. If you don’t, then every month you start at zero. So take the reins. Never ask the client to help with the creative message. Clients aren’t good at that. Also, never ask the client what their budget is. They’ll lowball you every time. Show them what the creative is, and tell them what the weekly budget is. The worst they can say is no. I’ve only known of two media salespeople who were actually murdered for asking for too much money. So your odds are good.
In your meeting with the client, use your proposal as your notes (he who has the agenda controls the meeting). The proposal also serves as a tool for drawing out objections.
The proposal also shows the client that you put original thought and effort into your presentation. Presentations should never be about ratings or format or some program. Everything should be focused on the long-term creative idea.
Your cost for the annual proposal should be expressed as a weekly number for 52 weeks. Let the client do the math. Your weekly cost should also be written in the smallest font on the page. That will help keep the client focused on the idea, not the price.
Once you have that annual contract, you can concentrate on cementing your relationship with the client. In other words, every time the client sees you it’s a treat, because you’re not hitting them up for money. Instead you’re there to present new information, to drop off concert tickets, or to physically help them out.
Here are some examples of experiences I’ve had. I’ve helped a florist deliver flowers on Valentine’s Day. I was their only vendor that ever offered to help them on their busiest day of the year. I was invited to attend a client’s Christmas party. I said, “No, I won’t be your guest, but I’ll tend bar.” They loved it. One day I was in the right place at precisely the right time, and I saved a client’s life. I helped keep watch at a pen show for one of my office product companies. I actually caught someone stealing a $350 Mont Blanc pen. The client called me “The Sheriff” after that.
That same client even sent me a thank you letter after he sold his business. I still have it. Part of it reads, “Paul, thank you for helping us become millionaires.” I shook that envelope, looking for my check. There wasn’t one. But I was happy because they paid me like clockwork for nearly 20 years. We are still friends to this day.
Many, many salespeople have come around to this way of thinking about asking for long-term local direct business. You should too.